Bertels Sales & Service
Owners: Carole and Vance Miller
Employees: 6 full-time, 4 part-time
Annual Sales: $1-3 million
Sales Mix: 60% wholegoods, 40% parts and service
Customer Sales Mix: 70% consumer, 30% commercial
Shop Labor Rate: $60 per hour
Major Lines: Ferris, Husqvarna, Shindaiwa, Simplicity, Snapper, Stihl
Having a dedicated, knowledgeable staff along with loyal customers is what helps a dealership achieve success. That is especially the case for Bertels Sales & Service located in small-town Dorsey, IL.
Carole Miller bought the already-established dealership in 2002, when the power equipment business was strong. With little experience, she relied heavily on her staff for the next few years as the industry took a turn for the worse. Despite the industry’s downturn, their sales have grown every year since she took over the business.
EMPLOYEES HELP TRANSITION THE BUSINESS TO NEW OWNERSHIP
Carole and her son Vance took over the dealership without an ounce of background in the industry. Their experiences in learning the business and taking steps to improve it have all relied heavily on the staff and their supportive community.
“We knew very little in the beginning, so we spent a lot of time observing them doing their jobs, and at first didn’t change a thing,” says Vance. “When we were able to offer suggestions we slowly implemented changes.”
There have been few staff changes since the Millers took over the business eight years ago. “Two of our guys had worked with the previous owner for over 30 years,” shares Carole. “They are still with us and are invaluable. They were the only employees two years ago and now we have 10.”
WORKING TOGETHER TO IMPROVE THE BUSINESS
Everyone on staff and in the family plays a role in the business’ day-to-day operations. Vance helps manage the business and is one of their best salesmen. His wife Kelly has taken on the role of bookkeeper. Darren, Carole’s youngest son, also helps by taking care of new projects and keeping computer programs updated.
“Their help gives me the time to take care of advertising and networking with business groups,” explains Carole. “I also enjoy traveling, and the staff knows that if I’m not at the business I’m just a phone call away.”
Together the family works with the dealership staff to implement careful changes to improve the profitability of the business as well as customer service.
“The business has changed only with improvements due to the knowledgeable staff of employees,” says Carole. “All suggestions by any staff member are considered and sometimes improved upon by the management. Everyone works well together and is open to new thoughts and ideas.”
Some improvements made include:
• New lifts and workbenches
• Cross-training employees
• Various facility improvements
• Addition of online parts sales
Keeping the employees focused on the business’ success is one part of the job that comes easy to the Millers. “Our employees always give their all,” shares Carole. “We offer the personal attention that a large company sometimes can’t. We are generous with vacation time, offer a retirement plan, and give annual raises.”
IMPLEMENTING CAREFUL CHANGES AT THE RIGHT TIME
The mix in ages and experience of staff, along with Carole’s background in the secretarial field, offers many different viewpoints as far as what is good for the business.
“My past working experience has given me the sense to keep things in balance and make sure the details have been covered,” says Carole. “The economy and weather are changing every year, and we have learned to not get too ‘big’ when things are good and not too ‘down’ when they are not.”
Offering online parts shopping was one change they felt was due. They recently added an online parts lookup to their site that is already being used heavily by customers. They hope an increase in online purchases will follow.