Interview with Rylee’s Ace Hardware on Boosting Power Equipment Shop Sales by 40%
Adding a new business branch and making sure it succeeds is never easy, yet Rylee’s Ace Hardware store chain – currently owned by Todd and Lori Terpstra – has pulled it off gracefully.
Once Rylee’s Ace Hardware began to fill its showrooms with outdoor power equipment that eventually needed to be maintained and repaired, the owners decided that their small “fix-it” shop – which has always co-existed with their three hardware locations – needed to be more effective at generating revenue. In just one year, they were able to increase their sales at the shop by 40% per year.
How did they pull it off? We recently had the chance to sit down with Lori Terpstra and ask her about this ourselves. Check out what she had to say in our interview with her below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business and your role within it?
Lori: “I own and oversee three Ace Hardware stores in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we’re starting to sell more and more power equipment – alongside our hardware. In addition, I’ve also always had a shop, but it’s been such a small portion of my business that it was never quite on the same level as our hardware stores in terms of overall effectiveness.
However, as more and more of the power equipment we sell began to come back to us in the form of repairs, maintenance and tune-ups, I quickly realized that I needed to run my shop the same way I run my Ace Hardware stores. It’s now integral to our business.”
What would you say makes your business so successful?
Lori: “I attribute the success of my company to its longevity and the hard work we do every single day, trying to please the customers and do the best we can.”
When did you implement Ideal, and what was the reason for doing so?
Lori: “We implemented Ideal over 10 years ago. When we first looked at it, we loved it right away – back when it was still a DOS-based system.
However, we couldn’t make full use of it at the time because our engine shop was still a very small part of our business. So, we just used it intermittently, relying on some of its most basic features, like tracking the repairs. But, recently, we’ve decided to dive into it full force and start using all the features that can really make us money.”
How does Ideal help you address some of your biggest challenges?
Lori: “Once I started to really get into the software last year, I was able to fully realize what was taking place in my small engine shop and why we were not making money. We learned that there were a lot of areas we weren’t tracking or updating regularly, such as margins on parts, price lists, mechanics’ output and so on.
So, with Ideal, I was able to see where exactly we were losing money. It’s really unfortunate that we’ve missed all those areas, but I’m dedicated going forward.”
How does Ideal compare to what you had before?
Lori: “I didn’t have anything before in the shop, but I do have a really robust, expensive system in my hardware stores, and Ideal is really comparable since both of them have a lot of the same features and functions. That’s why I got comfortable with Ideal very quickly – I understand the thought process behind the software and what makes each portion important.”
What’s your favorite functionality of Ideal?
Lori: “It’s very hard to say which is my favorite because there are so many of them.
If I had to pick one though, I’d say it would be the ability to track the recovery rates for the mechanics since it allows me to actually see which mechanic is doing their best and brings in the most money.
In just one year, we were able to raise sales by over 40 percent per month – and we’re just getting started!”
What was the implementation process like for you?
Lori: “We had one of Ideal’s employees come to us recently to give us a review on the system and get all the major portions of it redone, so that it would align with our new direction and expectations for the shop.
After that, I started meeting with my techs and other employees every week to explain to them step by step what’s important. We would then implement that, give it some time to work and move on to the next important area or problem.
Overall, the implementation was pretty easy – because the basics of the system were very easy to learn. Of course, there are still many things I don’t know about the system due to its complexity, and I think, three years from now, I’ll still be discovering new features – which is a good thing.”
What was your experience with Ideal’s support team?
Lori: “My experience with the support team was phenomenal. The person that did the implementation was great. I actually got them to stay one more day because I didn’t want to let them go – and they did just that.
But, the phone calls or the tech support over the Internet is top-notch. It’s what I would expect from any high-quality software.”
What’s your favorite Ideal module?
Lori: “The module I like the best is Inventory. Since we had a lot of old, obsolete inventory, I needed to dig into it one manufacturer at a time. So, running the inventory reports in Ideal allowed me to see where my money was being wasted.
I was then able to get rid of a lot of the obsolete, slow-moving items by selling them to second-hand users and redo my shop with the LISTA bins that I stocked with the things I could sell over the counter, similarly to an automotive shop.
To be specific, I took the old cardboard bins with the numbers on them, transferred them to the LISTA bins, with the location coded and everything and then set up my minimum and maximum ordering levels. Now, I only order the parts that actually sell, versus having my mechanic be in charge of my inventory – my computer is, and it’s just wonderful.”
What are your thoughts on the training Ideal provides?
Lori: “I think Ideal provides excellent training. I don’t believe there is any substitute for someone coming to you in person and maybe even doing a tune-up now and then to upgrade some of the features that we’re using. I will probably have someone come back when I have a list of additional things I want to accomplish.
I also can’t wait for the Ideal Mobile App and some of the other things that Ideal is offering.”
How has Ideal changed your life as an owner?
Lori: “Ideal has changed my life as an owner by giving me a lot more control over my shop. I am not a mechanic and I’m not a tech. I run my hardware businesses, and now I can run Ideal similarly to the way I run my hardware businesses.
Thanks to Ideal, I can see how every aspect of my business is doing right from my office – without having to go back to the shop. This sense of control and measurement is invaluable.”