And the winners are …

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We’ve always believed that trucks don’t sell service; it’s service that sells trucks. That’s why it’s great to recognize the people responsible for providing that service that historically never got such recognition for the work they do. Because technicians ‘touch’ the customer more than anyone else within the dealership operation; they are literally the heartbeat of the dealership.” –W.M. “Rusty” Rush, president and CEO, Rush Enterprises

So Rush Enterprises’ 2009 Technician Skills Rodeo has come to a close here in San Antonio, TX; sending 15 technicians out of the 60 that competed home with cash prizes and big boosts to their hourly pay scales. Third place finishers in their respective categories walked away with $3,000 and a $1 per hour raise in flat rate pay; second place finishers went home with $4,000 and a $1.25 per hour boost to their flat rate pay; while first place finishers snagged $5,000 in cash along with a $1.50 per hour raise.

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But that isn’t where the winning ended, for out of the 15 finalists, two were selected as the “Best All-Around” champions in the specific niches – one for medium-duty trucks and one for heavy-duty. These two grand champions (and the runners up, I might add) took home thousands more in cash and prizes, along with yet another boost in hourly pay.

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Billy Stanley (above at right) out of Rush Truck Center’s Houston, TX, location won top honors in the medium-duty category, while longtime competitor Randy Hughes (at left) from Rush’s Texarkana shop bagged the “grand champion” award in the heavy-duty class.

By no means did these two technicians find winning easy, as the final round posed vague problems with little detail to go on for finding the solution.

[Below is a glimpse of the battle to become the top medium duty technician. The problem they had to solve consisted of little more than “the engine won’t start” and left it to the techs to take it from there.]

All in all, the 2009 Rodeo provide to be a competitive event for all involved, and even the ones that didn’t make it to the final round at least returned home with bragging rights; that they’d at least gotten to the main event in San Antonio and had a chance to get into the finals.

[Here’s a brief wrap up of some of the competitors in action at this year’s event, held in the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center in downtown San Antonio.]

At the end of the day, however, it’s all about staying true to what W. Marvin Rush, the company’s chairman, calls his “fundamental principles of business,” handed down to him by his father:

“He told me, ‘Surround yourself with good people and recognize what they do every day,'” he said at the close of the Rodeo event. “People are the key in this business; they make the difference for us.”

[For a few more words on the subject from both Marvin and W. M. “Rusty” Rush, the company’s president and CEO, view the clip below.]

It’s interesting to note that the 2009 rodeo threw some unexpected curveballs at the technicians, in some cases posing problems based on mechanical issues, not electronic ones. That twist knocked out the previous Rodeo champions – Jason Swann (a two-time grand champion) and Dustin Ebert – from the finals. So it will be interesting to see what twist is in store for next year’s competition.

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