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December 2017
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National Forklift Exchange shares secrets to success

The way Rob Parkin sees it; the keys to staying in business for 30 years are simple: tell the truth, pay your bills and treat people fairly.

“People make more out of the wholesale forklift business than they should,” said Parkin, who founded National Forklift Exchange in Philadelphia in 1983.

“I’m not going to say it’s easy, because running any business is tough. But there are ways to be successful,” Parkin said. “Keep it simple. Be very honest with people. Pay your bills on time. Stay out of trouble. Be very careful who you buy from. I only buy from the same suppliers over and over again so it behooves them to treat me right. They treat me right with pricing and honest condition reports, I buy often.”

National Forklift Exchange buys and sells all makes and models of used forklifts and sells in all 50 states and has a large international presence.

“Wholesaling used forklifts is not rocket science - it's actually not that hard to be successful in, as long as you know when to walk away from a deal that ‘doesn't smell right.’ I can be smart and careful,” Parkin said.

National Forklift Exchange has two employees, and Parkin is considering adding a third in the next year.

“In 1983, I made a decision to be small for a reason. It's the middle size companies that run into trouble trying to be something they're not. I chose a long time ago to keep it small. I’m small enough that I don’t have to make every deal. I can be smart and careful.”

Another saying we have, and it's in all our ads and our website, is: "At NFE, we're big enough to serve all your needs, but small enough to give you the personal family service."

Parkin was 25 when he founded the company. Fresh from Temple University with a degree in organizational communication, he “thought I was going to work for a big company charting information and doing public speaking.”

But he had an interview with a used forklift company, took the job and stayed there three years. “I learned everything not to do and realized there was a better way to run a wholesale forklift business.”

His principles of simplicity and honesty guided him through ups and downs. Three to five years ago, “hardly anybody was looking for anything. That has a lot of consequences going forward. As things have gotten better – and they have – there’s been a shortage of good used equipment. There were so few sold and nothing is coming off lease. It’s very classic supply and demand. The price of used equipment right now is still high. We’re all paying a lot and working on lower margins.”

He is proud of weathering all economic storms over the last three decades.

“I’m not really celebrating (the anniversary) specifically other than giving everybody a big thank you,” Parkin said. “I have a saying, ‘be close to the customer.’ Listen to what they want and then give it to them. It's that simple.”

Mary Glindinning is a freelance writer who has worked at daily and weekly newspapers for more than 20 years. She lives in rural Shullsburg, Wis. You may contact her by e-mailing