We spoke with Andrew Firth, CEO of Yakta, prior to the company’s launch at Equip Expo, to answer the questions, “Who is Yakta?” and “Why should people look at the manufacturer’s new mowers?”
OPE Business: How did you get to designing and manufacturing mowers?
Andrew Firth: We are not new to manufacturing. We started as family farmers. Like a lot of farmers do, we developed a solution to a problem. Ours was specifically for handling cattle. We developed equipment for our own use, out of necessity, and then other ranchers showed interest. That became Arrowquip, a brand to solve ranchers problems with handling cattle. It was not just about making money.
We started in a small Australian market, and it was a good challenge because local ranchers would not accept average products. We learned if we invested in problem solving, the profit would come if we solved problems.
When we came to the North American market, we saw a lack of innovation. And we wanted to grow beyond just the beef cattle industry, diversify our risk so we could continue to support our 300-plus employees.
We looked closely at why we became successful. And we knew it was because we were dealer focused, not shareholder focused. This shift to private equity and shareholders – it’s not healthy. That led us to the answer for our diversification efforts: ZTR mowers. And we learned quickly how little we knew. We started building a network to gain market feedback, first from dealers and then suppliers.
OPE Business: A lot of manufacturers might say they are “dealer focused.” But what does that mean for Yakta?
Firth: We’re a problem-solving company. Our first employees were engineers, because we are innovators. We’re not satisfied until the consumer is satisfied, and the dealer is the crucial link in this relationship. It’s all about supporting the dealer. Half of our work is getting the products right. The other half is good dealer relationships.
We empower all our employees to solve problems. If the solution is not illegal or immoral, if it doesn’t hurt our reputation or the dealers, then just fix it. It doesn’t have to involve lots of meetings or approvals.
OPE Business: How will Yakta help independent power-equipment dealers succeed today?
Firth: We focus on product and delivery, as well as market research and marketing campaigns. It’s not just about marketing for Yakta products but marketing the dealers too. We will talk to them about their local marketing, with co-op support. And we understand that they can’t sell just Yakta products, they need other brands as part of a profitable business.
And I go back to the relationship. We wouldn’t be getting into outdoor power equipment if dealers generally had good relationships with manufacturers. We see this as an opportunity because we can do it better. Too many manufacturers push products on a dealer at the wrong time or the wrong price. Overcomplicated warranty programs often favor manufacturers.
We have a big focus at Yakta to help bring leads to dealers. Our marketing help is designed to make it as easy as possible to get leads and close them. This all sounds good, right? But we will have problems; everyone does. It’s how we respond that will set us apart.
Go To Market
OPE Business: Tell us about the process of getting ready for launch.
Firth: We have a go-to-market plan and we’re confident in it. We’re not a startup. We know manufacturing and all that goes into it. We have final prototypes in testing, and those products will be released at Equip Expo. We’ll begin manufacturing in January.
We have a lot of interested dealers right now. We spent weeks on a road show visiting dealers. And we’ve been conducting a lot of field testing, plus 1000s of hours of lab testing.
OPE Business: What does Yakta expect of dealers?
Firth: We expect them to be competitive in their market, to have customer support systems, to have strong service operations with parts and also with clear communication to customers.
OPE Business: What can dealers expect from Yakta?
Firth: No. 1, we stand behind dealers and back them up for success. We will protect their reputation as a dealer. No. 2, it’s a partnership. I’m not interested in just delivering products to their store, but in making their customers happy.
OPE Business: What does “Yakta” mean?
Firth: Yakta is a combination of “yakk” meaning hard work, and “ta” which is an informal way of saying thank you.