Terry Dotson, president, chairman and CEO of Prestonburg, Ky.-basedWorldwide Equipment Enterprises, Saturday was named the American Truck Dealers/Heavy Duty Trucking Truck Dealer of the Year.
Terry Dotson, Truck Dealer of the Year
Terry Dotson, Truck Dealer of the Year

"To remain both adaptive and proactive, I am constantly looking for inventive, new ways to better serve our customers and our employees," Dotson says. "In this age of instant gratification everything is better, cheaper, stronger, and faster. Our position is to provide a source of value."

The runner-up is John C. Arscott, president and CEO of the Pete Store, LLC, in Baltimore, Md. Arscott started his career in truck retailing in 1978, working in sales at Harper - Detroit Diesel in Toronto, Ontario. In 1988, he became regional sales manager at Peterbilt Motors Co. in Toronto, where he remained until establishing Premier Peterbilt in 1992. After selling his interest in that dealership 2001, Arscott relocated to Richmond, Va., where he purchased Peterbilt of Richmond Inc., now called the Pete Store.

In the 10 years since Arscott established the Pete Store, he and his employees have taken the company from a single location to eight locations, with a ninth in the works. Sales have increased 10-fold, making the dealership the second largest in the country by sales.

Seven commercial truck dealers from the United States and Canada were nominated by their peers for the award. Nominees are evaluated based on several categories, including dealership performance, civic contributions and industry leadership. The winner and runner-up were chosen by a panel of professors from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

The other nominees were:

- Steve Bassett, president of General Truck Sales, in Muncie, Ind.
- Euguene W. Hieber, president of Bucks County International Inc., in Langhorne, Pa.
- Brent Leach, president of Custom Truck Sales, Inc., in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Trey Mytty, president and CEO of Omaha Truck Center, Inc., of Omaha, Neb.
- Timothy E. Reilly, president and dealer principal of Miami Valley International, in Dayton, Ohio

This year, the selection committee also singled out three of the nominees for special comment:

Hieber was cited for a lifetime of career accomplishment, for his personal investment in his community and for creating a family business with the full support of the next two generations.

Reilly was cited as a "dealer to watch" in the future of the industry. "As a newcomer to the industry, in just seven years as dealer principal, the committee said, Reilly has successfully demonstrated a new dealership network model for the industry," the committee said.

Bassett was cited as an exceptional performer across all categories of dealership performance, for industry leadership and community service in a single-location dealership outside a major market area.

A music degree

Unlike many dealers who grow up in the business, Dotson had planned to be a music teacher, and in fact has a music degree. But in 1972, as a college senior and student body president, he visited Worldwide Equipment's headquarters doing fundraising for the school. Jim McClung, then the president of the company, saw something in Dotson and asked him to think about a career change. So after he graduated, Dotson started as a management trainee. By 1976, he was the leading salesperson for Mack Trucks and was known as "Mr. Mack" at Mack corporate headquarters. Dotson rose through the sales organization to president.

Under his leadership, the company has grown from a small supplier to the coal industry to a major supplier of the region's trucking industry. Worldwide today owns 15 full-service dealerships, following its late-2011 purchase of two South Carolina Kenworth dealerships, as well as 20 parts and leasing stores, in West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and South Carolina.

Total sales grew from $69.2 million to $271.9 million. On top of that, Worldwide Equipment's leasing arm fleet of over 1,000 units generates $17.8 million revenue annually.

The company's strategy is to offer a full spectrum of solutions for the trucking industry. To that end, they not only offer the typical truck parts and service and leasing services, but also five full body shops, a fabrication facility, a detail shop, and parts-only stores, including its own private label of aftermarket parts called Road Champion. They offer customized solutions, such as operating three additional parts locations within a major trucking company's facilities in three states.

In fact, Worldwide Equipment is one of the most diversified dealer groups in the country. Dotson explains that this is largely due to its roots in rural America, in the Appalachians, where the roads weren't good and it might take five hours to drive to the next-nearest dealer.

"We had to learn to be all things to our customers," he says. "You couldn't run across the street to the other parts place or dealership or salvage yard."

Worldwide Equipment is no longer limited to those type of rural operations, but the strategy still works well for them, as today's customers are limited more by time than by distance. "We try to be more than just your normal truck dealership," Dotson says.

In each of its markets, the company consistently produces top market share numbers. The 2011 fiscal year saw an average 36% share for truck sales across all divisions, with one division producing over 80% and four others at 50%. Worldwide Eqiupment has 58% of the total parts business in its market, and its best market has 114% market share, stocking products not normally listed as truck parts, such as hand towels.

Dotson says he has found that the best way to keep our customers happy is to keep employees happy.

"My people are our more important asset," Dotson says. "I put them first, then ask them to put our customers first."

He says he hates to use a corporate buzzword, "empowering" his employees, but "I tell them to rent helicopters if they need to, but take care of their customers. You hire good people, let them do their work, and respect them if they make good decisions." He's proud of the longevity of his staff; the average employee tenure is 16 years.

Dotson also is committed to improving education in Appalachia. He has served as a board member of University of Pikeville for over 25 years and as chairman of the board for 15 years. Under his leadership, the school grew its enrollment from 200 to over 1,200 students. It has opened a medical school that is now the second largest medical school in the state and one of the top 20 schools in the U.S. in the study of rural medicine.

"I think it's important that we as businesspoople give back to our communities, and we strive real hard to do that," Dotson says. "Sometimes [business owners] get real busy taking care of business and forget to take care of our community, and I think we, as business leaders, need to always leave things better than we found them."