Trailer Magazine

Family values

  • From the June 2017 issue.
Family values

Southern States Group is testament that a great culture and strong values is at the heart of a successful business. Flexibility, diversity, adaptability and a good ear have seen it move from strength to strength in an ever-changing industry.

Technology has substantially advanced over the last 25 years and much of the transport industry has been swept up in the ongoing evolution of electronics, emissions reduction technology and engine efficiency. Though progress has changed many a company’s business model, there are some facets that have remained the same.

In the case of Southern States Group (SSG), for example, a strong focus on advancing its product offering in line with technological progress hasn’t changed the company’s core value system, explains Managing Director, Wayne Taylor. “We started out in 1993 as SSTK, the authorised dealer for Thermo King refrigeration units in Victoria and Tasmania, and have seen some major technological advancements during this time. Over the past 24 years, we have therefore diversified our product offering and grown the business, but we still have the same focus on customer service, safety and product quality that we’ve had since day one.”

Wayne explains those values were instilled in SSG by company founders, Roger Partington and Cyril Taylor, who have both worked with Thermo King for over 40 years and are still involved with the business today. “Roger and Cyril have welcomed the advancements in technology, many of which are handled by the younger generation these days,” Wayne explains. “But for fundamental refrigeration knowledge, problem solving, advice and good, old-fashioned customer service where relationships are king, both still have the goods.”

The focus on the customer has been the stimulant to much of the company’s service offering, Wayne explains, as SSG is more than just a sole fridge or tailgate supplier. “We are a ‘Total Whole of Life’ solutions provider. We still offer the traditional sales, service and parts support as most dealers do, but have continually strived to offer solutions that enhance our customer’s business, like tailored fixed Thermo Kare Guaranteed Maintenance Programs (GMP, ed.), Thermo Alliance rental programs, guaranteed buy-backs and installation of premium accessories that improve their operation,” Wayne explains.

“Since day one, the Directors have always believed that if we deliver a great service, our customers cannot afford to go anywhere else. We have strived to develop a service second to none based on listening to our customers’ requirements and providing a customised solution that supports their business needs. In fact, sometimes as we get more involved in their whole operation, we come up with another option that further complements their business.”

That service often involves members of the SSG team working together with customers to assist, analyse and find new solutions to improve their bottom line, Wayne adds. “Whether it be tighter temperature control, improving fuel consumption or assistance with multi-temperature distribution, we thoroughly enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to assist the industry,” he says.

“We also love the fun side of supporting the industry. For more than 15 years we have been responsible for creating and airbrushing some amazing themed artwork on our fridges, in conjunction with Peter Lawrence of TK Corporation. All funds raised from the ATA and NatRoad auctions are donated back to our industry. We were even asked to duplicate our 75th Year anniversary unit, which now sits in the foyer at TK Head office in the US.”

Part of the industry support has also seen SSG add complementary products to its refrigeration portfolio, including Anteo tail lifts since 1999 and the most recent addition of the Whiting Door products in February this year. “Whiting is another world leading brand and like both Thermo King and Anteo, offering reliability, durability, cutting edge technology and safety for our customers,” Wayne says. “Importantly, Whiting is a family-owned business, just like SSG, which makes all the difference. When you need assistance, you are talking to a person that is invested in your business.”

Jeff Aitken has re-joined the SSG family as Product Manager for the Whiting Door business, who Wayne says was “instrumental in setting up Anteo for our business”. “Jeff has a wealth of knowledge and works together with Jason Hooke, our Group Sales Manager, who has been with SSG for 17 years, and Dean Warner, our Sales Executive. The combination works really well together. The Sales team have great business acumen and relationships in the industry,” Wayne says. “Right now, the team is busy working with existing and prospective service and installation dealers around Australia to ensure the Whiting product is installed correctly from day one and that service support is always available.”

Though the technology and product offering has changed since the early days of Southern States Group, Wayne says every step has been made in line with Cyril and Roger’s values for service. “Our people are the heart and soul of our company. We have some very long-term employees with a wealth of experience and pride ourselves on our first class culture. Sure, we have some of the best brands to sell, but it’s our people, culture and customer service that makes the difference.”

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