There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Hats
AEC Vice President and Allied Products Specialist Scott Abernathy Opens Up About his 34 Years with the company
In 34 years of working at Advanced Equipment Company (AEC), Vice President and Allied Products Specialist Scott Abernathy has worn a lot of hats. The son of owner Larry Abernathy, Scott began in the warehouse before earning his way up through the company to his current position.
We sat down with Scott to discuss his history with the company, what it takes to be on the road for 16 years, and the secret formula that makes AEC the best place to go for material handling solutions.
You’ve moved through a lot of roles at AEC. Can you walk us through a few?
It all began when I got out of college. I was looking for a job and my dad wanted me to come work for him. Originally, I thought I’d take a different path, but I eventually joined in at an entry level warehouse management job.
In no time, I moved up to inside sales. It was during that position that I was asked to become an outside representative and meet with our clients on site. And I did that and enjoyed it for about 16 years before transitioning to handling new business development and marketing.
I found that I missed the challenge of solving our client’s operational problems, so when the opportunity arose to get back into outside sales in Charlotte, I jumped right on it. I’m a very customer-oriented guy and like to be engaged, troubleshooting, and designing.
I currently hold a position on the AEC board of directors as well as wear the VP role – which basically means I handle the travel, trade shows, meetings and picking folks up at airports.
Where you’re at now – was that what you envisioned when you started at AEC?
Not at all. But as you may have heard, once you start working at AEC, it’s such a good opportunity that almost everybody who’s ever joined the company has stayed. We’ve had several people retire recently who have been with us for decades.
You said that when you were in the new business development and marketing role that you were itching to get back to designing solutions. Is that your favorite part of the sales process?
I love it! The new business development and marketing roles were definitely a challenge for me. But I missed the sales work – taking a project from conception to designing it. Which, by the way, is different from most companies.
Our guys are trained to take a project from cradle to completion, and that means doing everything from surveying to project management and installation to final walk-through. It’s tough work, but there’s a lot of satisfaction that comes along with it.
What would you say is your favorite part of that process?
That’s a tough question for me. Engineering and designing systems is a fun challenge, and the installation part has great satisfaction when it’s done.
I also enjoy, after the project is complete, having improved the system and knowing my client is satisfied. That’s probably my favorite part.
Even if there’s a snag along the project line, in the end it works out due to our strong relationships with our vendors. They’ve got our backs, and we’ve got our client’s covered. That’s what AEC is known for.
What else would you say is the main thing that draws people to AEC?
The one thing that we’ve always prided ourselves on is our excellence, a quick response, and making sure that the entire project goes smoothly.
And once we do a job for someone, they come back. Repeat business has always been our strong suit.
So in this changing market, how do you maintain a lasting relationship with clients?
The one thing I always try to do is think like a customer – see the way we work through their eyes. What do they want to see? They want the job done as efficiently and easily as possible.
You do what you say you’re going to do, you earn trust, and the relationship follows. We’re known for our ability to solve what I call “bottlenecks” within a plan.
So if it’s logistics or conveyors or storage, we can find solutions where our competition can’t, or doesn’t know how, and that goes a long way with our customers. We can do the jobs others cant even quote.
Would you say that’s AEC’s strong suit? Its ability to tackle hard jobs?
That and the talented specialists we have. What we do with 15 employees , it takes other companies 75 people to accomplish.
What makes us unique is we’re the specialist, the engineer, and we handle the entire project. It doesn’t get passed off to another. And that’s a totally different business model from 95% of the other distributors in the material handling world today. Not even the manufacturers have that going for them.
We manage it all so we’re unique in that respect, and I think our customers recognize that. They get to deal with the same person for everything, which provides consistency and peace of mind.
Other companies will have one guy who finds the job, then brings the file back to a pair of engineers, and now the customer is getting calls from two or three guys. But not at AEC. I guess we’re a little old school that way.
Scott Abernathy specializes in conveyor systems with turnkey integrated solutions, automated storage solutions, rack solutions, bridge cranes, scissor lifts, modular office buildings, mezzanine platforms and catwalks, floor-to-floor vertical lifts and two-story shelving systems. He’s almost always close by in his local territory and able to respond quickly.
To talk to Scott about finding a solution that fits your application, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call AEC at 704-527-3141.