Red Hawk Celebrates 10 Years
Edition: May/June 2011
There is a bell on the wall at Red Hawk centrally located between the administrative offices, the golf cart shop, and the warehouse where parts are meticulously packed for shipping to dealers. Resembling something from an old-fashioned schoolhouse, the bell is rung every time the company receives a phone call or email from a customer citing excellent service or sharing an example about an employee going above and beyond. These days, the bell is rung quite often, and when it does, the whole company takes notice.
It seems that customer service is more than just lip service at the industry’s second largest parts distributor and cart wholesaler. On the occasion of Red Hawk’s tenth anniversary celebrated in March, longtime employees testify to the company’s growth. “Just five or six years ago, our parts catalog was very small—really nothing more than a flyer—and most of our business was on the cart side. That’s how we started”, remembers veteran salesman Kurt Partlow. By contrast, the newly minted 2011 Red Hawk parts and accessories catalog is a whopping 260 pages, and new merchandise is being added all the time. The sales department’s Neale Osenburg credits Red Hawk’s unique business model, offering carts as well as parts and accessories, as a distinct customer advantage.
“Because we see and touch the parts every day, dealers look to us as a resource”. Indeed, the cart side of the business functions much like an in-house laboratory, where products are constantly being tested by mechanics on staff. As a result, the company is able to stay in close touch with the market, identify issues with different types of carts and advise customers accordingly.
It is not just the catalog that has grown over ten years. These days the Red Hawk facility is bursting at the seams, swelled by a dramatic increase in both merchandise and staff. Despite their growth—or perhaps because of it—what really makes the Red Hawk team proud is that their customercentric foundation has remained solidly intact. “Every person here is focused on making the customers happy”, says evercheerful Tire Mounting Supervisor James “JB” Brown. He says his team never gets tired of hearing the bell ring, especially when the ringing is followed by a shout of “Thank you, tire guys!”. Salesman John Finnegan believes that today’s impersonal business practices like automated phone trees have lowered people’s expectations about what service should be. “Customer service is a dying art”, he notes. “But not here. Our business is built on it”. For example, Mike Lyons, Red Hawk’s Shipping Manager, has been known to jump in his truck to drive a package to UPS after hours. Why? “Because sometimes a customer really, really needs something”, he explains simply. “And sometimes that means I need to call ahead to UPS to tell them not to lock the doors.”
What motivates Red Hawk employees to go the extra mile? As nice as it is to get recognition for a job well done, by a ringing bell or otherwise, the roots of good service go deeper. Red Hawk staff often point to the customers themselves as a motivating force. After nearly three decades doing customer service at various other companies, Amy Billings counts herself lucky to be at Red Hawk. “Our customers are amazing”, volunteers Red-Hawk’s selfdescribed “Fixer”. “They’re down-to-earth and patient and appreciative, so helping them out is personal to me.” Neale Osenburg echoes that sentiment, “The best part of my job is interacting with customers”. Adds colleague Kurt Partlow, “We’re always looking for ways to better serve our customers—to get them the right part at the right price. We pride ourselves on that.” Pride is a continuing theme among Red Hawk employees. Amy Billings’ reputation for being extremely organized is well-founded. “My files are gorgeous”, she gushes. Apparently concerned that Amy would come across as obsessive, co-worker Abigail Brobst defends her with a laugh, “Amy’s not OCD. She’s just very, very neat”. Back in the warehouse, JB Brown announces enthusiastically, “The Tire Shop gets it done!”, suggesting the pride his team takes in their work, but those around him know that JB is simply articulating his own work ethic. As much as workers find satisfaction in their own accomplishments, each employee is apt to give ultimate credit to another person or department. “Our warehouse is a machine” says Neale Osenburg. “Those guys have saved the day in many incidences.” John Finnegan concurs, “Everyone here is great. Since I arrived last year, I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support from Duffey and the guys here (sales) as well as all the folks in the back. I couldn’t do what I do without them.”
A week before this article went to press, Red Hawk experienced the biggest sales day of the new season. True to his character, Mike Lyons took the busy day in stride. “It didn’t feel like that big a day”, he said. “It was busy, but everybody just did what they had to do”. Others described the day as exhausting, but nearly everyone said how satisfying they found the whole experience. Amy Billings talks about a team spirit that pervades Red Hawk: “It really feels like we are all on the same wavelength, so we can deal with (days like that). And I know that’s a big part of the reason for the company’s growth”. Red Hawk employees describe a supportive, familylike atmosphere, which to an outsider, sounds like a something of a throwback. Yet the more time you spend at the company, that homey feeling begins to seem less old-fashioned than it does carefully planned. You get the sense that somehow the company hires its employees with attitude and disposition in mind. However, there is no illusion of a magic bullet. Staff members will tell you that working at Red Hawk is not everyone’s cup of tea and that not everyone subscribes to the roll-up-yoursleeves mentality. The naysayers tend to weed themselves out, and those prepared to work hard tend to stay, hence the atmosphere is preserved. Gillet Boyce, co-founder of Red Hawk along with partner John Clough, credits his staff for the company’s growth over ten years, writing in the letter to dealers in this year’s catalog, “We share our pride in this accomplishment with a truly awesome team of employees who helped us get here”. Recognizing the employees’ role as central to the Red Hawk brand, the marketing firm who came up with the company’s 10th anniversary slogan reportedly presented a whole list of alternatives to the Red Hawk group. When they got to the eventual winner, Good People, Great Parts, the team grew surprisingly silent and simply nodded unanimously around the table as if to say, “Yes, That’s it. That’s what we’re all about”. Apparently it was an easy sell.