Latest posts by D. Michael Pennington (see all)
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“We don’t just fix trucks. We make certain our customers can move their freight as they promised.” That’s the wisdom and leadership of Brett Graham, chief executive officer of Graham Center, an International Truck dealer with locations in Sherman and Paris, Texas, and a recent recipient of Baylor University’s 2013 Small Business of the Year.
With a rich, family-owned heritage of 48 years in the truck service business, Graham International and its customers are fortunate to have a leader at the helm like Brett, who succeeded his late father, Jim Graham, in 1993. The two locations focus solely on parts and service that, in practically every case, is the heart of any truck dealership
“Our only product that we provide is trust and customer service,” says Graham. “We look at things differently and know that our customers have a choice in service,” he said, noting competition like area independent service garages.
The Dean of the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, Terry Maness, sums it up: “We recognize not only Graham International’s business accomplishments, but also the family’s values they represent in how they conduct their business.” The award recognizes a business’ commitment to business continuity, and those who respond to their employees, communities, and industries.
Brett invests smartly and strategically in the business—in his people and in new shop equipment. “My job is to arm my team of (long-tenured) 15 technicians and supervisors/managers with the right tools and the right direction, then get the heck out of the way.” The business services all tractor makes, not just Internationals, as well as trailers.
Armed with experience and customer-commitment, Graham reflected on key segments of his award-recognized dealership, he says, “My team and I believe in training—it’s the most important and most difficult part of our business. To have untrained techs on the newer trucks is a dangerous venture, and we’re fully prepared for the new technology engines because our team has been trained by Cummins and International.” Other worthwhile training is conducted by the OEM, as well as Allison and Meritor.
As for recruiting, Graham says, “We’ve had so much good fortune recruiting within our operation, identifying young people who want to learn and grow and allowing our senior technicians to be outstanding teachers and mentors. It’s a method that works for us and it fills our pipeline.”
When it comes to parts inventory, “Stocking the right part or parts is a must, plus our business is only 60 minutes from International’s parts distribution center in Dallas,” Graham notes. “Investing in parts inventory—$1.5 million value—is part of keeping our customers happy and returning.”
Trailers are never forgotten. “Two specific techs make regular visual checks on our customers’ trailers and are ready to jump on service needs of the suspension, brakes or the landing gear and more,” Graham adds.
The dealership works with fleets of all sizes, like partners. “We urge them to stop, make the scheduled maintenance happen and to avoid any on-road surprises. It’s our job to help them avoid the ‘wrecker situation’ and provide them with timely, quality service,” he says.
According to Mike Harris, vice president-sales, North America Parts Group, Navistar, Brett understands the value of reaching his customers with a competitive value such as Navistar’s private brand, Fleetrite.
Graham also operates Graham Truck Centers, a franchised truck tire dealership with Texas and Oklahoma locations, representing the Bridgestone, Michelin, Double Coin and Hankook brands. The Baylor Dean told FE that the award’s nominees are “stunning examples of the impact that firm, family and faith can have on individuals, businesses and the communities they serve.”
Deflecting the university’s award to his team, Brett Graham treasures his fleet customers like family members. That feeling is mutual.