By Steve Noe
As you know all too well, Mother Nature sure can be cruel. As quickly as she gave us hope by blessing us with earlier-than-usual starts to the spring and your sales and service season, she took it away with record-setting heat and drought conditions for the spring and summer, drying up demand for outdoor power equipment sales and service.
Seeking some insight on how much of an impact this extreme weather has made on the industry, especially in the hard-hit Midwest, I turned to a major Midwest-based manufacturer and Dan Ariens, who is president and CEO of Ariens Company in Brillion, Wis. And I’m glad that I did because he offered plenty of words of encouragement.
“Many dealers are doing very well, and our business with the dealer channel was a record high in our fiscal year ended June 30,” said Dan, who was recently elected chairman of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. “We are seeing continued good sales in the Southeast, Northeast and South. The Midwest is a challenge, but I am always amazed at how well independent dealers, independent business men and women, deal with the uncertainties of the weather. Having a dealer base, which is growing overall, tells me that dealers are very adept at dealing with their overhead and matching cost with revenues. But, as all business owners know, you have to be vigilant.”
For those dealers, who are struggling to beat the heat, I asked Dan for his top-five severe weather survival tips, and he responded with the following:
1) Take the time when customers are not coming to you, to make sales introduction visits to commercial, institutional, and municipal accounts. Build relationships for a new day. Promote service as a key value add.
2) Work closely with the manufacturing partners you have to manage inventories and keep the inventory risk low.
3) Develop a parts replenishment system with your customers to build a secure repeatable business. Use the slow time to set up this system, and when the rain comes, this can be great repeat business.
4) If you haven’t tried the lean management systems of eliminating waste and improving work processes, start now with developing a value stream map of your work flow — use this ‘free’ time to make improvements in your cost systems, improving cash flow, and in better times improving profitability.
5) Manage the parts inventory well, including working with your manufacturing partners to clean up old parts for returns if possible.
I hope that you found Dan’s assessment and advice as encouraging I did. I would enjoy hearing how you’re managing to beat the heat, as well as what are your top severe weather survival tips, so please let me know via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook @GreenMediaMags.
Here’s hoping for all of us that Mother Nature blesses us again with much better weather soon.
OPE Editor Steve Noe