Georgia Dealer Has Customers On His Mind

With a history in textile equipment parts sales, and a love for all things machinery, Dudley Gunter of Dudley’s Outdoors is a cog in the Green Industry machine for his market. Located in LaGrange, GA, Dudley prides himself in being a straightforward and supportive dealer, focused on helping his customers find solutions to their problems. Whether it be an issue with financing, or deciding on the right equipment for the application, commercial and consumer customers alike have trusted Dudley to find the answer.

When he realized the textile machinery market was dwindling after his 26 years in the business, Dudley attended the local agriculture show for inspiration in the search for his next big venture. “I always loved machinery and equipment,” shares Dudley. “I went to the agriculture show in Moultrie, GA, and ran into a bunch of mower manufacturers that were looking for dealers and decided that was something I could do.”

Since opening his doors in 2002, Dudley has learned a lot and his business has grown quickly. With a handle on what customers need from him—and their equipment—his future in outdoor power equipment should be promising.

Finding the right financing

As more and more customers turned to Dudley for their equipment needs, he learned that financing those purchases would be a big part of his success and the customers’ satisfaction. While it takes some focus away from his love of machinery, he knows it is a pertinent part of the business.

“While my love of equipment and machinery is always first for me, I don’t really get to appreciate it much because as you grow as a dealer there are so many other parts of the business,” says Dudley. “I found out real quick that not only was I in the lawnmower business, but I was in the finance business.” 

Not all of the customers who come to Dudley’s Outdoors have an easy time getting approved for financing. Dudley understands that it’s easy to trip up where credit is concerned, and works hard to get customers the financing needed to purchase the equipment needed for their home or commercial fleet.

“I work extra hard for good, hard-working folks who have had trouble with paying their bills and unfortunately found some financial trouble in the past,” explains Dudley. “In the finance business, you need to find not only A-market financers like Sheffield and GE, but then try to find secondary markets for people who have less than stellar credit."

Choosing the right equipment

When customers are approved for their financing, they are free to buy the equipment Dudley has right-sized them for. Dudley has helped many of his commercial customers make the transition from zero-turn riding mowers to stand-on zero-turns.

“The stand-on market, while not incredibly large, is growing,” says Dudley. “Terrain is what gets a contractor to make the switch to a stand-on zero-turn. If you are in a really hilly area, the stand-on mower lets you ride that terrain."

Outside of stand-on mowers, Dudley says contractors are buying mostly 60-inch zero-turn riders. “Most contractors want the top-of-the-line rider that provides long-term durability,” says Dudley. “They are also buying quality pieces for their handheld fleet. They want the most powerful blower they can find and a heavy-duty trimmer and edger.”

As part of that desire for durability, contractors are looking for “clean” engine and fuel options. Government agencies are also pushing for the use of cleaner equipment. Dudley says he sees an overall shift to EFI engines and propane-powered mowers getting stronger.

“Over the next few years I think we will be almost exclusively EFI engines and propane equipment,” says Dudley. “In the bigger cities propane will especially take off when it is more mandated by the government agencies. People are a little afraid of propane because it is new and unusual. When they get more exposure to the fuel, they will take notice and be happy to make the switch.”

Moving forward and growing larger

As sales grew early on at Dudley’s Outdoors, he built another 4,000-square-foot building and used the original facility solely for showroom space. To help manage the booming business, he has invested in the Lizzy by nizeX business management system (BMS). The new system will help Dudley to better measure the performance of the dealership’s various departments and staff to make adjustments where needed. He is a big follower of industry consultant Bob Clements, and has implemented many of his teachings in the dealership.

“Just like Bob says, if you can measure it, you can adjust it,” Dudley explains. “We are really in a measuring stage right now and making adjustments as we see they are needed. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, you just need to follow people who have made the wheel more round and more balanced. Bob is one of those people.”

Sales for 2014 are already trending toward another up year for Dudley’s Outdoors. The dealership’s strong performance has led Dudley to consider future facility plans that will make him more accessible to customers in his area. He would like to either expand to a second location on the other side of town, or a new, larger location in the center of town.

“We are here to sell and service lawnmowers,” says Dudley. “We try our best to make that simple for everyone involved.”

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