Monday, September 8, 2014

Oshkosh Corporation: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Oshkosh Corporation, founded in 1917 as the Wisconsin Duplex Auto Company, is a leading manufacturer of access equipment, specialty vehicles, and truck bodies. Major brands include Oshkosh (defense vehicles), JLG (aerial work platforms), Pierce (fire trucks), McNeilus (concrete mixers, refuse collection), Jerr-Dan (towing), and CON-E-CO (concrete batch plants). Obviously they’re not to be confused with the Oshkosh B’Gosh company, part of Carter’s Inc., which makes clothes for kids. Still headquartered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Oshkosh Corporation employs 12,300 people and had 2012 revenue of $8.18 billion. Its main About Us page is here.

Oshkosh would get an A grade except for its Company History page, which has been under construction for some time. Given the company’s long history and the well-written text on the other pages, we’re expecting something splendid. But why leave this vital page virtually blank, especially with a 100th anniversary coming up in less than three years?

Products/Services: A
Oshkosh’s About Us pages are terrific: short, pithy, powerful. The main page has a great one-sentence summary of the company: what it does (“designs and builds the world’s toughest specialty trucks and truck bodies and access equipment”) and how it does it (“by working shoulder-to-shoulder with the people who use them”). A few more lines briefly elaborate. A picture of an amazing vehicle tops the page, and at the right is a photo of CEO Charles L. Szews, with a quote that reinforces the summary. This is a perfect example of our Commandment 2 of About Us pages: “Thou shalt not generalize.” From our first look at the main About Us page, we know exactly what Oshkosh’s products are and what the company’s attitude is toward its customers.

The Company Profile page gives a similarly pithy one-page overview of the company’s major brands and what each one’s specialty is, and adds the company’s founding date, a list of worldwide operations, and total employees. Minor point: the link to the video is broken ... but we’d rather see a photo of another cool truck, anyway. A little more corporate storytelling would go a long way here.

The Technology & Innovation page (again with great pics) also refers to the company’s founding: a nice use of corporate history to reinforce the idea that Oshkosh is in this for the long haul. The Acquisitions page lists Oshkosh’s major acquisitions, again briefly but with links to further information. More surprisingly, it lists the criteria they use when considering an acquisition: a happy variation on the usual tedious list of names and years.

Personality: C
Oshkosh starts to convey its personality on the main About Us page, where they feature a photo of one of their high-tech trucks alongside a photo of CEO Charlie Szews and a relevant quote by him. Given that great start, it’s puzzling that we can’t find any pages listing the corporate leadership, either under About Us or the Investors tab. Googling “Charlie Szews,” we found a page on Oshkosh’s site that has his bio ... but the fact that we had to resort to Google means there’s a serious navigation problem.

Accessibility: A
Our Commandment 8 of About Us pages is: “Remember to make yourself and your organization easily accessible.” Many organizations seem unwilling to give names and emails of department heads. Bravo to Oshkosh, whose Contact Us page lists half a dozen departments with names as well as titles, and actual email addresses rather than an online form.

Keep your text brief and to the point, and supplement it with pictures that show what you do and who you are. But don’t allow blank pages to linger, especially when you have an exceptionally rich business history.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.