Dale Withers, owner of Southwest Truck Parts, was named the Pratt Community College Boyd Davies Executive-in-Residence and shared his secrets for success during an awards presentation at the college on April 26.
It’s a success story stretching 60 years and continues today. Dale Withers, owner of South- west Truck Parts was selected as the 2017-2018
Boyd Davies Executive-in-Residence recipient at Pratt Community College. Withers was honored at the college on April 26 with a reception in the Linda Hunt Memorial Library, a convocation with students and members of the community where he was rewarded with a plaque and a congratulatory meal in the student center.
Each Executive-in-Residence gives a speech about their business history for PCC students and friends and family. Withers speech was different because he didn’t give it. Eldon Ford, controller of Southwest Truck Parts, gave the speech with Withers standing by his side and making the occasional comment.
It was 1959 and Withers had just turned 17 when he decided to start his own business. His family already had an auto salvage business. It was U.S. 54 and traffic was very heavy so it was a good location. Withers began working on cars and did auto salvage and dealt in car parts.
Withers was both luck and smart. He was smart enough to ask Arlene Doane to marry him and he was lucky enough that she said ‘yes.’ They married on New Years Eve in 1960. It was a good partnership. They put their heart and soul into the business and it was a successful operation. Arlene was a very busy woman and Dale didn’t know how she got everything done, Ford said.
Southwest Truck Parts has grown a lot over the past 60 years. They now cover 20 acres for buildings and equipment. They handle parts distribution, service department, rebuilt parts, salvage yard, trucks for sale and a 24-hour wrecker service. Their salvage customers are all across the continental U.S. and even foreign countries including England and Singapore. They also have 54 Pickup for parts and accessories. There are five branch offices including three in Oklahoma.
Withers has five grand children and nine great grandchildren. He hopes they will help keep the business in the family for many years to come.
While the business has been thriving for decades, at the start when people were just learning about the business, money was tight. Arlene had just given birth to their daughter Debbie and the bill at the hospital was $300. Withers had a 1955 Ford and a customer was interested so he sold it for $300 and got to bring Debbie home, Withers said.
When someone comes to Southwest Truck Parts looking for Withers, they won’t find him in an office, he doesn’t have one. He can often be found in the parts store, sitting at the end of the counter and visiting with customers, Ford said.
Withers developed two principals for success early in his career and still uses them today.
“Take good care of your customers and take good care of your employees” are the way to operate a successful business. You have to take care of the customer and get them what they want. It has to be a quality item at a fair price, Ford said.
Withers believed so strongly in these principals that he once said they were making too much profit and they needed to make sure they were taking care of their customers. That is the way to keep customers.
“They will come back,” Withers said.
Even with a successful business, it can be hard to survive. That takes commitment for now and commitment for the future. Chasing the dollar futile, you have to work through the heart, Withers said.
As for his employees, he takes care of them the best he can and some have been with him for 40 years.
Another trait Withers has is supporting the community. He supports several events during the year to help make Pratt a better place.
“He goes out of his way to help the community,” Ford said.
Withers also has a fun side and loves fireworks. He said there were a lot of explosives around Southwest Truck Parts on July 4.
He supports the mud run and held the Hot and Cold Truck show in October 2017 they featured dozens of trucks, a variety of vendors and the day concluded, of course, with a huge fireworks display and laser light show.
Neighbor Darrell Shumway shared that he had seen some of Withers fire works and asked if he would come and shoot some for him. Withers showed up with a trailer that was parked 300 feet away from everything and put on a 45 minute show and these were expensive fireworks. He just asked the we pay the shooter, Shumway said.
Dwane DeWeese was an instructor at PCC for many years and said that Withers was always willing to share parts for the automotive department and never turned him down when he asked for help getting parts for the program.
About 10 years ago, Withers built a retirement building. He said it was like being put out to pasture and it didn’t last long. Soon that building was leased and there were six more. Ford said he didn’t think Withers wanted to retire.
Withers also has a passion for old cars and has a building dedicated to them. He enjoys hosting visitors who come to see his antique vehicles. He also likes to fish. He went to Brisbane, Australia on a fishing trip and met John Worth who became a good friend and they have done business together for over 30 years, Withers said.