Paul Joplin, The Larson Group’s Director of Service, tells his story of working for the organization and what he’s doing to prepare for the future.
With nearly four decades of experience in truck service, The Larson Group’s Vice President of Service Paul Joplin has been credited with recognizing new needs of customers throughout the transportation industry caused by shifting demographics and technology. Not to mention, the competition among the industry to attract and retain qualified and promising talent to fill necessary service jobs is also undeniable.
An influencer within TLG and persistently keeping up-to-date on economic trends, Paul can’t ignore one of the most discussed topics among industry leaders: millennials. While many claim to fail in even remotely relating to the infamous generation that grew up with “helicopter parents” and the internet, Paul welcomes them with open arms.
“They’re totally different from what we all grew up with,” Paul said of the generation gap. “I’m more of the baby-boomer generation, where you get a job, you keep a job, you work hard, you do a good job, you get rewarded for that and you go home and you feel good at night.”
Spotting trends, Paul not only sees millennials entering his service departments but also in parts, body shops and sales.
“With these people coming in, we’re having to re-learn how we supervise them; how we motivate people and how we encourage them to do a good job,” Paul explained.
In the sense of general day-to-day work, that may be the case. But Paul also sees strengths in the generation, especially in such a busy industry.
“I think they will be a great generation and be great for our business. I mean, they’re very intelligent and computer savvy,” Paul chuckled.
INTRODUCTION TO THE LARSON FAMILY
With all trucks (and automobiles) running on computers now, Paul sees this as an opportunity. He said, “We really need these guys – this generation – to come in, get grounded, take hold and support our customers and our business.”
In other words, carry on the tradition.
Paul recalls the Larson family acquiring Mid-America Peterbilt, where he was working at the time, in 1991.
“The owner wasn’t as engaged in the company, but the Larsons came in and purchased it and it was all about the employees and the customers,” said Paul. “If we needed something, like a tool, we got a tool. If the customer needed his truck fixed – whatever we had to do – we got it fixed for him. We worked late. We worked weekends. It’s all about the customer.”
It didn’t take long for Paul to see an unfamiliar trend in the customer service his new management team was providing.
Claire Larson, the father of the current TLG owners, would often say, “Take care of the customer. No matter what you do, always take care of the customer and they’ll take care of you,” which resonated with Paul, and still does with new TLG employees today.
“Our customers stuck with us,” he said. “They kept coming back, and coming back. We started out with three technicians (in O’Fallon, Mo.), and we’ve grown to 35 technicians there now.”
Already with 12 years of service technician experience under his belt when Mid-America Peterbilt was acquired, Paul began to gradually move his way up in the organization.
They foster an environment that entails working hard and doing a good job leads to being rewarded for it, says Paul.
And his hard work paid off.
Paul went from “a technician who just pretty much worked on the truck and had no interaction with the customers” to a supervisor. And in 2015, Paul accepted the Larsons offer to be the Director of Service.
The position not only gave him an opportunity to advance again, but also develop a program that has changed the way TLG’s service department operates and improves its customer satisfaction: TLG Guru.
TLG Guru provides customers with convenient over-the-road truck and fleet maintenance updates. By acting as a service advocate between fleet managers and dealerships, TLG Guru's service experts help drivers and managers reduce downtime and revenue loss alike.
“So, the truck’s broken down, the driver’s on the side of the road and he’s frustrated. The Guru tries to alleviate that,” Paul explained.
He added, “The driver is a huge asset to the customer and we don’t want to lose that.”
Since the launch of the program, it has enrolled more than 14,000 trucks and assists with hundreds of breakdowns every week.
“It’s an exciting thing to see it grow,” said Paul. “In two years, it went from one person to five people and over 14,000 trucks. I want to see the TLG service and body shops be No. 1 in the country.”
He continued, “The longer I’ve been with the company, the more I’ve gotten to know the Larsons. They’re outstanding people. They care about the company. They’re dedicated to the company. They really care about the employees, and seeing the employees succeed.”
Starting off as a service technician in 1979, Paul sought after that success. He had often hoped he could get the training he needed to make his way up. When an opportunity came along, he was treated well and helped when he asked for it.
MILLENIALS ENTERING THE INDUSTRY
“I want that for all of our people,” Paul said. “I want to see everybody have the opportunity to grow and be the best we can be. I think TLG is the best platform for that, and I just love being a part of it.”
Being a service technician may be demanding and challenging at times, but it offers immediate gratification.
“You do a good job. You fix the truck. It leaves. You get a pat on the back. You do it again. It’s not something where you start a job and two years later you see an accomplishment. It’s immediate gratification. You feel good,” Paul explained.
He added his professional advice on being a great service technician: “Look around and see what everybody’s doing. Listen to instructions and ask a lot of questions. The more questions you have, the less problems you will have. Everybody learns by their mistakes. If you can learn by somebody else’s mistake, you’re way ahead.”