Business improvement and growth starts with assessing your businesses' strengths and weaknesses, and building upon and improving them. At Otten Small Engine Service, it’s a constant effort to improve.
The family-owned business has been in operation since 1972. In the years since they opened, many things have changed. The way dealers today do business is much different, and so is the way brothers Ron and Mark Otten manage their business.
They maintain a large focus on improving their service department profitability, as well as looking for new ways to provide for their customers.
In recent years with the economy's turn for the worse, many dealers have been thankful for the business brought in by their parts and service departments. The key to many dealers having profitable years has been sales of high-margin parts, and technicians having high billable hours.
For the Ottens, keeping the shop a comfortable place for technicians to work, along with giving them the right tools for use in the shop, has increased their job satisfaction as well as productivity.
"We have air-conditioned our service shop and invested in a Franzen Automated Chainsaw sharpening system," says Mark Otten. "It has improved working conditions in the shop, and relieves the need for frequent rest breaks in hotter months."
Otten explains that the Franzen machine was a clever and profitable investment. According to the machine's manual, it can pay for itself within six to eight months of use.
"The speed and efficiency of the Franzen is amazing," says Otten. "It allows each tech to sharpen chains and repair units at the same time."
A parts-cleaning machine purchased by the dealership also helps to increase productivity and customer satisfaction.
For the last 10 years, the shop has been manned with five technicians. They have learned to use a business management system that interfaces the parts and service departments, helping them to manage customer repairs.
"We have installed a new Ideal Computer System which has greatly enhanced the speed and efficiency in which we deliver to our parts customers and the service department," explains Otten.
The service department has continued to impress their distributor Kyle Cramer of Crader Distributing Company, who praises them saying in 2010: "They have one of the best service departments in mid-Missouri. As technologies change, the service department continues to educate itself through update schools as well as online testing and training."
Customer care and referrals
Otten Small Engine has a large base of returning customers. They value their loyal customers highly, and go out of their way to show them that by providing services that keep them coming back. Their goal is to show customers that the success of the dealership depends on them.
"We have invested more quality time in serving our customers with our available service both before and after the sale," says Otten. "We spend less time and effort servicing the less-expensive 'box store' units, and more time on the equipment we have sold directly."
The fast, honest and reliable service they have continued to provide customers has led to many referrals. To further draw customers, the dealership has purchased a truck outfitted with graphics advertising their products and services. The truck is also used to aid customers in pickup and delivery service of new equipment purchases and repair orders.
To keep the service speedy, a large parts inventory is stocked. "We have increased our parts inventory levels on selected fast-moving parts to avoid service backlog and delays," says Otten.
Commercial customers are able to stay in the field while equipment is in for repair thanks to the loaner program at Otten's. "We work with the Gravely GAP program that allows us to have loaners on hand for lending to any commercial customer if we cannot fix their mower within 24 hours," says Otten. "We also have someone here at approximately 7 a.m. each day to service commercial customers."