In the Presence of Excellence

What was once merely a trade show connoisseur's fantasy has become a power equipment dealer's reality. The merged GIE and EXPO shows, aptly renamed the GIE+EXPO, took place a few weeks ago in Louisville. Most of my time at the show was spent attending press conferences, where I got to hear about all the new products that are being introduced for 2008.

I also spent time helping present our fifth-annual Dealers in Excellence Awards. In the five years we've been doing these awards—with the help of our sponsors Ariens, Stihl, EETC and GIE+EXPO—more than 400 dealers have been nominated, and we've honored 15 for their passion, professionalism and superior dealership operations.

When considering what this year's winners said are important facets to their success, a couple things jumped out at me. First, it must be pretty difficult, if not impossible, to manage a growing dealership without the help of technology. For leading dealers, "technology in the dealership" now goes well beyond just having a computer sitting atop your parts counter. Clay's Power Equipment has automated his service department to reduce technician downtime, boost production and increase sales and profits. J&I Power has implemented an on-site training center where techs and salesmen can learn via manufacturer websites and DVDs; a very cost-effective way to empower employees with knowledge and information.

Another thing I noticed was that these dealers, while definitely citing service as an important part of their market position, also view themselves as retailers, and work hard to play the part. Aggressive, unique advertising and merchandising are part of an overall strategy to draw customers in and move inventory. Store location is central to their business plans. In the way of J&I and Clay's, an additional store is, or likely will be, fueling future growth.

Finally, the pride these dealers have for their businesses is uplifting. That pride shines through in each of their EETC certifications. Dave Patry says, "I got EETC-certified because, for one, customers like to see lots of credentials; it helps them trust that you are serious about your business and know what you're talking about. Secondly, I like to learn all I can and stay up to date with what's going on in the industry."

Extraordinary pride is a trait each of our Pros in Excellence Award winners also share (page 26). Just like the Dealers in Excellence Award does for dealers, this new award recognizes landscape contractors for their professionalism and innovation. Check out to learn more about this year's winners and finalists. And please encourage your landscape customers to sign up for a free subscription to PRO Magazine.

In many ways, landscapers are just like you. They deal with labor issues, rising operating costs, weather and tough competition. They need good suppliers and partners who simplify their lives. They want to make more money. Hopefully you can help each other do just that—and raise your respective bars of professionalism a notch or two along the way.

To contact Gregg Wartgow:
Phone: (920) 563-1614 / Fax: (920) 328-9011