In today’s Faces of Alkota, we’re proud to introduce you to one of our regional sales managers, Russ Hess.
Keep reading to learn more about this Pennsylvania native who got his start in the industry sweeping floors at a John Deere dealership.
42 Years of Manufacturing
When Russ Hess was 15 years old, his neighbor, a John Deere mechanic, got him a job sweeping floors at the dealership.
Hess, who grew up in a farming community in central Pennsylvania, worked at the dealership all through high school and college. He attended Bloomsburg University, 30 miles from home, where studied marketing.
“It was at that point that I realized I wanted to be in the equipment business and I wanted to work for a manufacturer,” Hess said.
Upon leaving John Deere after college, he got a job with another farm equipment manufacturer, where his role consisted of calling on independent dealers and distributors.
Over the years, he shifted from farm equipment sales to lawn and garden equipment, where he eventually found Alkota.
Hess had reached a point in his career where he was ready to make a change—his previous employer had gone bankrupt, and he had been hired by a competitor.
“It just wasn’t the right fit, so I blindly sent out 375 resumes to different manufacturers, and Alkota called me back,” he said.
Now, Hess has been with Alkota for over 12 years, and he says it’s a great place to be.
“I first started in the industry in ‘77, and Alkota has the feel of how that first job was,” he said. “It’s like a family, the finest people I’ve ever worked with. They care and want to do the right thing. I couldn’t have planned it any better.”
Hess’ territory consists of the northeastern United States, as well as two provinces in Canada.
Between visiting clients and attending trade shows, Hess is on the road quite often. It’s worth it though, he says.
“The beauty of it is that Alkota makes one of the best products in our industry, and we stand behind our product,” he said. “Nobody matches that.
Hess says one of the most challenging parts of the job is being 1,400 miles away from the home office in Alcester, SD. However, he gets out to South Dakota at least a half dozen times per year.
From his co-workers at Alkota, to his customers across the Northeast, relationships are key to success and happiness in the job.
“It’s a relationship business,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Off the Road and at Home with the Family
When Hess isn’t on the road, he says his favorite thing to do is spend time with his family.
Hess met his wife, Vickie, while attending Bloomsburg and the two have been happily married for 42 years. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
“A lot of what we do is family oriented,” he said. “Two of my children live within a quarter mile of me, and the other two live in Philadelphia which is only two and a half hours away.”
The family bonds over football, and Hess says his grandkids are fifth-generation football players.
His children attended graduate school in Philadelphia, and soon the whole family was Eagles fans.
“We’re massive Eagles fans,” he said. “We’re just a big football family, it’s what we do.”
Hess’ work keeps him away from home two to three nights per week on average, something he says they’ve had to make work as a family.
“I’ve always traveled a significant amount, and my wife is so supportive,” he said.
While Hess is normally holding down the territory in the Northeast, if you see him around the office on one of his visits, be sure to say hello and ask about the Eagles.
Interested in becoming a distributor for Alkota products? Check out the video below on what it’s like to be an Alkota distributor.