Deere has also told us that they’ve been surprised by the success they’ve enjoyed. Many Deere dealers tell us they’ve sold more STIHL product in a month than they ever sold of John Deere handheld in years.
PB: Remember, we’ve always had some John Deere dealers selling STIHL product. The effort that was launched in 2008, following Deere’s decision to exit the handheld market, just helped accelerate things.
Q: Did you experience a lot of blowback from existing STIHL dealers when the alliance with John Deere was rolled out?
FW: We had some instances where dealers were naturally upset. To the best of my recollection, we lost two dealers nationally. What’s interesting is that for many of the dealers who were initially upset, we said, “Let’s just wait a year and see what happens.” What happened in most instances was that everybody grew; both the existing STIHL dealer and the John Deere dealer now selling STIHL.
PB: John Deere customers tend to be very loyal to the John Deere brand, so STIHL is able to capitalize on that loyalty and gain new customers by being in these dealerships.
FW: Once you take the emotion out of it, step back and look at things from a business perspective, one’s perspective will often change. I believe that time has vindicated the decision we made.
Q: When we launched the Dealer Success Guide more than 10 years ago, the average dealer needed help in the discipline of business management. STIHL took steps to help dealers improve by launching initiatives such as the Retail Readiness Program. Going forward, how is STIHL going to continue helping its dealers to compete, profit and prosper?
PB: We will continue to offer assistance to our dealers to help them market and manage their businesses. There are still those who need help in these areas, including new dealers who’ve never been in this business.
That said, today’s typical STIHL dealer is a much stronger business manager than he was 10 years ago. Plus, you now have second- and third-generation owners who are raising the bar even higher.
FW: Some big companies, once they become No. 1, have a bad habit of becoming arrogant. We instill the principle here at STIHL that our dealers are still independent businesspeople who vote with their wallets. So we are careful to guard against this arrogance that can tend to seep in. We want to remain dealer-centric and customer-friendly, and not break our arms patting ourselves on the back.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: STIHL’s status of “Number one selling brand" is based on syndicated Irwin Broh Research (commercial landscapers) as well as independent consumer research of 2010 U.S. sales and market share data for the gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment category combined sales to consumers and commercial landscapers.