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From Janitor to Manager: Gary Arthur Looks Back on His Career Journey

After 34 years at Southeastern, Branch Manager Gary Arthur has one piece of advice for anyone entering the field today: You can’t wait for opportunity. You have to go out and create it.

The Early Years

Gary’s been living by that philosophy his whole life. After graduating from high school in 1972, he took a job as a janitor at a CASE dealer in his home state of West Virginia. As he swept and mopped the floors, his love of equipment started up.

“When I finished mopping, I would go back to the shop. That’s where I learned how to steam and work on the machines,” Gary recalls. “I knew I didn’t want to clean toilets all my life. So I worked my way up from janitor to truck driver, to steam guy, to mechanic’s helper, and then to a sales rep.”

Moving On Up

In 1986, as the dealership was going out of business, a relative told Gary about a company called Southeastern in Columbus, Ohio, that was looking for a parts person with CASE experience. He got an interview and landed the job at the company’s Monroe Branch. A year later he moved into sales.

“Sales was a great role for me,” said Gary. “I had done the basics and learned the industry from the bottom up, so I could relate to what customers were saying.”

Gary’s been honored as Southeastern’s top salesman ten times. In 2005, he was promoted to Branch Manager for the Monroe Branch. For more than three decades, he’s brought Southeastern’s values of leadership, loyalty, and groundbreaking service to life.

“I found a good fit at Southeastern,” says Gary, 66, who plans to call it a career in July. He’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Becky, their dog Benson, and his golf game.

Words of Wisdom

Before he goes, we asked Gary to share a few words of wisdom to help all of us on our career journey.

  • What’s your secret to success?
    “I always say start a deal, work it to the middle, and take it to the end. You can’t quit at any step. Things can change in the middle. The customer might start out wanting used equipment and decide new is better. Or vice versa. You have to flip the rocks over and find what works best for them.” 
  • How do you stay positive during hard times?
    “The economy has a cycle about every 10 years. The stock market changes. Government funding for construction and infrastructure projects changes. Or what we’re going through right now with the COVID pandemic. So many things are out of our control. You have to stay true and keep working hard. I talk to my team members every day so I can hear about the deals they’re working on. I also remind them to hang in there, thank them, and encourage them to keep their heads up. We have to find ways to keep putting ourselves in front of customers, but sometimes we might need to do it differently. We can’t sit back and wait.” 
  • How do you keep up with technology?
    “When I started at Southeastern, we used to hand-write equipment quotes. So that gives you an idea of how much things have changed. Southeastern has always been versatile. They do a lot of in-house training, so it’s important to take advantage of that. We also carry many manufacturers, so you need to rely on our factory reps and specialists to stay up-to-date. Success comes down to really knowing the equipment – being able to climb up on there and run it so you know what it does. That’s critical when you’re in sales.” 
  • What’s your favorite memory?
    “During one of our sales meetings several years ago, our founder Bill Baker stood up and said the first salesman to reach $4 million in our history would get a bonus. When I won, Bill and Nancy came to Cincinnati to take me and my wife to dinner. It was really special.”

Gary, you’re one in a million and we’ll miss you dearly. Enjoy your retirement!