Hastings Puckett’s personal family tree is inseparably entwined with the corporate roots and expanding branches of Puckett Machinery Company, Inc.
“It’s our family’s legacy,” said Puckett, the third generation of his family to lead the Caterpillar heavy equipment, rental services and power systems dealer for the 42-county sales territory of central and southern Mississippi.
“We’re fortunate to have a very positive family business and the family dynamics work really well… the business has grown up with our family.”
In 1953, Hastings’ grandfather Ben Puckett first joined Stribling Brothers Machinery Company as a staff accountant. Nine years later, he and two associates purchased the Caterpillar dealership. After another twenty years of sales growth and facilities expansion, Puckett became sole owner and changed the business name to Puckett Machinery Company.
In 1987, the family’s second generation began leading the business when Richard Puckett was named President and General Manager. In 1994, the elder Puckett sold his interest in the company to three of his sons: Richard, Ben and John. In 2000, Hastings, Richard’s older son, joined the company and in January, 2011, he was named company president.
Over the last thirty two years, the company has expanded its footprint to include heavy equipment branch locations in Gulfport, Natchez, Meridian, Hattiesburg and Brookhaven and Puckett Rents rental services stores in Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Madison, Meridian and Richland. A dedicated power systems division with offices in Jackson and Gulfport serves the marine/petroleum/industrial engine and electric power generation markets.
In late 2010, Puckett Machinery Company acquired D-M Equipment, the Blount/Prentice Forest Products dealer for southwest Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. In 2011, they launched a new business, SITECH South Mississippi, a Trimble dealer for Heavy and Highway machine guidance and control technology products. Puckett Global Services is an international division of the company that provides specialized heavy equipment and product support services. They successfully completed a three-year contract at the Air Force base in Khandahar Afghanistan in late 2013.
In 2013, under Hastings’ leadership, the company relocated its corporate headquarters from the original Highway 80 location in Jackson to a new, state-of-the-art 150,000-square-foot facility in Flowood.
“With some of our original buildings dating back to the 1940’s, they had outlived their useful lives and/or we had outgrown them. It was constraining our business and our ability to serve our customers. We recognized that to continue to both grow and effectively serve our customers, we had to make a significant capital investment, either renovating and redeveloping our existing campus on Highway 80, or starting over somewhere else. We thoroughly evaluated both options, but in the end, felt relocating was in our best long-term interest.”
Hastings said they were attracted to Flowood and Rankin County because of “a very pro-business and accommodating local government, a reasonable and fair tax code, and a safe environment for our customers and employees.”
“Throughout Puckett Machinery’s long history in the communities we serve, our focus and commitment to our customer has remained the same: to provide high quality, value-added products, services, and solutions, always with integrity”, Hastings said. “The way we see it, our customer’s success is our success. We stay focused on continuous improvement as a company, never comfortable to be complacent or accept ‘status quo’,” he said. “We are continuously working to become a better business.”
Currently there are five family members actively engaged in the business, including Hastings’ father, uncle, brother, and cousin. “I think one of the reasons we work so well together is because we each have a healthy mutual respect for one another and the role each of us has within the company. We have a common vested interest in the success of our dealership,” said Hastings.
Hastings also hopes one or both of his sons, now aged 8 and 9, will eventually want to follow the family legacy. “Certainly our goal and objective as a family is to provide the future generation with the opportunity to be a part of the company,” he said. “If the next generation is willing and able, they can come aboard.”
Hastings explains that Caterpillar’s distribution model is for the dealerships to be privately owned family businesses that transition through multiple family generations. Many Caterpillar dealerships are currently in their third or fourth generation of family ownership. “They have been very effective with that type of model and they help facilitate successful generational transitions” he said. “Where they are different is the amount of time and money they spend investing in families and their transitions. Caterpillar and its dealers have a very close, trusting, and collaborative relationship. I think both Caterpillar and its dealers each realize that neither would be as successful without the other. A high degree of mutual respect and appreciation exists between the organizations.”
Hastings also says he gives his father “a lot of credit” for Puckett’s successful generational transition of leadership. “He has done an exceptional job, in that once he passed day to day leadership responsibility to me, he has allowed me to make my own decisions and has supported me whether he agreed with me or not,” Hastings said. “He willingly provides support and advice when I seek it, but doesn’t force his opinions on me. I think we both understand one another’s strengths and weaknesses and we try to leverage them when making decisions. We work really well together. My dad and I are very close, both personally and professionally.”