FieldWorks’ strategic repositioning creates new company and resurrects another.

Shortly after celebrating a one-year anniversary, nationwide dealer entity FieldWorks, the company that purchased the 10 former Sokkia Measuring Systems retail stores last April, has taken another step to strengthen its offerings to patrons of the industry. In March, Fieldworks’ parent III Inc. sold its Texas stores to Improved Construction Methods (ICM) Inc., a 33-year-old distributor of construction lasers, trench safety and pipe testing equipment headquartered in Jacksonville, Ark.

ICM had interest in surveying technology from its beginning, selling construction type surveying equipment and supplies early in its history. ICM was founded in 1970 by civil engineers Bruce McFadden and J.C. George. Both had job experience in surveying and were registered professional engineers. George had co-invented and marketed the AGL Pipe Laser and McFadden had worked for the Corps of Engineers and as a highway construction contractor. Through its acquisition of Capitol Blueprint Company five years ago, ICM began serving the higher end survey equipment market and began its relationship with Fieldworks by cross purchasing in the Texas market. ICM approached FieldWorks in mid-November of last year with the offer to acquire the company’s Texas-based stores in Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The offer was accepted as being in alignment with FieldWorks’ Market Repositioning Plan, a strategy designed to build a strong foundation for FieldWorks to grow on, which was established following the acquisition from Sokkia. The decision is driven by FieldWorks’ desire to present a uniform business model to the market both from the standpoint of its manufacturer alliances and the philosophies employed throughout the organization. FieldWorks CEO Michael Adkins says no other FieldWorks stores were considered in the ICM strategy.

According to Adkins, Sokkia customers in Texas, now having gone through two ownership changes in one year should remain confident of solid business transactions with both FieldWorks and the new Texas store owner, which is operating under the new name of ICM Survey Systems.

“The most important thing is that the very same personnel and product lines have been present in each location throughout the transition,” Adkins says. “People do business with people, and from that perspective change has been virtually non-existent. ICM’s own legacy of providing outstanding customer service leaves us confident that the service and support Texas customers have come to know and appreciate will continue under the ICM Survey Systems banner for many years to come.”

ICM Survey Systems owner concurs.

“ICM’s short-term plan is to make sure the long-standing Sokkia-FieldWorks service is continued and built upon,” says Bruce McFadden, ICM’s president. “Long term, ICM will constantly be bringing the newest and latest technology to its surveying customers. ICM has a long history of considering its customers “partners” and treating them like partners by serving them with energy and enthusiasm. We consider this a great opportunity to continue that tradition.”

A Legacy Continues: Lietz Is Back

Furthering its Repositioning Plan, FieldWorks simultaneously announced that its Tampa, Fla., store has been “spun-off” as a separate and independent entity and renamed The Lietz Company under the leadership of former FieldWorks’ Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert J. Peterson effective March 1st. Peterson has dreamed of taking on such an endeavor “for a very long time” according to Adkins. “He is now very much in his element.”

As a former long-term resident of Tampa and southeastern regional sales manager for Sokkia Corporation, Peterson is highly familiar with the markets of Florida and the southeast region of the United States. His 15 years of industry retail experience gained prior to his association with Sokkia, eight years of which were in the state of Florida, made him a logical choice to head up the Florida-based operation. “He understands what customers in the region want and how to deliver it,” Adkins says.

Peterson’s knowledge and motivation will be applied in his leadership role of the Tampa-based store, but he’s taken on what might be viewed as a larger responsibility. Peterson is carrying out a goal of III Inc.’s: to resurrect the Lietz legacy. Originally established in San Francisco in 1882 as the ‘A. Lietz Co.’ by German immigrant and precision instrument craftsman Adolf Lietz, The Lietz Company was acquired in 1984 by Japanese instrument manufacturer Sokkisha Co., Ltd., who later changed the name to Sokkia Corporation as part of an international identity consolidation. The Lietz Company became the sole distributor of Sokkisha-manufactured products in the United States in the early 1960s and held the distinction of being the U.S.’ top-ranked supplier of engineering and surveying instruments and supplies throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Lietz Company will continue in the tradition of offering the industry’s widest selection of quality products and leading edge technology backed by superior, friendly service.

“It is with great pride and genuine sense of privilege that I find myself in the position to lead the storied Lietz name back to industry prominence,” Peterson stated in the press announcement. “Unparalleled customer service, quality products and exceptional value were the hallmarks, which made Lietz one of the great names of the industry. Those founding principles, which began in 1882 will live on in The Lietz Company of the future. It is truly an honor to have this opportunity and I accept the challenge with a respectful eye on the heritage that has preceded me.”

The Lietz Company will be a wholly independent corporation but will remain a “sister” corporation to III Inc. (FieldWorks) with common ownership. The Lietz Company is headquartered in a 10,000-sq ft-facility in Tampa that was originally designed to be the southeastern regional training center for Sokkia Corporation. The facility is ideally suited for providing state-of-the-art customer service, extensive warehousing and corporate infrastructure. The Lietz Company will focus its energies on serving customers in the southeastern United States and Latin America. The familiar motto “It’s Easy To Do Business With Lietz” will once again become the company slogan.

The decision to revive the Lietz name was made by III Inc. executive management, according to Adkins. “A different name was briefly considered, but the legacy of outstanding customer service for which The Lietz Company is so widely recognized and respected for in the past was something that we desired to transcend to our business as an ever-present reminder that the customer always comes first,” Adkins says. “For those of us who were a part of that legacy more than a decade ago, the sense of responsibility to uphold that legacy is profound. These are some very big shoes to fill and that understanding motivates excellence.”

Adkins acknowledges that the Lietz name and trademarks were acquired by III Inc. from Sokkia Corporation last April.

“Although the ‘when and where’ remained to be determined at that time, we had planned from the beginning to launch a Lietz enterprise when the right opportunity presented itself,” Adkins says. “As we believe that brand association within the independent distribution sector of the industry will become increasingly important in the years ahead, we wanted to make sure that we were effectively communicating our brand affiliations to the marketplace. For example, FieldWorks is committed to representing a limited group of manufacturers in specifically defined markets and we wanted this to be very clear to the consumer. In other words, ‘this is who we are, this is what we sell and these are the services we offer.’

“The Lietz Company will follow a different agenda and we want that to be equally clear. The ‘when and where’ was ultimately influenced by the timing and scope of the manufacturer alliances that we were successful in developing. The Lietz Company ‘spin-off’ concept was designed to provide for very specific but necessarily independent business agendas where not only our own interests were served, but also out of respect for the interests of our business partners.”

Change Breeds Character

The two strategic moves leave FieldWorks comprised of five full-service retail “hubs” now, and Adkins attests to the recent moves as being the last efforts under the Repositioning Plan.

“It was known from the outset that the first year for FieldWorks would be punctuated by necessary change given the geographic spread of our operations when they were acquired,” Adkins says. “Our immediate goal was to reposition the company for long-term growth and that required that we evaluate where our best fit in the marketplace would be and then take the necessary steps to get there. It’s not unlike remodeling a building. The first step is to determine what makes sense to keep and subsequently build upon. Now that we have concluded that process we can turn the full measure of our resources toward growing our business. Most importantly, the distractions associated with change are now finally behind us.” But does this open the doors for competition among the three companies?

“At the end of the day the only thing that really matters is making customers happy,” Adkins says. “The contest to see who can do the best job is the very essence of free enterprise. If you love the business as we do, competition breeds an inspiration to do things better, and that makes the customer the ultimate winner.”