Anonymous Distributor

Able to leap tall grass in a single bound, more powerful than a two-headed spider, and who, disguised as A.D., brings you truth and justice to the lawn mowing industry! 

I don’t know what a two-headed spider is, but I do know what truth and justice are. For example, the truth is that many OEMs have thought that their future lies in selling to the mass merchants. They had no problem coming to you and saying they were going to start selling to the masses either. But wait, they didn’t do that! They simply made a partnership that could provide large sales orders (with small margins) and great exposure for their line. It would be up to you to service the machines. That isn’t justice, but maybe it can be.

With the new partnership, here is what might happen. Orders so large that they had to hire more people, buy more parts, repair broken or rundown manufacturing equipment, and find a big enough warehouse to put the new products until the orders came in. With the current state of the economy, finding people is a problem. Wage increases, cost of steel increases, possible tariffs became a reality, and there are limited dealers (you) that will work on servicing the products when the customer comes knocking.

Listen (that’s what politicians say when they are trying to make a point), I’m not suggesting it shouldn’t happen. It’s probably one of those things that HAD to happen. There are a lot of dealers who have made a good living servicing the mass merchants. Without the mass merchants selling equipment, dealers would be selling it and trying to service it too. With the industry lacking new technicians and dealerships, something would have gone wrong.

Several years ago, I was in an airport with friend and former President of Husqvarna, David Zerfoss. Husqvarna had just gone into its first Lowe’s store, and the industry was in a tizzy. As we waited for our plane, I asked him, “Why did you do that?” He replied “A.D. (actually he said ________), I am going to put Husqvarna in the biggest store in every town, and if Lowe’s is that store, we will be there.” He was a true visionary. He knew it would upset a lot of big dealers, but he stood tall and did it anyway. Knowing what he knows today about margins, filling orders, and servicing the products, I wonder if he would do it again? I believe the answer would be YES. And the reason is because it was worth it.

If we are all being honest, could the dealer network sell the amount of equipment being sold by the masses? (Here is where I will get some hate mail.) I don’t think the dealer channel could handle it. We refer to Lowe’s and The Home Depot when talking about mass merchants. But wait, there’s more – Walmart, Menards, TSC, Fred Meyer, Meijer’s, Mid-States, Wheatbelt, Ace, True Value, HWI, Grainger and Zoro – and the list goes on.

Now, let’s talk about what you can do. You can choose to work on the broken products or not. I would like to break it down in my own mind, so just hang in there with me.

I am a dealer and I sell Toro and Troy-Bilt. My MTD distributor just came by to ask me if I would service the mass merchant in my town. I thought about it, but decided that it would hurt my regular customers. My MTD customer list is about 150. I send out flyers in January for spring tune-ups, and 25 of those customers come and have it done. While doing the tune-up, I discover eight of those need more work. I get all the work completed by mid-February, and wait for grass to grow. This is the path I have chosen for my wonderful customers and me.

Now the other side. The same MTD rep asks me to service the local mass merchant. But instead of saying no, I say yes. Same thing, my customer list is about 150. I send out flyers in January for a spring tune-ups, and 25 of those customers come and have it done. While doing the tune-up, I discover eight of those need more work. I get the work all completed by mid-February. But now that I am working with the mass merchant, I am not waiting around for grass to grow. I am seeing more referrals from the mass merchant for service work. Sure, I am dealing with the village idiot (sorry, I mean dummy) that thinks bad gas is warranty. We all have those customers, whether we service the masses or not. So don’t let that stand in your way of staying busy.

I get it (even though I am the village idiot), not every business is set up for the new customer growth. Do what is right for your business, but don’t let anger from the past keep you from feeding off your perceived nemesis.

Remember to keep your blades and mind sharp. You can contact me by e-mailing or via Twitter @OPEMAGAD.


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