Patrick Winer was content working for Jerr-Dan Corporation, headquartered in Greencastle, Pa. (JerrDan.com), when company officials made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"They offered me my own distributorship so I took it," he said. "Everyone already knew me and associated me with the Jerr-Dan tow truck line, so we already had a customer base. We started with that as our main product, and added others that complemented Jerr-Dan, such as Landoll Corporation's slide axle and detachable trailer. We're now Jerr-Dan's second largest dealer in the country and Landoll's (Landoll.com) largest."
Winer opened Worldwide Equipment Sales, LLC in Rockdale, Ill. with his wife, Cathy, in 2003. "I was doing all the marketing and the running, and she handled the accounting," he said. "We've grown quite a lot since that time."
In fact, Worldwide Equipment Sales has a 10,000-square-foot building on 3.5 acres.
It sells equipment associated with the towing industry: tow trucks, wreckers, trailers and wheel lifts. It also builds and repairs trucks in three, 100-foot bays. A sister company, Driver Locate (DriverLocate.com), sells GPS units to companies to track fleets and to send truck maintenance alerts.
Customers range from automotive recycling facilities, towing companies, body and repair shops, and even municipalities. The majority of business comes from Illinois and Indiana but the company sells nationwide. A full, one-year warranty is available on all products and trucks come with a manufacturer's warranty.
Worldwide Equipment Sales wants its customers to know they are top priority. "Our customer is the boss," said Winer. "We take great care of them."
Winer typically works at least 14-hours a day. He is at work by 5:15 a.m. to confirm the trucks are on time. He stays at work until after 7:30 p.m. and he takes calls from customers on his cell phone at any time.
"Most customers know they can call me whenever, early or late," he said. "I even have some clients stop to get parts early in the morning. It's important that I am available for questions and requests. It's all part of delivering spectacular customer service."
Because of these efforts, many satisfied customers tell others about Worldwide Equipment Sales. The business buys some advertising in trade magazines, or mails postcards directly to its customers. Its web site continues to play a prominent role to showcase its inventory.
"The Internet has had a great impact on our business," said Winer. "It's made it almost instantaneous. Before, we'd have to take pictures of our truck and then send them out to print. A week later, we could mail them to the customer. One-hour photo really revolutionized the business. It made it that much faster. Internet allows us to show our inventory as if the customer is here on-site. We're even going to be doing video so people can do a virtual walk around the trucks."
Winer makes sure Worldwide Equipment Sales gives back to the community. Three years ago, the company started the nonprofit organization Tow Trucks For Tots (TowTrucksForTots.com). Each year, at the start of the holiday season, the organization holds a tow truck parade to collect toys for charity. The parade has become a huge draw in the area and even boasts a few record-breaking achievements.
"In 2008 and 2009, we made the Guinness World Records," he said. "We had 239 trucks in 2008 and 309 trucks in 2009. It's a really meaningful event for our industry."
Owners: Patrick & Cathy Winer
Location: Rockdale, Ill.
Years In Business: 9