Having worked together for a Briggs and Kohler service distributor, Barry Jaggers and Russ Harrington knew each other very well. They also knew their customers, along with what those customers were doing right—and wrong—as business owners. Armed with this information, Jaggers and Harrington came up with what they thought would be a pretty sound strategy for running a successful outdoor power equipment business. In 1992 they decided to put their plan to the test and purchased a small dealership in Tupelo, MS. That dealership, Phillips Outdoor Equipment, wouldn’t stay small for long.
Within four years, Harrington, the savvy business manager, and Jaggers, the technical wiz, were debt-free. Their revitalized dealership was steadily growing. By 2000 growth had accelerated to a rate of roughly 25% a year. A new facility was badly needed to accommodate the future growth Harrington and Jaggers had planned.
Blueprint for Success
In 2003 the partners changed the name of their dealership to 4 Seasons Equipment. They also moved into a brand new 25,000-square-foot facility. Prior to making this hefty investment, Harrington and Jaggers did their homework so the facility would provide exactly what the duo needed to continue working their plan.
“My younger brother is an architect,” Harrington says. “He’d worked with us part-time through high school and college, and had a pretty good understanding of what we needed in order to continue doing what we were doing—only better.”
To get some additional ideas, Harrington and Jaggers had asked a few of their distributor reps for a list of the best dealers in their territories. Harrington and Jaggers then spent several weekends visiting other area dealers to check out their facilities. Countless ideas were gleaned, many of which were then incorporated into the blueprint for the new 4 Seasons Equipment:
- Pick-up and 18-wheeler loading docks, which help reduce man-hour downtime in shipping and receiving inventory, along with pick-ups and deliveries on service and new-sale units
- The service department and showroom are separated by two firewalls so all sound and fumes from the shop don’t make their way to the customers’ ears and noses
- Ceiling rack for hanging handheld product. Harrington actually got the idea after visiting 2005 Dealers in Excellence winner Twin City Outdoor in West Monroe, LA. “We can hang around 300 trimmers at one time in the showroom,” Harrington points out. “It’s nice because we don’t have to mess around with backstock; it’s right off the pallet and onto the show floor.”
In regard to where the new store would be built, Harrington and Jaggers set their sights squarely on the budding part of Tupelo. The city had just built a new high school at the south end of town, directly down the road from northern Mississippi’s largest church. The amount of daily traffic in that area was increasing tenfold, making it the ideal site to relocate the dealership. Harrington and Jaggers also knew the city had plans to make the two-lane bypass a five-lane, extinguishing any doubts either of the partners had about the future location.
A brand new 25,000-square-foot building on a prime piece of real estate would require a financial commitment like the partners had not yet made in their 11 years as the owners of 4 Seasons Equipment. “My brother knew what it would cost, square footage-wise,” Harrington says. “We gave the blueprint to five contractors and went with the lowest bid. We knew beforehand that, based on the volume of business we had been doing, we would be able to cover the additional overhead the new facility would create. Even so, we planned on growing.”
4 Seasons Equipment had been steadily growing both its residential and commercial business. The higher-visibility location would help attract even more consumers. An outside sales rep was capturing more business from schools and municipalities. Still, Harrington and Jaggers weren’t content. They were looking for more ways to branch out and grow sales. More importantly, they wanted to diversify and become more of a year-round business.