Though Newman Tractor has doubled in employees and locations in the last five years, it traces its roots back 47 years to just one man and a wrench.
In the early days, Rick Newman had no plans to become an equipment dealer – he was just looking to earn a modest living and give back to his community. During this period, he would buy equipment at auctions, tune it up, and resell it. As his reputation for quality used equipment grew in the Verona, Kentucky area, his side hustle turned into a full-time gig.
The business gradually expanded into rental, which still accounts for 50 percent of Newman’s revenue today, and eventually, new equipment sales. Newman Tractor is now a full-line Sany and Morooka dealer, along with various brands of attachments and accessories. It has 5 locations and 100 employees in Kentucky, Ohio and Florida.
As the company has evolved, Rick has kept faith and family values at the forefront. He passed those values down to his children, Justin Newman and Meredith Newman, who now work alongside him as part of the “G2,” or Generation 2, leadership team.
“It’s a Cinderella story of sorts,” says Meredith, who serves as vice president of process improvement and administration. “Dad came from a humble background and built it all on relationships.”
The business is now at a pivotal crossroads between old and new. The second generation is building up the technology, processes and people necessary to keep up with the expansion of the business while maintaining its small, family-owned business feel.
“The challenge is not buying into the transactional, one-and-done with customers,” says Justin. “That’s the transition we’re making as we get bigger: how to keep it a family, how to keep it tight, and how to keep it about the customer - to the point where our customers feel like family and never leave once they buy that first machine.”
Justin has worked for the business since age 16, doing everything from service to sales. He currently serves in a multifaceted role, helping connect departments to solve challenges. With recent additions in fleet management, technology and human resources, Newman Tractor has set itself up for many more decades of success and strategic growth.
For those reasons and more, Newman Tractor was named a finalist in Equipment World’s 2023 Big Iron Dealer of the Year program.
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Evolving with Market Conditions
Rick always trusted and relied on his instincts to grow the business - and it has proven to be right more times than not over the years.
One of those gut instincts led him to take on Sany over a decade ago as the company’s first and only full line of construction equipment. Newman remains one of Sany’s longest-running dealers in North America.
“I don’t know how he does it because I’m a numbers person, but he just had a feeling about Sany before anybody knew who they were and was like, ‘This is gonna be big,’” Meredith recalls.
The push into new equipment sales was a natural transition for Newman as customers demanded modern, reliable machines - whether they decided to rent or own. Rental remains an important part of the business, a trend that Justin expects will continue based on current market conditions.
“If something goes down, they want a new machine the next day or they’re calling somebody else. It’s a whole different ballgame. It’s all about speed.”
To achieve that speed, Newman has implemented a 24-hour turnaround goal for service. It’s something that has helped them win deals from competitors during the supply chain issues over the past few years.
A quick response from Newman - and a positive first interaction with a rental or loaner Sany machine - can often be enough to change a customer’s perception of the Chinese manufacturer. It’s something the company has been building on through a decade of what it calls “aggressive and guerilla” marketing campaigns.
“Brand loyalty is strong [to other heavy equipment OEMs]. To get people to break that, you have to come in with a lot of firepower and it’s not easy for a traditional dealership to do that,” says Justin. “We’ve taken a different approach here. It’s the stories that we tell about the brand that are going to get somebody out of one seat and into another one.”
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To keep its pipeline full of technicians, Newman has put lots of resources into younger recruits, along with a healthy dose of patience. A “humble and hungry” attitude is what the company looks for over experience when hiring. In addition to a career growth plan, Newman provides diesel tech students with a fully loaded toolbox after 2 years of service.
“It comes with some heavier costs because they’re going to make some mistakes, they’re not going to know crazy diagnostics, and they’re going to be part-time for a while, but if you’re willing to make that jump, you can see some good success.”
A full-time shop trainer helps instruct the young employees while keeping a careful eye on the quality of work. Meredith says the co-op program has not only improved retention but the culture as well. “They feel like they’re part of something, that they’re making a difference, and that the people right next to them care about them and what they’re doing in their lives.”
Justin adds, “It’s not so gnarly here as far as production because that doesn’t get you very far anyway. All the stuff you think is a distraction, like corporate outings or parties, may be the most important thing you do as far as taking care of people and making sure they feel valued and heard.”
Connecting Data and Equipment
Customer service has always been a priority for Newman Tractor and to take that service to the next level, the company has recently hired a chief technology officer.
By integrating processes and data flows into “whatever we can dream up,” Vice President of Marketing Stephanie Smith expects increased speed, frequency and accuracy of interactions with customers, from e-commerce to machine uptime. “It’s going to help us move into this era of technology more seamlessly,” she says.
Justin notes that since the hire, he’s more excited about what the future holds than he has been in a long time, saying, “It’s only a matter of time before people start seeing things from us that either haven’t been created for our industry yet or are better than what they expect from our industry because he’s from the outside.”
Through all its success, Newman Tractor hasn’t forgotten its humble roots.
The company’s DIGDeeper® philanthropic program and Mission Days employee volunteer program allow the Newmans and their employees to give back to the causes they’re passionate about locally and globally – from building wells in Africa to giving to area food shelters.
“These are ways for us to continue to help the communities that we’re already in but also give our team members a look into what we’re truly about,” adds Stephanie. “It gives them access to something bigger than themselves.”
“It starts with taking care of our employees and customers, but the beautiful part of this business is when there’s money left over for someone else,” says Justin.
It’s still about faith and family values at Newman Tractor.