Interview with Ross Harrison of Greencraft Mower on Buying an OPE Dealership
Ross Harrison gained 13 years of experience working in an OPE dealership before he took over his uncle’s business in 2014. Once he became owner of Greencraft Mower, in Cullman, AL, he knew some changes needed to be made.
The first thing Ross did was take a hands-on approach. He knew he wanted to be involved at the dealership handling the day-to-day operations. Secondly he knew that in order for the business to grow and stay organized, they’d have to trade in the pen and paper for a dedicated business management software.
We recently spoke with Ross and discussed what changes he’s made to Greencraft Mower in his first year as owner and what kind of impact technology has had on the business.
You had a busy year! Can you tell me about buying the dealership last year and how it’s progressing?
Ross: “It was a long buyout process. I bought the business from my uncle and that transition took several years for him to phase out and for me to prepare myself to take over. The business is progressing the way we want it to. Now I’m involved in all of the day-to-day operations and am a hands-on owner. We haven’t grown yet to the level we want to be, but it comes in time, not overnight.”
Did you experience much change with your staff after you took ownership?
Ross: “We kept the entire staff. They’ve been with us several years and have been a great group. They knew the ins and outs and fortunately they didn’t fight back with new ownership. Everyone adjusted well with the transition.”
How do you go about marketing the business?
Ross: “We have done a little bit of local advertising. We’re in a small community and we truly believe best advertising in our area is word of mouth. If you treat someone the way you want to be treated and do honest work, you’ll be successful. Do the job right and be honest with the customer.”
What lines do you carry and what do you feel sets your business apart from competing dealers?
Ross: “We carry Gravely, Grasshopper, Stihl, and also carry some generators. I would say our main strength is the size of our business. We only have five employees, so when the customer comes in, we’re able to build a relationship. They aren’t just a number. We obviously want to grow the business, but we don’t want to get to a size to where we don’t have those personal relationships. Customers come in and deal with people who have been working here for years and not everyone can offer what we can.”
When you took over the business, what prompted you to choose Ideal as your business management system?
Ross: “I’d say that more than anything it was my stress level. Everything has gotten to be so computerized and we never had a system prior to Ideal. We did have computers to look up parts and check warranties but nothing that handled day-to-day operations. Now that we’ve implemented Ideal, we’ve been able to keep up with inventory and we can let the system manage our repair orders.
The main reason we chose a computer system was because the business had grown enough to where we outgrew paper. We looked at one other system and to be honest, we chose Ideal for two reasons. Number one was the support that comes behind the system. The second was that our salesperson was very patient. I had talked to him for years before we finally made a decision. The other system we talked to at GIE+ Expo and got the attitude of “here’s our number, call us when you’re ready.” Ideal was patient with us and they have done what they promised.”
How did the training and implementation process go?
Ross: “The training went very well. I was a little nervous because human nature doesn’t like change. I’d say I was even a little scared because I knew it wasn’t long after we got the system that we’d be into our busy season, but it went very well. They did an excellent job of training everyone at the counter so we could transfer that knowledge to the mechanics in the shop.”
What features have you liked best about Ideal?
Ross: “In general, tracking inventory and keeping up with repair orders in the shop. We don’t have an overloaded stock of items that don’t move any more. We found out when we were entering inventory that we had slow moving parts that were costing us money. The main thing is that Ideal has helped us become more profitable by managing inventory and helping us keep our shop more organized. We also like that our repair orders are now done in the order we received them.”
Most dealers have too much to do and not enough time to get everything done. How has Ideal helped manage time more effectively?
Ross: “Once again, I’d say it’s inventory. We never had a good location system for our inventory. It was in numerical order and we dug through boxes to find the right part number. Now we get the part number, Ideal tells us where it’s at and lets us know if it’s in stock. We’ve saved a lot of time that way. With repair orders, we no longer have to dig through a huge stack of orders. Ideal also saves me time on daily check-ups. I don’t have to submit hand-written tickets each day.
I’m also able to print out three reports each day to analyze the business. I look at Sales by Volume, Cash Control, and Sales Tax every day. That saves time and easily lets me know how the business is doing.”
What future goals do you have for your business?
Ross: “I really have one goal and that’s to become more efficient. I don’t like being several weeks behind with repair orders. I think Ideal has already helped us with this and will continue to do so. If it’s a customer who previously had their product here, we just have to click on their name and see their history. It also doesn’t take the mechanic time to figure out what order the units came in.”
What advice would you give to someone that is looking to buy software for their business?
Ross: “When you become a true dealership, I don’t know how you could run a business without software anymore. I don’t know how we went so long without it. Having a system has made my entire business more organized and has also allowed for me personally to have more hands-on time due to the system ‘running’ the day-to-day business side of things. Getting a system is a no-brainer. It will save you time and money.”