R&J partners Brian Ritchey and Stu Jacover
With over 20 years' experience in materials handling, industry stalwart Stu Jacover has achieved his dream to run his own company. At a time when many companies are consolidating or retrenching staff, Jacover has taken a bold step by launching a new forklift distribution company in the US.
R&J Midwest Equipment Inc, based in Elk Grove, Illinois, was launched in October 2008 to offer customers a more service-oriented option in the market.
Jacover is man who believes in leading by example rather than by a "position". He says the strongest assets he has are his people. "I am lucky to have some of the best in the industry to grow our business. My job is to empower these employees to make good decisions that streamline our customer's experience with R&J."
Jacover has worked for some of the big names in the US like Hoist Liftruck, Exide and Hyster but feels branching out on his own is the best move he has ever made. "Launching R&J with my partner Brian Ritchey was the fulfilment of over 20 years in materials handling," he explains. "A lot of my peers in the industry questioned my timing with the current economic climate, but I think this is the ideal time to grow a business."
He believes that in these economic times, customers are looking for true alternatives in material handling. "R&J is focused on reducing customers' maintenance expense while providing the R&J Assurance that work will be done right."
Jacover started in materials handling fresh out of college with Marty and Mike Flaska who ran Forklift Exchange. "I worked with customers buying and selling their used forklifts. That led to a role with Hoist as an account manager and I eventually worked my way up to be vice president of sales," Jacover says.
"Hoist was a lot of fun because we were able to take a dormant brand - Silent Hoist - with no marketshare and build it back up to be the preferred heavy-duty forklift."
For four years, this industry veteran ran GNB's (Exide) OEM programs and national accounts. "I joined GNB during a time of transition and after four years, I was pleased that I left the company in a much stronger market position."
Jacover then joined Hyster as the vice president of sales responsible for 16 distributors' retail activity in the central United States. "Hyster was the final piece in the puzzle that clarified my vision of launching R&J Midwest Equipment with my partner."
Ritchey and Jacover say a gap in the Chicagoland market gave them impetus to launch R&J. Jacover explains that there were several large USD150m+ operations in the market, leaving the customer with limited options. "Ritchey and I both felt strongly that customers were seeking a true alternative materials handling company that would be easy to do business with," he says.
"A common problem for larger organisations is they often lose sight of what got them started in the business. I have taken this role to empower a service culture that I call our R&J Assurance throughout our organisation. "
As Jacover looks to the future, he sees a retraction of new players in the materials handling market. He says it will not be for lack of product, but for a lack of distribution. "There simply are not enough quality distributorships to provide adequate coverage in the market place," he says. "I also see the continued rapid growth of green allied lines and with the economy and the support of the new administration, distributors will have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise in this market segment."
Like most other companies, Jacover and Ritchey's new venture has plans in place to ride out the economic storm. He says R&J are watching expenses, but believes reducing overheads is not enough. "This crisis, for many businesses, is an excellent period to really determine if you have the right products to offer your customers," he explains.