Bertels Sales & Service has been located in the small town of Dorsey, Ill., since 1929. Like any nearly 90-year-old business, it has undergone several changes, including new ownership in 2002 when Vance Miller and his mother, Carole, bought the store.
When his family took over the OPE dealership, Miller was new to the industry. At the time, he was an automotive technician. But, when his stepfather offered him the chance to run the dealership, Miller said it didn’t take long before he made his decision.
“After a week or two of thinking about it, I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’” said Miller. “I like that I can be my own boss, so I took it over and never looked back.”
The dealership is located in a town of just 250 people, but Miller said they are on track to see $2 million in total business this year. Miller attributes the dealership’s success to always wanting to do more, but also taking a strategic approach to growing the business one step at a time. A long-standing reputation for a tremendous parts department and exceeding customers’ expectations have also contributed to the dealership’s growth.
“We have been here so long that people know that if we don’t have a part available, no one else in the area has it,” said Miller. “It is important to have things in stock that people want and offer a selection. You can’t just take orders. You have to look like you’re really in the business. ”
In addition to keeping the dealership well stocked, Miller focuses on building lasting relationships with customers.
“Out here in our small town, we have to go out of our way for customers,” said Miller. “We really go over the top. If we can’t help them with something, I’ll call around to other dealerships and find someone who can. Customers will remember that you took care of them and will be more willing to come back in the future.”
Miller emphasizes providing customers with the services they want and need, which for Bertels Sales & Service customers, includes warranty claims. The dealership is a warranty dealer for many brands, and Miller said he handles warranty claims himself.
“We do warranties on a ton of things that we don’t sell,” said Miller. “That requires an understanding of each system, as every brand has their own way of doing things, which can be a challenge.”
The dealership has several longtime employees who have grown with the business. In fact, the parts manager, Rich, is the grandson of the original founder of the dealership, and he has been with the dealership since the 1970s, along with the service manager, Rod.
“All of our employees have been with us for a long time,” said Miller. “But everyone knows Rich and Rod.”
Change can be difficult for dealerships of any size, especially ones that have been around for a long time. However, Miller said always looking for ways to grow to better serve customers is the key to success in the industry.
“Don’t be afraid to expand,” he said. “You can’t be tiny or work in a garage by yourself in this industry. You need employees, stuff to sell, and a brick-and-mortar location. But most importantly, you need to treat people right.”
This story was provided by the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA), a non-profit trade organization that represents approximately 4,500 retail equipment dealerships. EDA is committed to building the best business environment for equipment dealers. For more information about EDA, visit www.equipmentdealer.org.