Case Studies

Knickerbocker Russell Co. Inc.

Pursuing Total Customer Service and Support

Russell “Russ” Keith founded Knickerbocker Russell Co. Inc. (Knickerbocker) over 55 years ago, and even though Keith has since retired from active management, Pennsylvania-based Knickerbocker continues to carry on his legacy of hard work and total client support. Keith remains both owner and president of Knickerbocker, trusting his staff of 48 professionals to keep things running smoothly.

Knickerbocker’s staff includes a number of longtime employees, many of who have proudly been with the company for 25 or more years. The team’s experience allows Knickerbocker to retain a close-knit working environment and an ambitious outlook, which keeps the company’s Pennsylvania, Ohio and Western Virginia customers coming back.

“We’ve been in business a long time and I would say that our service and our longevity give us a competitive edge,” adds Sam Eaton, vice president and general manager at Knickerbocker. Eaton joined the company in 1987, having already spent five years in sales at a building material supply company nearby.

The team at Knickerbocker’s first priority is equipment sales and rentals. However, the company did expand into the building material supply market with the help of experienced professionals who identified the market as a natural extension of Knickerbocker’s core capabilities. Today, materials make up approximately 20 percent of Knickerbocker’s sales.

Knickerbocker focuses on a limited niche of building materials and specialty items. These include items like grout, specialized concrete performance coatings, waterproofing supplies, caulking, drainage accessories and geotextiles, among others. Knickerbocker only represents items from leading manufacturers such as BASF, ChemMasters, Ardex, Diedrich and ACO, giving customers total confidence in quality.

Likewise, Knickerbocker offers one of the most extensive selections in the country of equipment under the 35,000-pound benchmark. The team at Knickerbocker offers customers the ability to rent, buy or lease everything from air blowers to sandblasting equipment, excavators, material handlers, polishers and scissor lifts.

The company also has an extensive list of equipment suppliers for major brands, including Wacker, Multiquip, Husqvarna, IHI, Efficiency, Bomag, Edco, Gorman-Rupp and Atlas Copco, among others. Knickerbocker also recently became Bandit’s western Pennsylvania dealer, and the team couldn’t be more thrilled.

Following the Client

For the delivery of larger equipment, the company has one tri-axle roll back. Knickerbocker also has 13 on-the-road salesmen responsible for selling, renting and delivering the company’s equipment and materials. And these salesmen are not just deliverymen: Each is well-versed in the use of every Knickerbocker product, as well as the construction industry as a whole. Knickerbocker is proud to note that this level of knowledge adds to the company’s personality. Knickerbocker will also help clients arrange for a third-party trucking company to arrange delivery, though the company has shipped equipment and materials as far as New Mexico, Colorado and Canada upon request, only adding to the team’s unique character.

“Wherever an order needs to go, we’ll make sure it gets there,” adds Eaton.

All in all, the company maintains no less than five total warehouses to house its inventory and Knickerbocker employees take pride in maintaining a healthy stock of materials. “We have a huge variety and we stock all of our products here, in-house so that customers never have to wait for an order,” asserts Eaton.

Knickerbocker’s warehouses line Campbell’s Run Road in Pittsburg with one warehouse dedicated to housing large equipment. The company has another warehouse for parts, a third for building materials, a fourth for smaller tools and a fifth for the Knickerbocker office staff, as well as a fully loaded service center set to open in late 2012.

Opting out of the Downturn

Knickerbocker operated a service center of its own to maintain its fleet of equipment. However, when the economic downturn hit Knickerbocker decided to pursue an aggressive growth period instead of hanging back and waiting out the storm.

“We did not participate in the economic downturn and planned for growth actually,” asserts Eaton. “We figured even if we stocked up and couldn’t sell all of it one year, we could sell it the next, and it has really paid off.”

In fact, Eaton attests that Knickerbocker managed to pick up the slack left behind by companies who either scaled back, cut staff or both. Part of Knickerbocker’s expansion plan included extending the service, maintenance and repair shop to its client base. The extra service would allow Knickerbocker to continue meeting the needs of its client base even after the sale, while guaranteeing customers that trained, capable and professional staff would be able to ensure the repairs are up to the manufacturer’s and Knickerbocker’s own high-quality standards. “Eventually we’ll probably take the service center on the road and offer maintenance and repair service to our clients on site,” expands Eaton.

For now, Knickerbocker will focus its efforts on tying up the remaining loose ends before the shop opens in late 2012. In the next few years, Knickerbocker will pursue further growth the way it always has: by refining the various arms of its business to offer a more comprehensive service to the customer. Behind the scenes Knickerbocker Russell Co. Inc. will keep a close eye on industry trends in anticipation of new opportunities, reinforcing commitment to total customer service.

Published on: May 30, 2013

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