Q&A With Founder, Jackie Lackie
1. Can you give me a little history on American Material Handling & how you entered into this line of work? I started off selling school supplies and small items to convenience stores. All orders were small around $100 with making 10% commission. I wanted to sell something with more money to be made. Target was going to open a 500,000 sqft warehouse, I met with Massey Hughes and started asking about how they store all their products. I went to the library and did some research and started getting quotes. And it just grew from there. I was 29 years old, I rented a small warehouse in North Little Rock, hired 1 salesman, & hired 1 guy to run the warehouse. The 1st year we sold new rack and installed. The 3 of us would install only after 5pm or on weekends. We started to get more new inventory so I hired a few more people and an actual install crew. 3 months in we had a 5,000 sqft warehouse then by the end of that first year we were in a 10,000 sqft warehouse. Our second year we ended up in a 15,000 sqft warehouse and had a 2 acre lot. We were getting about a truck a week of new inventory. By year 7 we were the 3rd largest Lyon distributor & 4th largest Interlake distributor. We had grown to 2 install groups that were exclusive to AMH. In ‘84-’85 we added sales people in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, & Northwest Arkansas. In 1987 the economy took a nose dive and that is how we started in with the used sales. In 1992 we moved into a larger warehouse that had a 5 acre lot for outdoor storage. Around ’98-’99 Jay Carman started selling for me in Memphis. Josh Lackie & Jana Lackie (My son & daughter) then started selling in Memphis a few years later. In 2000 we got a warehouse in Memphis. Then in 2003 we moved to our North Little Rock location to where we still function today.
2. How did you come up with the name American Material Handling? I am a dreamer & very patriotic. I had a vision of being in every state across America. I wanted to be the “Wal-Mart” of material handling.
3. How did you build your team? I hired people I knew for sales rather than finding people who had been in the business. I would have vendors come in weekly to train us and teach us all there was to know about their products.
4. What services/products did you offer in ’79 that differs today? When we started we only sold NEW rack. We had everything in inventory all new with product numbers and kept it all on a peg board system, no computers were around to keep up with everything. In’87 we started selling used, this caused an inventory problem since not all the items that came in had product numbers.
5. What is unique about your business? We stock large quantities of used material. Not many companies do this.
6. How did you build a successful customer base? Well the computer has made it much easier to keep in contact with current /future customers. You get in with a customer who is just starting out and you help them for a few months supplying them with all they need to get up and running. Then in 3-5 years they are ready to expand and come back to you to help them grow.
7. To what do you attribute your success? Here lately it has been the people here at AMH. The sales team, office help, warehouse guys, installers, all of those people have helped this place become successful.
8. What motivates you? I enjoy making a deal, closing a deal, & I enjoy dealing with all sorts of people. It is always something different every day.
9. If you had advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be? Sell something you enjoy. Work hard, work long, & pray. You can’t give up when it gets tough, you have to keep pushing forward!
10. How do you define success? Being happy & enjoying what you are doing. Enjoying the company of those you work with as well.
11. What has been your most satisfying moment in business? Not having a note at the bank. We finance our own deals. I am able to give employees cash Christmas bonuses instead of giving them rack!
12. What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful business person? Having good people with you at work, be honest, & work hard
13. Who has been your greatest inspiration? 1st would be my father. Then Doyle Galbreth who was my boss at ABF truck when I worked on the dock. Massey Hughes also, he taught me a lot.
14. What was your greatest failure & what did it teach you? In 2001 after 9/11 business just stopped. January 2003 comes and I tell Jay, Josh & Jana, who were all selling in Memphis at the time, that if we do not get any big sales in 6 months we will have to close the doors. I prayed a lot those 6 months. Finally June 25th comes and we bought $200,000 worth of rack and warehouse material. We sold everything in less than a week for around a million dollars. We were back in business! I learned in that time that God had a plan for me!