History: The genesis of Modern Equipment Sales & Rental goes back to 1946, when current chairman of the board Joe McEwen and partner Jack Grimison founded conveyor company Rapids Handling Equipment in Philadelphia. After becoming a Hyster dealer, Modern Handling Equipment spun off from the conveyor business.
In 1974, Modern Equipment Rentals was born and, with the help of several acquisitions and organic growth, began to expand throughout the Northeast. Modern Group, a holding company that is now the parent of Modern Equipment Sales & Rental, was created in 1979. Soon after, Modern HiLift Equipment Co. was formed as a high-reach specialty company.
Dave Griffith, McEwen's son-in-law, took over as president and CEO of Modern Group in 1995. In order to create a one-stop-shop environment for rental customers, Modern HiLift and Modern Equipment Rentals were merged last year into Modern Equipment Sales & Rental. Modern Group's other companies include the two forklift specialty companies (Modern Handling Equipment of Pennsylvania and of New Jersey); a material handling firm (Modern Handling Equipment); and a truck and snow-plow attachment company (Seely Equipment & Supply).
Key management: Dave Griffith, president and CEO; Joe McEwen, chairman of the board; George Wilkinson, executive vice president and CFO; Al Funk, president of sales for Modern Equipment Sales & Rental; Larry Norton, president of operations for Modern Equipment Sales & Rental; Dave Wiggins, president of Modern Handling Equipment of Pennsylvania; Carl Rathemacher, president of Modern Handling Equipment of New Jersey; Don Sherow, director of marketing.
Employees: More than 580.
Locations: 25 total, including both the equipment rental and the two material-handling companies. Modern Equipment Sales & Rental has 14 branches (seven in Pennsylvania, five in New Jersey, one in Delaware, one in Maryland). The New Jersey and Pennsylvania divisions of Modern Handling Equipment have 11 combined locations (eight in Pennsylvania, two in New Jersey, one in Delaware).
Product lines: Among its five divisions, Modern Group offers products ranging from chairs to boomlifts to industrial forklifts for rent and for sale. Its companies are dealers for more than 400 product lines, and Modern Group is one of the largest Hyster dealers in the United States.
1998 volume: $135 million in total revenue, $31 million in rental revenue, ranking it No. 25 on the RER 100 and putting it among the biggest independent companies in the industry. On pace for about $35 million in rental revenue ($150 million total) this year.
Revenue breakdown: 50 percent rental and 50 percent sales, service and parts for Modern Equipment Sales & Rental; 90 percent sales, service and parts and 10 percent short-term rental for the two material-handling companies.
Philosophy: "You need to surround yourself with really good people, but the real art is in leaving them alone. The other art is developing a measurement system that takes the pulse of your business. If I can leave the people alone and the data tell me that they are OK, then I am freed up to worry about what's coming down the pike two years from now."