Built on Honesty, Backed by Experience

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

From warehouses to manufacturing plants, and in industries of all types and sizes, forklifts are a vital piece of equipment, necessary to meet business needs and increase productivity. In Australia, few companies are able to meet the needs of all customers like Koala Trucks Forklift Wholesalers.

Since 1985, Sydney-based Koala Trucks has provided customers with an impressive range of new, used, and rental forklifts across Australia and internationally. With over 300 forklifts in stock, Koala carries all major brands and types of lifts from BT, to Toyota, Nissan, Linde, TCM, Raymond, Clark, Hyster, Yale, Crown, and Komatsu, along with a large supply of forklift accessories, attachments, and new and rare parts.

As the nation’s premier forklift dealer, the highly-trained staff at Koala realise choosing the right forklift for the job can be a challenge, and make themselves available to provide guidance on the most appropriate make, model, size, height and weight capacities, and power source for any business, right down to the appropriate tyres for the job. Koala’s commitment to honesty and integrity, passion for its products, and decades of experience has earned the company countless new and repeat customers over the years.

“There are people who have bought four or five forklifts from me over the past 20 years, and only come to me,” says Tony Kowaliw, founder and owner of the company. “They get a comparison price, and apples for apples I’ve always beaten that price, and followed it up.” A great believer in dealing with customers with honesty, integrity, and professionalism, Tony’s lifelong belief in “your word is your bond” is a value system he has passed along to others at Koala over the years. “I built this company on reputation,” he says. “If we sold you a forklift, and if it was not what we said it was, we’ll refund the money to you – other guys won’t do that.”

After years of working in sales and in the forklift business for other firms, Tony decided to launch Koala Trucks Forklift Wholesalers. The company, begun in his backyard in 1985, has now grown into a multi-million-dollar business with a staff of 19. Tony, now 65, is joined by his sons Tim, a salesman with many years of experience, and Pax, who joined Koala almost two years ago as Sales Manager, and soon aspires to be a Director at the company. Tony is extremely pleased with the direction the company he founded is taking, which is benefitting from Pax’s expertise in the field of Information Technology.

“Pax has streamlined the company from being my era – the old-fashioned way of doing things – to the modern way of doing things,” says Tony. One of the ways in which the company is modernising is by upgrading technology in its parts department. Along with being one of Australia’s best-known forklift dealers, Koala Trucks also maintains a huge supply of new and aftermarket parts for modern and vintage forklifts, many of them impossible to find elsewhere. The company is in the process of developing a computerised database and bar coding all bearings, fan belts, filters, seals and other parts to better meet the needs of all customers.

Some of the company’s other technological initiatives include regular postings to Twitter with news, Koala updates, information, and tips about forklifts at https://twitter.com/koalaforklifts along with an information-packed website, www.koalaforklifts.com.au, which features monthly specials, information on forklift service and after-sales support, tips, safety information, and much more. The website also features an intuitive and easy to use “3 Step Forklift Finder,” where customers can find the ideal forklift for their needs and budget. By visiting the Koala Trucks website, customers are able to select forklifts based on a number of criteria, such as fuel type (battery electric, diesel, lpg, and dual fuel for example), capacity (0-999Kg up to 5000Kg+), and lift height (200-3000mm, up to 10,000-12,000mm). While many customers still deal directly with Koala sales staff, an increasing number are doing research on the Internet prior to purchasing a forklift which, says Pax, is driving a lot of changes in Koala’s business and approach to advertising.

“Information Technology is going to be the make it or break it for a lot of businesses,” says Pax. “The management of information, and how we deliver that information to our customers, is going to be key.” Staff at Koala are working on a system and portal to manage the business and forklifts better, and create new ways to interact with customers.

Along with a sizeable range of new and used forklifts, competitive pricing, fast turnover time, induction and training upon delivery, and after sales support, one of Koala’s greatest strengths remains the company’s commitment to dealing with clients openly and honestly. As someone who has been in the forklift industry for decades, Tony Kowaliw has seen it all, both the good and the bad. “When we started Koala Trucks Forklift Wholesalers, there were about 30 others selling new and used equipment. They’re all gone now, and any new ones selling so-called ‘overhauled’ products don’t last.”

With a reputation to uphold, the Kowaliw family and their employees take all aspects of forklift sales and service seriously, and this applies to new and used forklifts and parts. Koala Trucks is widely recognised as Australia’s premier used forklift dealer for good reason. Unlike some operations whose goal is just to sell forklifts, Koala wants to ensure customers buy the right forklift for their business. The company believes a client requiring a forklift for less than four hours a day, for example, can purchase a good used forklift; if in use for more than four hours a day, a new machine is advisable, as it will require less maintenance.

Unlike some dealers, clients buying from Koala get the best quality possible when investing in a used forklift, which includes new wheels, serviced motors, new safety protection (including decals), and a clean paint job which appears new, not just painted over, as with some other forklift companies.

Koala Trucks realises buyers have a choice when it comes to purchasing a forklift for their business. Koala prefers to work in tandem as partners with its clients, all the way from the small mum and pop businesses to multinational operations. “The best way to determine client needs is to send one of our sales consultants out to their place of business,” says Pax. “They look at the warehouse, the concrete surfaces, the rollerdoor sizes, the weight of the actual pallets or material that is being moved, how they’re being moved, the hours of operation, the height, and the total environment in which the customer wishes to operate. Some surfaces of concrete are very different from others, and therefore require different sized wheels. There is also a difference if they will be using the forklift indoors, outdoors, or both.”

It is this attention to detail and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction that has customers coming back to Koala Trucks again and again. “Nine times out of 10, customers buy from us because of the services we provide,” says Pax of his staff, who take notes while on-site with clients, along with measurements and photographs, and discuss the best way to resolve any potential issues, providing customers with several alternatives and a range of prices.

As in many industries, trends change over the years, and forklifts are no exception. Tony Kowaliw says when Koala Trucks Forklift Wholesalers was formed, purchases of new forklifts was the norm. That has changed, with more clients taking advantage of Koala’s rental fleet. There have been a number of occasions where young entrepreneurs have come to Tony wanting to buy a forklift, and he instead tells them about the benefits of rental over purchase, such as enabling them to free up capital for other areas – like the purchase of a delivery truck, or hiring an additional employee – to increase output and generate more income for their business.

“A lot of startups are looking towards renting, and there are many advantages,” says Tony. “It’s not on your balance sheet, and you can claim it as a deduction, and there are no maintenance costs.” Since the rental costs are fixed and there are no hidden costs – “which makes it easier for accountants” – new companies are able to determine which size, brand, and style of forklift best suits their particular needs, from walk behind (‘walkies’), to reach truck forklifts, battery operated forklifts, combustion forklift, LPG forklifts, internal combustion, and many more specialised forklifts. “Even if you might be in a rental agreement with us, one of the things that we offer is that we can change your forklift – the rates might change, or you cover the transport costs of the forklift – and you’ve got that forklift,” says Pax. “This saves you from losing thousands of dollars when trading in and upgrading your existing forklift.”

Adds Tony, “In our unique position, we have the liberty of saying what we actually feel. We’re not shackled down to selling only one brand. It all comes down to what the customer actually wants and needs, and finding the best forklift to fit that application.”

Known across Australia for its range of quality new and used forklifts, Koala Trucks has also earned a reputation for being one of the best in the industry when it comes to forklift repairs and workshop excellence. The reasons, says Tony, are that all of Koala’s qualified technicians are not only cross-trained on many makes and models of forklifts, but they look for the actual root cause of the problem and not just the symptom.

“We don’t believe in this in-house training where they get computers, plug them into a forklift and say, ‘This is what the problem is.’ Technicians, they call them, but they’re typically unlicensed. Every one of our people is licensed, and they’ve done extra courses in gas conversion and other areas, and they’re very highly skilled,” says Tony. In one recent case, one of Koala’s electricians was able to re-solder a dry joint on a circuit board. Instead of replacing the circuit board, the fix saved the customer thousands of dollars. “That’s why our clients are very, very loyal to us,” remarks Tony, “and we’ve got the two gurus of electricians in Australia.”

With experienced sales staff, cross-trained technicians, competitive pricing, strong after-sales support, and the best selection of new and used forklifts in Australia, clients of the company founded by Tony Kowaliw 27 years ago can be assured that the same level of friendly support, professionalism, and honesty will continue for years to come.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 19, 2018, 2:07 PM AEST