Keeping Customers Doing their Job Since 1951

Monroe Tractor

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Monroe Tractor is New York State’s go-to source for new, used, and rental equipment, parts, service, and support for the agriculture and construction industries. With knowledgeable technicians, highly dependable and responsive field support, and a vast inventory of equipment, with parts for all makes and models, Monroe Tractor delivers unmatched service.
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Monroe Tractor was founded in 1951 by Henry Hansen, when he and his wife Dorothy left farming to pursue starting an agriculture dealership in Henrietta, New York. With a great deal of effort, blood, sweat, and tears, the customer base on the agriculture side, and later the construction side of the business grew, and Monroe Tractor was there every step of the way.

Not only did the company adapt to the available technologies and equipment of the times, it widened its geographic market footprint. Despite growing geographically and diversifying its offerings, one thing remained steadfast: Monroe Tractor’s integrity and its commitment to its customers.

“My grandfather started Monroe Tractor in 1951 in a small cinderblock building,” said Laura Wilkas, Hansen’s granddaughter and Monroe Tractor’s marketing and advertising manager. “He owned one piece of equipment that he rented out so he had to make sure it ran. Besides my grandmother’s help, he did everything from finding parts, to fixing the machine to getting it to the customer. His drive and ability to build relationships and take care of customers is where his success came from.”

She continued, “It wasn’t so much about getting as much equipment out there as possible as it was about building relationships with customers based on trust, which is the foundation of who we are today.”

For decades, Henry Hansen was credited with saying, “Where courtesy dwells, service excels.” That same statement rings true today as the second and third generations of family members are leading Monroe Tractor.

“That saying holds true and is very much apart of who we are today. We’re there to take care of the customer and we try to make sure that they feel that in every facet of doing business with us,” said Wilkas. “How my grandfather built relationships and maintained them isn’t much different than how we do it now, and that’s through having good people who genuinely care about the customer.”

Wilkas’ mother Janet Felosky joined the family business in 1972, and took over the CEO role from her father when he stepped down in 2013. A year later, Monroe Tractor received WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) certification and has undergone its next era of growth and success.

“She started in the parts department and worked her way through the different areas of the company, so she learned the ins and outs of the business firsthand. For the past 27 years she’s been the president, and when my grandfather became sick and stepped away, she took on the CEO role as well,” explained Wilkas.

“She was able to build from what my grandfather had started and grow the business to what it is today, staying true to his philosophy that if you take care of your people who take care of your customer, your business will grow and that has been a proven formula.”

To be sure, Monroe Tractor has gained the attention of customers and other industry players alike. Scott Erb, who joined the company in 2015 as the Wirtgen product manager, has decades of industry experience and has long regarded Monroe Tractor’s growth strategy.

“It’s interesting to see how the family has managed Monroe Tractor over the years. You can see they were never afraid to expand the business through acquisitions, expand the business through adding locations, and expand the business in new markets,” he explained.

“Going from the agriculture market to the construction market and then getting into paving and the roadbuilding market and putting a renewed focus on the Wirtgen side of the roadbuilding division, it’s been growth through facilities, products and markets – and that’s just a good business model,” said Erb.

Monroe Tractor has grown to ten physical locations with branches in Adams Center (agriculture), Albany (agriculture and construction), Auburn (agriculture), Batavia (agriculture), Binghamton (agriculture and construction), Buffalo (construction), Canandaigua (agriculture), Elmira (agriculture and construction), Rochester (construction), and Syracuse (construction). The company is backed by the reputation and performance of the Case, Claas, Kuhn Krause, LeeBoy and Wirtgen brand names, though it offers parts, service and support for all makes and models.

Acknowledging the longstanding relationship with Case as a dealership, Monroe Tractor’s General Manager of Construction Chuck Miller noted, “Over the years they looked at other lines and we spent a lot of time investigating and trying to make the right decision when picking the lines to bring on, like the Wirtgen lines.”

The company’s agriculture offerings include new and used tractors, combine and forage harvesters, planting equipment, tillage equipment, hay and forage, application, loaders and various other implements. Its construction offerings include new, used and rental loaders, crawlers, dozers, excavators, compaction equipment, roadbuilding equipment, aggregate equipment and various other attachments.

In addition to a broad parts inventory at affordable prices, Monroe Tractor offers responsive emergency service and support as well as scheduled maintenance and remanufacturing services.

“We’re very lucky to have two different divisions, agriculture and construction, because when one industry’s economy is off we can offset it with the other, so it’s really helped as one side leverages the other,” explained Wilkas. “Along that same line, it helps to have a diverse equipment line in one division because we can cover a wider range of industries, like road building.”

Beyond its equipment offerings, Monroe Tractor has long-tenured, highly experienced employees, as well as new generation expertise to meet its customers’ various needs. This is a great way to leverage institutional memory while grooming the next generation of specialized technicians.

Monroe Tractor has also developed relationships with local educational institutions at various levels of study to educate students about the potential of a career with the company, supporting interns that have become some of its valued employees.

“We’re there to keep you doing your job and in order to do that it really comes down to our people,” said Wilkas. “It’s really about our people and how they support the customers; that is how we differentiate ourselves from the competition. It’s about selling us as a company and not just the equipment that we have.”

To this end, Monroe Tractor ensures its employees are equipped with the necessary resources from tools, training, equipment, and knowledge perspectives to guarantee they have what it takes to deliver on the company’s brand promise that is proudly stands behind, “We’re there to keep you doing your job.”

“We’ve got the top of the line vehicles that we put in the hands of our service technicians and our road technicians with all the equipment they need,” noted Erb. “A lot of our customers are impressed when we show up at a job site because we are able to bring our shop capabilities to them with our service vehicles,” doing so with the utmost professionalism and skill.

He continued, “Monroe Tractor does a good job of making sure that the technicians, the mechanics, even the sales staff, are trained on new model rollouts. Case has programs for the sales team and the mechanics for recurrent training.”

On the roadbuilding side, Monroe Tractor has entered a ‘train the trainer’ program with which it has had great success. “We’ll send technicians or sales personnel down to the Nashville, Tennessee facility for Wirtgen training,” Erb explained. “We send a guy down; he goes through the training and he brings the knowledge back and we do training subsects across the state.”

The culture at Monroe Tractor has been a major focus of the company’s leadership. As Wilkas addressed, “We put a team together of associates from the different branches, some new and some old, but people who were enthusiastic and who you could see wanted to create change. After a year of different brainstorming sessions with our leadership coach, we were able to compile a set of values that reflected who we are as company, and what that looks like through our behaviors and actions. We clearly identified it so it can’t be misinterpreted,” a truly defined culture for every employee to rally around and identify with.

The lines of communication are always open at Monroe Tractor, leadership is accessible, and opportunities are provided for ideas to be exchanged, expertise to be shared, and contributions and accomplishments to be recognized. Great efforts have been undertaken to build a strong ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) whereby employees not only buy in to the company culture but benefit from its success.

“A culture roll out is never quick but we are seeing change in how our people are partnering more with each other, how they hold each other accountable, how they communicate more and I think it’s been key in getting associates invested and recognizing they play a bigger role in the success of the company,” Wilkas highlighted.

All of these things combined have resulted in Monroe Tractor being recognized as a Case Gold Standard Dealership for several years running. Monroe Tractor is a dealership that can be trusted and depended on to provide the foremost in equipment, parts and service.

“We’re looking – number one – that we’re taking care of our own people, because without them we wouldn’t be able to grow, and we’re always looking for opportunities to grow, to create more success, whether that’s new product lines to take on, other locations or facilities that would make sense,” concluded Miller.

“A long term goal of a family-owned business like this is to maintain your current customer base and as you grow, make sure the company doesn’t change its fingerprints. The family has done a great job of growing the company year over year, expanding and still operating like a small time operation,” affirmed Erb.

Wilkas, citing the propensity for just 30 percent of family-owned businesses to survive the third generation of ownership, assured us that Monroe Tractor will not meet the same fate as many other family businesses have. By staying true to its roots of putting customers first, Monroe Tractor is a legacy in the making.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 12, 2019, 8:42 PM EST