OAKBORO AG, POWER & TURF
Owner: Joel Thomas
Employees: 9 full time
Annual Sales: Multi-million
Sales Mix: 40% wholegoods,
30% parts, 30% service
Customer Mix: 50% consumer,
Shop Labor Rate: $60 per hour
Major Lines: Echo, Exmark, Husqvarna, Mahindra, McCormick, Stihl
How do you go from less than $50,000 in annual sales to way over a million? For Joel Thomas, it’s been all about partnering with the right people, taking care of your best people, and capitalizing on every opportunity to sell more and spend less.
Thomas refers to his dealership—Oakboro Ag, Power & Turf—as “your super-store for farm, landscape and yard needs.” They sell lawn and garden tractors, zero-turn and walk-behind mowers, the full spectrum of handheld equipment, trenchers and tillers, utility vehicles and more. Most recently they’ve added medium-hp tractors for the growing hobby farmer market, along with mulch, fertilizer and other landscape materials for their diversifying landscape customers. Now the dealership is branching into irrigation supplies.
“As I look around our store today, I can’t help but chuckle,” Thomas says. “When we moved in 12 years ago, we all looked at each other and said, ‘How in the world are we going to fill this place?’ Today we’re asking, ‘How can we come up with more space so we can keep growing?’”
The dealership has even undergone a couple of expansions and remodels over the years. But the growth has been unrelenting. Thomas isn’t complaining, though. His goal since day one has been to continually build business. The biggest challenge has been staying efficient and profitable in the process.
“We’ve done a lot of praying,” Thomas relates, “and always figured that if there was a rock in the road, it just meant we should try another path. The last couple years have been tough with the drought down here. We’ve seen a few of our competitors close their doors, and have been fortunate to pick up some of their customers and employees. Their customers come in here and say, ‘Hey, your prices are higher than so and so’s were.’ I respond with, ‘You’re exactly right, which is why we’re still open and able to take care of you today.’”
PROOF IS IN THE PROFIT
You have to make a profit if you want to keep your doors open long-term. “Most customers will understand and appreciate that when you explain it to them,” Thomas adds.
Figuring out how to make that profit has been something the Oakboro staff has focused on for the past four or five years as the dealership’s gone from “big” to “bigger.” There’s more to it than simply holding your prices.
“About the best thing any dealer can do is invest in an industry-specific software program,” Thomas says. “We did in 2004, and the benefits have been unbelievable. We were using a generic off-the-shelf retail management program, but couldn’t get the information we really needed. We bought Charter Software. Right away we started looking closely at our parts inventory. We cleared a lot of dead stock and found our fast-movers. We also started watching our shop productivity. In a few years we’ve gone from losing money in service to 95% efficiency.”N
ow service is a healthy contributor to Oakboro’s overall profitability. It also remains the dealership’s primary business builder. As Thomas points out, anyone can sell something. It’s the service that gets the customer to come back.
For such a large dealership, it’s unique that Oakboro Ag, Power & Turf is willing to service brands it does not sell—even the more inexpensive handheld equipment. Thomas says it’s been a great way to build their customer database, which is now in the thousands. He’s also found a couple ways to make it profitable.