Duane Kyrish, president of Longhorn International Trucks, Austin, TX, has the distinction of being International Truck & Engine Co.'s first Dealer of the Year.
He was selected from among 72 Circle of Excellence dealers during that event, held in February.
"It's really a dealership award," noted Kyrish, "because the dealer is dependent upon his people. The people make the business what it is, and we have a good organization, good initiatives and really, really good people (113 employees)."
Kyrish hadn't planned to get into the truck business. His father Ed, who worked for International, bought the dealership - a factory branch - in June 1976. When Kyrish graduated from college that August, his father convinced him to come on board and give the business a try.
Kyrish joined Longhorn International - which also has a Mitsubishi Fuso Truck franchise and is an Idealease member - as a salesman. He found he enjoyed the business, as did his twin brother Wayne. He, like their father, worked for International before joining the dealership.
In 1982, when International was selling off its remaining factory stores, the Kyrishs bought the dealership in San Antonio, TX, Santex International. Kyrish became the general manager of Longhorn International in Austin, while his father and brother managed Santex.
Some six years later, the trio purchased another dealership, Olympic International in Houston, TX. Recently renamed International Trucks of Houston, the father left son Wayne in charge of Santex and moved to Houston to run that dealership. A fourth facility was added to the business in June 1998 when Gray International, in Temple, TX, was purchased. It's been renamed Longhorn International and is part of the Austin dealership.
"I've really enjoyed the truck business," commented Kyrish. "I can't imagine doing anything else."
He is now bringing some of his family into the business. One son and a nephew are working part-time at Longhorn International while finishing school.
Kyrish believes "the truck market will decline somewhat this year, and that means our business will soften too. The good news is truck utilization is still high, so the parts and service business should remain good.
"The nature of truck sales being what it is, the back end of the business, the aftermarket, is the market dealers should be making their living on," he said. "One of our critical challenges for the future is maintaining that business.
"With the quality of today's trucks, they just don't break. We're no longer selling engine and transmission overhauls. We're mainly doing routine maintenance, and anybody can do that."