This is the first in a series profiling individual fire apparatus dealers-the people who sell fire trucks. Although some apparatus are sold factory direct, the majority of sales are through an agent or a broker-an intermediary between purchaser and manufacturer. An agent can also be called a dealer, a dealership, or a sales representative. For the sake of simplicity, this article defines a dealer as an entity that customarily enters into a contractual agreement with a manufacturer to sell product in a given geographical territory. I define a dealership as a dealer who has a physical workplace-a place of business similar to a showroom or service facility. A sales representative, the person fire departments deal with on a face-to-face basis, can be a factory employee, a dealer’s employee, or the dealer principal himself.
The intent is not to judge a dealer because of size, longevity, or capability. The objective here is to give the purchaser an understanding of who some fire apparatus dealers are, their business philosophies, and how they got where they are today.
|(1) These four aerial devices are being “flown” behind Greenwood’s Sales & Administration building for its 2012 open house. (Photos by author.)|
In the late 1970s, three friends in Southern Massachusetts-Mark France, a retired captain with the Attleboro (MA) Fire Department; Robert Allard, a mechanic with the same department; and Tim O’Neill-contemplated going into the automotive business together. Allard suggested a shop large enough to accommodate his expertise-repairing fire apparatus. They did and formed Greenwood Motors in 1979. Emergency One (E-ONE), based in Ocala, Florida, which had just started in 1974, was expanding its dealer network, and Greenwood signed on as E-ONE’s New England dealer in May 1979. It has experienced steady, planned growth ever since. E-ONE’s Web site shows Greenwood being its second oldest dealer-surpassed by one who signed on just three months earlier. Dealer longevity with a single fire apparatus manufacturer is an anomaly in today’s marketplace.
I had the opportunity to interview Greenwood’s principals at their sales and administration office and later observe their employees interacting with customers and vendors during their September 2012 open house. Commenting on Greenwood, Alan Hollister, E-ONE’s northeast region sales director, says, “Greenwood is considered by E-ONE to be one of our premier dealers. A truly professional organization, their strength lies in a firm commitment to customer satisfaction and unmatched customer service.” O’Neill is president and owner. Executive vice president is Dennis Carvalho, and Mark MacDonald is vice president of sales.
|(2) The product mix at the 2012 open house included a mini pumper, a stainless steel bodied pumper, straight aerials, quints, a tower ladder, a heavy rescue, numerous extruded aluminum pumpers on both custom and commercial chassis, many styles of ambulances, and an aerial that was refurbished in Greenwood’s shops.|
In 1979, the business opened a sales and service facility in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and the business incorporated as Greenwood Motors. A larger building followed in 1984, and the name changed to Greenwood Fire Apparatus. The company built a separate sales and administration facility in 1997. Greenwood’s E-ONE sales territory includes Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, and five counties in Southern New Hampshire. In the early 2000s, it became the authorized dealer for Horton ambulances for all six New England states, and it changed its name to Greenwood Emergency Vehicles to reflect the diversity in product. Satellite sales and service centers followed-one in Maine in 2004 and one in Connecticut in 2010. MacDonald says, “Except for some areas in the most northern portions of Maine, most of our customer base is within two hours of a service center.”
The main service center and sales administration building are located at the juncture of Interstates 95, 295 and 495 between Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. The Maine facility is 180 miles “down east” also just off an interstate. The Connecticut facility is about 100 miles southwest, likewise accessible from interstate highways. Greenwood has approximately 50 full-time employees and about a dozen part-timers. An interesting mix is the two-to-one ratio between the service side and the sales side-substantiating Greenwood’s commitment to service.
|(3) Mark MacDonald, vice president of sales, chats with members of the Canton (MA) Fire Department.|
In describing his sales staff, O’Neill says, “They are professionals. Although many have nonfire service-related marketing and sales backgrounds, they know the product and the marketplace. And, most have been with us for a long time. Our sales staff is as loyal to Greenwood as we are to our customers.”
Greenwood has separate sales representatives for ambulances and fire apparatus. MacDonald says a separate sales staff provides a better service. “If you go to Smith’s Honda dealership and Smith’s Ford dealership, you don’t have the same salesperson. If you are looking for an ambulance, we have experienced personnel, some of whom have been selling ambulances for 20 years or more-ditto for fire trucks.” Hollister states, “Their full-time sales staff is professional and well trained in the products they sell. I believe you would be hard pressed to find any other apparatus sales reps in the industry who are as technically astute and committed to their customers.”
|(4) Executive vice president Dennis Carvalho and Alan Hollister, E-ONE’s eastern region sales director, stand in front of the new Tower Ladder No. 2 for the Middletown (RI) Fire Department.|
About its service, Carvalho says, “Companywide, our main focus is customer service, whether it be selling a truck, servicing it, or even giving technical support to a department. Emergency vehicles are all we deal with. This is not a sideline business for us. We cannot rely on other sources of products to supplement our business model, so we have to make sure we keep our customers happy.”
O’Neill adds, “Service is often the deciding factor to an informed customer. It is just as important as product and should be specified in purchasing specifications. Greenwood has set the standard for providing service throughout New England.”
MacDonald weighs in with, “Service is huge. As one of our first employees, Ray Brousseau, is fond of saying, ‘Sales sells the first vehicle and service sells each one after that.’ “
Greenwood’s combined service facilities at the three locations encompass almost 55,000 square feet, employing full time EVT-certified technicians, electricians, hydraulic specialists, fabricators, welders, and painters. Noting Greenwood only services emergency vehicles, MacDonald says, “You will never have to wait in line at Greenwood behind a dump truck, oil truck, or bus. There is certainly a lot of truth to that statement in that if service does not take care of the customer, they may go elsewhere the next time around.” In summing up his comments on service, MacDonald finishes with, “The bottom line is this-once you purchase a vehicle from Greenwood, it will never have to go back to the OEM for any reason. We are completely self-sufficient with full collision repair and fabrication shops on site and can take care of any issue that may arise with your vehicle.” Hollister adds, “No doubt the best apparatus service center in the Northeast.”
O’Neill comments, “We regularly provide service for fire departments that operate competitive brands of apparatus.” Carvalho concurs. “As a result of the mission to keep departments happy, we have seen our non E-ONE service work pick up exponentially, which demonstrates to us the faith our customers have in us to keep their fleets running.” O’Neill summarizes, “Our repeat customers are a testament to the product and service we provide.”
|(5) The first 137-foot E-ONE aerial ladder in New England is headed to the Warwick (RI) Fire Department’s Ladder Company No. 2.|
Greenwood offers comprehensive training programs as another service to its customers. It’s not just limited to training for new purchases. Refresher training, firematic, component part, and maintenance courses are available. MacDonald elaborates, “The primary advantage of the Greenwood training program is the people providing the training. Our instructors have years of experience on both the fireground and in the classroom. They have taught at both Rhode Island and Massachusetts state fire academies, have multiple National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certifications, have college degrees in fire science, and are EVT-certified. Our primary goal is to ensure that all firefighters and personnel are trained to safely and efficiently operate their emergency vehicles.” When writing specifications for new purchases, O’Neill says, “Training is a specifiable item.”
|(6) This stainless steel pumper, destined for Dennis, Massachusetts, shows a functional rear step hydraulic rescue tool compartment and a swing-down ladder rack.|
Greenwood has been hosting an annual open house for more than 30 years to demonstrate appreciation to customers and to introduce new products. Carvalho notes that past attendance has been in the hundreds, and often 30 to 40 new vehicles are on display. Ambulance and fire apparatus component part suppliers and factory representatives also attend. Two of the units displayed this year were the first E-ONE 137-foot aerial ladder delivered in New England, for Warwick, Rhode Island, and an E-ONE stainless steel pumper destined for Dennis, Massachusetts.
Maxim, a well-known Massachusetts buil-der of fire apparatus, was in business from 1914 until 1989. The name and product line were recently resurrected at Greenwood. O’Neill comments, “The Maxim name will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2014. Ironically, the first time the Maxim name was trademarked was by us in 2008. We manufacture products at our facility under the Maxim name that are not offered by E-ONE, such as customized brush trucks and tankers.” Equally ironic, in a 2009 newspaper interview, O’Neill stated Maxim was Greenwood’s biggest competitor when he started in business.
|(7) The rear of the sales and administration building has six bays for new vehicle preparation work, customer inspection, and a graphic arts shop. The main service facility is a standalone building located about a half mile away.|
On the business’s future, O’Neill says, “In New England, we find fire departments prefer one-stop shopping inclusive of product, service, and training-all delivered in a prompt, professional manner.” My observation is Greenwood is committed to doing just that. A comment on Greenwood’s Web site states, “Our mission is to fulfill our customers’ needs by being consistently superior to the competition. Hire outstanding people and provide them with an opportunity to contribute, grow, and to take pride in their work.” It appears they are on the right track.
BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.