(L-R, seated): Third-generation ownership John and Brooke Dodson and Kristen and Drew DeLaney; and (standing) second-generation ownership Brad and Melissa Beard come together at the company’s Mobile, Ala., headquarters.
(Photo courtesy of Beard Equipment)
It's been a couple of years since Beard Equipment Company celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the company continues to grow and thrive with the third-generation family members completely taking the reins of management and ownership.
Brad Beard (L) and his father William Beard, founder of Beard Equipment Company, in the 1970s.(Photo courtesy of Beard Equipment)
The company was founded in 1970 by William B. Beard and an area contractor, who together envisioned the growth of the John Deere industrial line in Pensacola, Fla., and seized the opportunity to buy-in as the distributor of the area. Beard Equipment grew into a second location in Panama City, Fla., in 1972, and enjoyed a decade of success at these two locations before becoming the dealer in Mobile, Ala., in 1982.
With Mobile being a much larger market, the decision was made to make that branch the company's headquarters.
Brad Beard was named president in 1990 and his father, William Beard, retired in 1993.
In a recent conversation with Construction Equipment Guide (CEG), Brad Beard recalled his father's way of selling equipment.
"Dad never had a signed order or a P.O. number," Beard said. "The deal was always sealed with a handshake. To this day, many of our deals continue in the same fashion."
During this time, Beard, and his wife Melissa, worked to expand the business while investing in the training and education of their sales team and service technicians.
"We believe that our employees are the greatest asset we have," said Beard. "They need to know the value they bring to the organization."
The benefit to this approach was having knowledgeable employees who could discuss the best equipment options for each customer's unique task at hand and to get them the right options for the right machine.
It was always important to develop strong customer relationships and to make Beard Equipment an easy company to do business with.
"We want to serve our customers and their needs better than anyone else," said Beard. "We want to take care of them and do the right thing, even when it hurts or is expensive [to resolve]."
Customer feedback prompted Beard Equipment to become an early rental fleet adopter and to understand the overall value that rentals deliver. From approximately a dozen machines in the early years to a fleet of more than 600 machines today, the company always strives to provide the best equipment options to its customers for sale, rent or rental purchase.
The rental division has also been a key asset in helping the company quickly react when machines are needed for the rapid cleanups often required after Gulf Coast storms and hurricanes. One of Beard's largest rental operations took place during the BP oil spill in 2010, when it was able to assemble and support more than 300 machines on the Alabama coast and Florida panhandle to help with the cleanup. This included onsite technicians, a constant flow of parts and "a little bit of everything" from John Deere tractors to the largest heavy industrial equipment.
Beard Equipment Golf was created as a separate division and was one of the first designated golf and turf equipment dealers for John Deere Golf equipment. To this day, it continues to be one of the top performers in this category.
In 2004, a Freeport, Fla., location was constructed. Then, in 2011, Beard Equipment purchased Industrial Tractor, acquiring new locations in Jacksonville, Lake City and Palatka, Fla. In 2014, the company purchased the Tallahassee and Perry, Fla., branch locations from Flint Equipment, and then purchased the Ocala, Fla.-based Highland Tractor in 2015.
Fast forward to the third generation of ownership. In 2013, Melissa and Brad Beard passed the torch to their two daughters, Kristen and Brooke, and two sons-in-law, Drew DeLaney (president) and John Dodson (COO). Kristen and Brooke grew up in the business, and now, along with their husbands, have all been with the company for 15 to 20 years. Complemented by a top-notch management team the couples continue to run the business with the same core principles that have led to consistently be recognized as one of the top performing John Deere Dealers in North America.
All generations agree that technology — especially the Internet — has changed the way people value equipment and research their options compared with just a couple of decades ago. Today, Beard Equipment is constantly evaluating the best way to connect with customers, add value to their business and earn a place of consideration with prospective buyers.
"The early days didn't involve technology like today," Melissa and Brad said. "You had to stop at a pay phone to call customers back and they were often not available. They could be in the woods or on a job site. You looked up parts on a microfiche reader and there were no computers in service to help diagnose service problems. As time went by, we became more ‘computerized' and found it was hard to do business without them."
"The biggest change from generation to generation is the overall technology of the dealership and in the equipment itself," said Company President Drew DeLaney.
"We're in a more competitive marketplace than before with stronger competitors. We're also looking at tougher margin equations, so we have to be more efficient with resources while continuing to deliver excellent customer service. In the early days, it seemed to be more about the equipment. Now, it's more about the way the equipment is supported."
One of its newer divisions, Beard Technology Solutions, was created to fill the growing need for machine control and automation solutions by providing Leica Geosystems software, products and training throughout the state of Florida and south Alabama. The Leica Geosystems unit provides a comprehensive suite of solutions to civil contractors from the planning and estimating phase of a project all the way to final documentation and completion. Beard Technology also sells survey equipment and software.
Embracing new opportunities like this is one of the reasons that the company has virtually been in constant growth mode since inception. Beard Equipment continually adds new John Deere product lines and was recently named the Wirtgen Group equipment supplier at six of its Florida locations to better serve the road building and asphalt industries.
Through it all, the third-generation's leadership of Beard Equipment has been diligently working to achieve record sales years and to continue the business tradition of excellent customer service.
Co-owners Drew and Kristen DeLaney and John and Brooke Dodson are now fully vested and entrusted to meet the challenges of their geographic expansion, increasing competition and ever-changing customer needs. The Beard family considers it a great opportunity to be a family-owned, family-run business, and continues to position Beard Equipment as a nationwide leader among family-owned distributors.
About Beard Equipment — At a Glance
Growing from approximately 12 employees at the beginning to more than 350 today, Beard Equipment now operates 10 full-service John Deere construction & forestry facilities throughout north Florida, the Panhandle and south Alabama. Its golf division serves five states along the Gulf Coast. In addition, select locations also carry and service products from John Deere (small ag), Wirtgen Group (Wirtgen, Vögele, Hamm, Kleemann), Cemen Tech, LeeBoy, Rosco, Basic Rollers, BOMAG, NPK, Eager Beaver Trailers, Alamo Industrial, and Talbert manufacturing. Beard Technology is the Florida and south Alabama dealer of Leica Geosystems products. CEG
Today's top stories