As most dealers know, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of owning and operating an outdoor power equipment dealership. You often find yourself spending most days putting out fires and fighting to stay afloat in this increasingly competitive industry.
This year’s Dealers in Excellence Award winner took over his father’s dealership in 2006, right when the economy started slipping. He quickly realized that in order for Humphreys’ Outdoor Power Inc. to succeed, he had to take a step back and look at the big picture. The Greencastle, IN, dealership was a part of a community that needed support, and an industry that needed scrutinizing.
Seeing the us indUStry
Brian Humphreys worked within the family business since the 80s and knows the ropes, but since the day he took over, the game continues to change. To stay on top of those changes, he keeps informed through industry associations and trade magazines.
“You need to have an ability to get your hands on information about what’s going on in the industry,” says Humphreys. “The way companies want to communicate now, you don’t get that verbal interaction as much. Things change so fast today; the company you’re selling for may not be here tomorrow, or could be bought by somebody else. These are all things you need to be aware of as they’re happening or you’ll just be set back.”
Humphreys subscribes to many trade magazines, and is an active member of countless industry and small business associations (see sidebar: Get Involved! for a listing of associations). He seeks not just information, but to have another player on his team.
“Equipment associations often step in to help with lobbying efforts on behalf of the dealer,” says Humphreys. “It’s important to team up with them because lobbying is something that someone running a business doesn’t often have the time to do. Let them know what you’re thinking so they can work on your behalf.”
Actively watching the actions of manufacturers is also a focus of Humphreys. He pays careful attention to where their products are sold and how they are constructed to be sure he is offering customers quality goods he believes in. Humphreys demands more from the manufacturers he works with.
“With the poor economy, companies are getting more aggressive in pricing structure,” says Humphreys. “It is hard for them to do because raw material costs have gone up as well as fuel and freight costs.”
Humphreys explains that for many manufacturers, cutting costs has led to low-quality goods and box store distribution. This is something he has decided he will not stand for.
“Some of the manufacturers are going to have to go back and build better products,” says Humphreys. “They sold their souls to the big box stores, and then let them dictate what kind of quality they were going to put out. I’m not going to sell ‘dime store mowers’ and force my customers to deal with the problems of a cheap product.”
Humphreys maintains that his business’ success relies on the credibility of the industry and the manufacturers and products within. “We will continue to evaluate the products we have and hold manufacturers to a standard,” he says.
Living to serve in the SERVice department
In the shop, Humphreys takes a step back from the workbench and sees the service department for what it is—the lifeblood of their business. As many customers continue to repair equipment rather than buy new, he continues to make improvements to staff, procedures and knowledge base.
“When things started getting tough, we decided we would dedicate ourselves to what we can do that nobody else can, and that’s fix it,” says Humphreys. “Service was always a big priority of my dad’s. It’s one of those things that we almost take for granted. We have always put service first and that has helped us out today.”