June can be a glorious month in the Midwest. After the typical frigid winter and soggy spring, Midwesterners burst out of their hibernation at the first sign of sunshine. I took advantage of the lovely weather and my upcoming visit in Northern Wisconsin to drive up early and spend the weekend in Door County. The local Wisconsinites (or Cheeseheads as we Illinoisans fondly call them) like to poke fun at Door County, since as soon as the weather gets a bit warm, it becomes overrun with folks from Chicago who want to get away from the city and experience the country life (for the weekend, not permanently). I spent most of my time there walking on the lake shore and relaxing at a lakeside cabin. However, I can’t deny that nearly every person I saw when I went into town was wearing Bulls, Bears, Cubs or Blackhawks gear or driving a car with Illinois plates.
The drive from Door County to Appleton is a pretty drive in the summer, and I’m guessing a spectacular drive in the fall when the leaves start to change colors. I met with JJ and Jesse Toppins of Valley Truck Leasing NationaLease. The origins of the company date back to 1946 when JJ’s dad started with a truck dealership. Jesse now represents the third generation of the Toppins family in the business. I got to meet most of the team as I walked through their offices before sitting down to discuss their business and the opportunities and challenges they see in their market. We also talked about some of the NationaLease programs, including our National Accounts team, our Supply Management programs, and the tools available to our members through our website. At Jesse’s request, we scheduled a webinar to do some one-on-one training with their staff on how to navigate the many resources included in our website. We are always happy to assist with training for our members, as our goal is to support them in any way we can.
From there, I headed south through Wisconsin and stopped in Oak Creek to chat with Cheri Airoldi at Airoldi Brothers NationaLease. Airoldi Brothers was started in 1938 by, you guessed it, the three Airoldi brothers. It is now run by the third generation of Airoldis, Jim Jr., Mike, and their sister, Cheri. We discussed several topics, including NationaLease Fleet 20/20TM, our portal that allows customers to analyze and manage their fleets and receive data and reporting tools. We also discussed how they are utilizing social media to reach out to customers and potential employees. Check them out on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Don’t forget to check out NationaLease while you’re at it: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
After a good night’s sleep in my own bed, I hit the road again to Indiana. I picked up Kelly Kordowski, Member Services Advocate for NationaLease, on my way and we embarked on a very important mission. You see, back in May at our Maintenance Managers Meeting, we had honored Chuck Miller from Parrish Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member on his impending retirement. Our photographer captured some great photos of that moment and the standing ovation Chuck received for his years of service not only to Parrish, but to NationaLease and our members from coast to coast. This was Chuck’s last week of work, and we wanted to give him those photos before he headed off on his next great adventure. Chip Parrish (also a third-generation owner) and Ken Stech helped us set up the surprise lunch at Cork N Cleaver in Fort Wayne. We arrived first, and when we saw Chuck’s face, we knew our mission was successful. We had a wonderful lunch and gave Chuck the photos, as well as our very best wishes for his well-deserved time off to spend with his kids, grandkids, wife, and boat!
My midsummer Midwestern journey was a real treat. I got to see two of my neighboring states at the height of the verdant summer that can be so fleeting in this part of the country. I had the chance to meet with three of our members who are flourishing well into the third generation of ownership when research shows that only 30 percent of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation and only 12 percent survive into the third. I had the opportunity to wish a much-loved and respected member of the family all the best as he heads into the next chapter of his life. What a great week! And it is all the better knowing that even as we see people and generations move on, NationaLease and its members are still going strong into our seventh decade. As in any family, we will always have beginnings and endings, and each one adds a branch to our burgeoning NationaLease family tree.