Dealers’ Domain

Question: How do you plan to improve your business this year?

Our parts & service department has several ideas in motion to improve our business for 2011. We enhanced our preferred customer plans in 2010, and will strive to sell a plan with at least 40-50 percent of equipment sales in 2011. Also, we have hired a “service coordinator” and we are implementing some “shop equipment flow” processes that should speed up the turnaround times in the shop and increase efficiencies by 10-15 percent!! The service coordinator’s sole purpose here will be to make sure a technician is ALWAYS turning wrenches!! He will be in charge of looking up their parts, pulling all of their parts, staging work 2-3 units ahead, etc. We’re extremely excited about 2011, and believe it’ll be a great year! Now, we just need to figure out how to turn the rain on/off, and we’ll have it made!
— Jason Hicks, parts & service manager
West Chester Lawn & Garden
Liberty Township, Ohio

For the last two years, we have been cutting our profit margins in an attempt to move products out the door and maintain sales volume.
During that time, I have noted a few things.
Our attempt to keep retail prices low in order to attract buyers has been, for the most part, a unilateral undertaking. Our suppliers have not participated by lowering their prices to us.
Our numbers have sagged, in spite of the razor-thin profit margins, reaffirming what an old fisherman once told me: “If the fish aren’t biting, they aren’t biting no matter what bait you use.”
And last, the experts with all the grand ideas as to how I should manage my business…are not in my business.
So, I’ve decided to make a shift in strategy for the upcoming season.
We will make a reasonable profit on everything we sell, or we won’t sell it.
If a product line will not retail at a price point that ensures a reasonable profit, we will discontinue the line.
It’s time for us to stop subsidizing products and services with discounts that come right off our bottom line. If the market will not profitably support a product or service, it will be dropped in favor of a product that will be supported.
I’m 65 years old, I have all of the experience that I need, and I can think of a lot of ways I can spend my time other than selling and servicing power equipment. So, it’s time for us to see some profitability return to our business, or we need to change our business.
We do have lines that are working very well and have a good rate of return on investment. However, we also have product lines that have been dragging us down far too long. Because these lines, for the most part, represent what traditional power equipment retailers are expected to inventory, we have been reluctant to let them go.
But, this year, it’s a whole new ball game. Every product in our store is on notice — produce or you’re gone.
— Roger Zerkle
Flat Rock, Ill.

We’ve had a couple of years now to clean up, slim down, and prepare for the return of “normal” business. Being an eternal optimist, I think this may be the year. We plan to just keep doing what we do, only better. More staff training for one thing. We’ll concentrate on streamlining our service department, increasing productivity. Several local dealers gave it up this year, so we have a larger customer base to care for…that should help.
— Bill Valliant
Fayette Mower
Fayetteville, Ga.

I am one who tends to fall into that rut that everything looks fine to me. I tend to be more critical of the condition of other businesses rather than my own. One of my problems is when it comes to updating that I am handcuffed by township officials. I have had my plans to expand rejected three times by officials who don’t want a rental and repair shop in my township.
However, I try to update my showroom every 2 years. I replace the carpet, re-paint, and change displays. Last year, we replaced our 25-year-old sign and what a difference that made. I always try different things to convince customers that positive things are happening.
— Rob Leiser
Leiser’s Rental & Sales
Easton, Pa.

Since 2007, our business has grown about 50 percent, which is huge. We have run on a small crew to achieve this goal. By doing this, we did not have to lay people off in the winter. Last fall, we made the decision to hire more help. We added a vo-tech student to the work force and have trained him as to how our shop is run. Because of our added sales, we are also adding a salesperson (my daughter) to work the overflow of sales, as well as the counter. She will also be involved in keeping track of our advertising and Web site. Although sales have been sluggish over fall and winter, we hope for a big spring.
— John P. Moon
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center, Inc.
Ulysses, Pa.

Improvements need to be an ongoing process. In my view, you always need to treat your customers with respect to keep them coming back. It is also important to sell only quality items. High or constant repair bills chase customers away. You need to have an ample parts supply. When you make your living with these tools, downtime must be kept to a minimum. Keep your prices fair; everyone shops around, so they know if one guy is higher than the rest.
— Matthew Borden, owner
Ed & Matt Equipment
Greenville, R.I.

We plan to expand our parts and service department, combining the service write-up area with the parts area to allow better and faster service of customers and more efficient use of employees.
— Daniel J. D’Arcy
Granby, Mass.

Right now, the store is being painted, cleaned, and new displays are being put up. I think being organized for the spring rush is very important. Price books, price tags, retail financing, advertising and promotions are being finalized. We are looking to hire two new employees. Slow-moving inventory will be marked down and discontinued. If margins aren’t reasonable on wholegoods, then we will adjust them up slightly. We will continue to sell our experience and service rather than selling on price. Since 2010 was our best year ever in 53 years (due to the snowiest February ever), it will be hard, but a positive attitude and enthusiasm will help.
— Sally Miller, president
Dobosh Center
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Just trying to survive, “again.” Would love to improve my turnaround time on my repairs. Also, believe I will try a little more advertising. Even though I’ve been here in same location for 37 years, it still surprises me on how many customers come through my doors for the first time, not having a clue I’m even here. So, it looks like that will be my direction this year.
— Tony Nation
Nation’s Small Engine, Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.


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