Do the right thing. Have passion. Be innovative. Work hard.
It could be easy to think of these as just words on a wall. But walk the hallways and shop areas of General Equipment & Supplies and you begin to get a sense these core values are lived.
“We want them to be talked about all the time, and be a true belief,” says Jon Shilling, president of Fargo, North Dakota-based General Equipment.
It’s an approach that resonates with customers such as Mark, Scott and Joel Sellin with second-generation Sellin Brothers out of Hawley, Minnesota. Started in 1947 by twin brothers Harold and Roy Sellin, the company specializes in sewer and water, highway and municipal work.
Mark, Scott and Joel now run the firm with a production-focused fleet that includes excavators, dozers and wheel loaders.
“There’s always been consistency with the way they’ve treated us over the years,” Mark Sellin says. “We’ve been around a long time; it’s been a good marriage to work with General and Komatsu. It’s kept us where we wanted to be. Plus, we’re a family and they’re a family and that resonates.”
It’s also an approach that gained the notice of Equipment World editors in naming General Equipment one of its finalists for its 2019 Big Iron Dealer of the Year award.
Started in 1984 by four former employees of General Diesel and Equipment, General Equipment became a Komatsu dealer in 1986. From one location and 22 employees, the company has grown to 250-plus employees in four states and two Canadian provinces.
Company leadership has transitioned from two of its co-founders – Don Shilling and Jerry Kern – to a team led by Don’s son Jon Shilling. “Jon was just the natural leader,” says Sara Frith, vice president of customer relations and Jerry Kern’s daughter. She adds with a laugh: “He’s also the best golfer.”
Shilling and Frith are joined on the leadership team by Don and Matt Kern, Jerry Kern’s sons, who serve as vice presidents of aggregate sales and rolling stock sales, respectively. Additional leadership includes Steve Berdan, vice president of parts; Steve Stafki, vice president of service; and Tanya Groft, vice president of finance.
Frith emphasizes that the term “family business” is not exclusive to the children of the founders. “To us, every single person that works here is family,” she says. While there were ventures outside of General Equipment, the second generation all spent high-school hours in a variety of jobs. The workings of the firm were part of their lives from an early age.