On the front lines

As a standard practice, Randy Goss, president and CEO of Humble, Texas-based Equipment Support Services, sends a letter of appreciation to everyone who has bought a machine from his dealership in the previous month. After several letter-signing sessions, it hit him: More than 40 percent of the surnames on these letters were Hispanic.

“I felt it was an underserved market,” he comments, “and I wanted a first mover advantage.” Goss, who grew up in Miami and spent some time in South America, also knew Latinos were loyal customers. “They’re not going to go somewhere else for $1,000,” he says.

“People have just ignored this customer group,” Goss says. “We certainly did.”

So Case Construction Equipment-dealer ESS responded two years ago by setting up a Hispanic Sales Division in a 30-year-old central Houston branch. In addition to hiring bilingual salesmen, the company staffed the branch with Spanish-speaking parts, service and counter people. Staffing wasn’t easy. Fluency in Spanish and a friendly manner trumped previous construction sales experience. “We didn’t want to have to teach anyone Spanish,” Goss says.

And so just two of the company’s Hispanic division cadre of five salespeople, aged 28 to 32, had construction equipment experience. Omar Lopez, who used to live an hour away from Mexico City, came from banking. Arturo Gomez is a chemical engineer with a background in food exporting. Juan Carlos Nu