In it for the Long Haul

Andrew Coney of Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic, Inc. discusses … ▶ Financial independence ▶ job loyalty ▶ growth in times of despair ▶ hiring a top-notch sales force ▶ diversifying into rental fleets ▶ the future of recycling

HEAVY-DUTY EQUIPMENT including jaws, crushers, conveyors, and sand and gravel washing plants comprise Powerscreen's comprehensive product line-up. This variety ensures the firm "controls the lion's share of the market."

For more than 15 years, Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic, has been distributing Powerscreen’s full-product range—including vibrating screens, sand and gravel washing plants, conveyors, crushers, jaws, impactors, and cones— to some of the highest numbers in the industry. The firm, which serves as the authorized Powerscreen dealer for Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, and South Carolina, is located in Kernersville, North Carolina, and offers services like sales and rental, as well as parts and service backup. Andrew Coney, owner and president of Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic, recently spoke with Profile to share the insights that have helped lead the firm to great success.

Tell me a bit about your current role at Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic. What does your work involve?
In 1996, I founded Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic. My role as president has been a great joy. I love my company and am involved in absolutely every aspect of it. I work very closely with every department within the company, especially the sales department.

What did you want to be as a child and how do you see that reflected in your current role?
From the time I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be my own boss—that I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be financially secure. My goal from the very beginning was to be a distributor for this type of equipment. I began working for Powerscreen while still [enrolled] in university; it’s basically what I’ve done since I was 18 years old.

What do you think has made Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic successful?
The people. I make a policy of always hiring the best people I can, the best people out there. Our success is due to the hard work of the people in managerial positions, the people I keep around me. But truly everyone, bookkeepers, mechanics, everyone is qualified, and performs their work at a high level. I have also been aggressive in hiring a top-notch sales force.

So, what do you look for in an employee?
They need to have that same drive I’ve always had. I like to see a bit of myself in everyone I hire, aggressive determination. I rarely hire people who have bounced around to a bunch of different companies; qualities like stability are very important to me. All of my key employees have been with me for 10 years or more. I look for people who would be interested in one day taking over this company.

How did you set your company apart from competitors?
Powerscreen is the world leader in this type of equipment and they control the lion’s share of the market. When I came in, I was very aggressive. I wanted to add on a rental fleet, which would add a new element to the business. And that’s one of the key moments, because our competitors didn’t do that, nor do they do that now for the most part. People were always making rental requests, but at the time the equipment wasn’t readily available for that.

Can you tell me about a challenge you’ve faced in your work at Powerscreen and how you overcame it?
The economy has certainly been a challenge for us in the last few years. Like everyone else, we felt the recession. Most people in my line of work—there are probably 20 distributors who do what I do in the United States—they all started laying people off and cutting back. I knew there was business out there and I knew we could get it, especially since others were suddenly less equipped to do so. We took on two more sales associates, and moved into other markets. We also grew the rental fleet; we probably started with about 15 machines and now it’s up toward 100 pieces. People couldn’t get financing to buy equipment, so suddenly there was a great demand for rentals.

Technology moves so fast these days. How is Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic staying ahead of the curve?
Other companies follow Powerscreen, that’s what it means to be the industry leader. We get back to the manufacturer often with data about what we’re seeing and what equipment is needed in the marketplace. We provide the intelligence. There are many intensive conversations between manufacturer and distributor about where we think the market will be five years from now.

And where do you think the market will be?
Ten years ago, our largest business was sand, gravel, and Corian; that’s shifted. Now our largest business is recycling. And that end of the business is just growing more and more. I’d say that it’s at least 50 percent of the business. We’re currently working on more innovative equipment for that side of the industry.

What advice do you have for others wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Look for a job you love. One you can be happy in every day. I love to travel and my position is one that requires a great deal of travel. I’m well suited to it, and can therefore not just get the job done but enjoy doing it. That makes me a better boss, a better distributor, and a happier person.