Tim Peterson is the quintessential dealer. He's been at it since he was a teenager, getting his start working on small engines. Throughout his tenure in the industry, Tim has also taken a liking to customer service, and has even developed a fondness for managing. His management approach, in many ways, mirrors his approach to technical service: tear it down and analyze it, then put it back together so it runs more efficiently.
"I like to focus on our dealership as a whole," Tim relates. "Whether a customer is dealing with our service department or looking to buy a chain saw, he's dealing with Noble Power Equipment, period. We have to be at the top of our game in every aspect of the company."
Tim says that's the reason he's not big on departmentalizing the business, although in some ways he is. "I like to monitor productivity in each department (equipment sales, parts and service)," Tim points out. "If we know that each department is operating as efficiently as possible, profits will follow."
BETTER PROCEDURES DON'T COST A DIME
To make Noble Power Equipment one of the most successful power equipment dealerships in California's Central Coast region, Tim and wife Joni are continually looking for ways to improve it. Sometimes it requires a financial investment. But in many instances, a simple change in procedure will do the trick.
For instance, a rather simple, yet incredibly effective, tagging system has been implemented in the shop. Equipment that needs to be worked on gets a blue tag, equipment awaiting parts gets an orange one, and equipment that's fixed and ready to be picked up gets green. This helps keep everything in order and remove a little stress from the techs' lives, which is especially important when the pace of equipment in and out of the shop accelerates during the busy season.
Another improvement that didn't cost much relates to blade and chain sharpening. A grinding room has been walled off within the shop, helping stifle its noise to not only the showroom, but also the other technicians' ears.
Tim and Joni are proud of the fact that they treat their employees well—and pay them well. They also charge for their services. "If a phone company had to come check out my phone, they'd probably charge me $100 or more," Tim says. "You can bet we'll charge $7 for a chain sharpening. Why would we give that away?"
Noble Power Equipment charges a respectable $65-per-hour shop labor rate; not outlandish for the affluent San Luis Obispo area, but certainly adequate to help the service department recover its costs and make a profit.
Other policies help prevent poor cash flow and lost
• Special order parts must be pre-paid
• No returns on special order or electrical parts
• Other returns only within five days
• 25-percent restocking fee
• Equipment left over 30 days from invoicing can be sold
To help expedite repairs and get shop revenue coming in faster, Noble Power followed a trend last year that more and more leading dealers have been following themselves: They quit working on brands they do not sell. "Our techs are now faster, better, and they make more money," Tim points out. Additionally, special order parts are now placed in bins (alphabetical by customer last name) directly behind the parts counter.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER