Interview with the Turf Team on Going Paperless in Rentals
When it comes to rentals, many OPE dealerships still rely extensively on paper-based processes, even though moving away from them can greatly reduce operating costs and increase team efficiency. Most dealers are aware of this, but they also know that transitioning away from well-established procedures can damage their business, if not handled properly.
That’s why the Turf Team – an OPE dealership founded in 1995 – has made sure that its transition from paper-based processes to full digital automation was not only smooth but profitable.
We interviewed the Turf Team’s IT, web marketing and service professional, Abe Conde, who shares how the dealership’s rental department was able to go digital without making any compromises. Find out their secret to success in our interview below.
Can you tell us about your role and some of your biggest responsibilities at the dealership?
Abe: “I’m the IT guy, web marketer, service writer and “project manager” on the side. Most of my work involves integrating new technologies, managing the rental software portion of Ideal and finding new ways to market.”
What can you tell us about the history of the business and how you became involved?
Abe: “The Turf Team started out as a landscape company in 1995. It added equipment sales around 2004 and implemented the Ideal software in 2008. Before Ideal, everyone here relied mostly on QuickBooks and paper, so there was no easy way of tracking inventory and doing all that stuff. There was no reliable Point of Sale system either. I came on board in 2011.”
Can you tell us about the equipment that you sell and what you do to set yourself apart from the other dealers in your area?
Abe: “We’re kind of a niche market here. We deal primarily in landscape equipment, but we have grown a lot in the compact tractor and construction markets. Our biggest brands include eXmark, Hustler, Stihl, Toro and Kubota – our agriculture and construction brand.”
What can someone who has never been to your dealership expect when they walk in the door?
Abe: “We cater to both commercial and residential customers, and we’re very laid back! My boss’ moto is, ‘We’re a one-stop shop for all your needs.’ If you need equipment for that one-time job, you can always rent ours. And if your equipment is down, we have a service department for repairs and maintenance. We do it all.”
What are some of the methods that you find successful when it comes to retaining customers?
Abe: “We treat everybody like they are our friends. People come here and we spend time with them to chat, even if they are here to just browse or find out about new equipment. If they are working on a project and need advice, we’re here to help them. Our pricing and rates are competitive, but I think our friendly attitude is what keeps them coming back.”
You mentioned that you’ve been using Ideal since 2008. What feature do you think has made the biggest impact on the business?
Abe: “I’m on the service department, I like that Ideal tracks the units we work on and their history. Before that, everything had to be done by paper, but since we’ve made the switch to Ideal, work order history is a lot easier to track.”
How does Ideal help you with inventory management?
Abe: “The biggest time saver is doing parts inventory. We love being able to scan the barcode of any part and automatically enter it into the system. We’ve done it by hand and it was messy! We can enter as many parts as we need – and it’s quick. It used to take us three months to do inventory, but now it takes us only three to five days. It’s very efficient, and it doesn’t need constant Wi-Fi connection either.”
What percentage does rental make of your overall business?
Abe: “It’s a pretty big part, which is why we really needed something to make it more efficient.”
Before you started using Ideal for rentals, what was the process like?
Abe: “Everything was on paper, which made it difficult for us to keep track of our rental units. For instance, if we only had one unit available for rent, and three people were calling for it, we literally had to get up and find the documents that showed if the unit was out on rent, when it was due back and so on.
And when customers came in to rent a unit, we had to make a paper contract for them, which we then had to manually enter into Ideal to create a sales order. With the rental module, all of this can be done on one computer screen.”
What are some of the biggest improvements that Ideal has made?
Abe: “The new rental management page that allows us to manage everything related to rentals in one place. Before, we had this manager tab, which was pretty easy to use, but it didn’t have everything we needed to make our work more efficient. Now, you can take one look and see what’s out and what’s due back – a lot better than what we were doing before.”
What was the process of working with Ideal when these improvements were coming in?
Abe: “We were lucky enough to be the beta-testers, so we were very involved in getting the module developed. We pretty much listed our needs and the Ideal team prioritized them. And they’ve got 90% of what we wanted. So, at this point, it’s a lot of enhancements that we are excited about and waiting for.”
What features of the rental module do you like best and why?
Abe: “I like the fact that you can take the equipment in and out fairly easily. A couple of clicks – and it’s on. I think less is more. Before, I used to call Ideal’s support team and send them the list of equipment that needed to be put in. As accommodating as they were, we wanted to have control over what goes in because there’s a lot of turnover on our equipment. So, Ideal made things simpler for us with this feature.”
What future goals do you have and how will Ideal help you achieve them?
Abe: “At this point, we are in the midst of growing, and we are trying to be more efficient at what we do. We have a system going, but we need tools to make that system a lot more efficient. In terms of rental, our biggest thing is being able to track equipment. We have pre-sets, which is a nice feature in the manager of the rental module – click these pre-sets, and you know where this equipment is and when it is in, as well as how much you are getting for it. It’s really nice.”
Is there one advice you would give to someone looking to grow their business?
Abe: “Yes – get Ideal! You guys have been awesome with us and very accommodating. And the growth you guys have shown is great. Your support team is willing to listen to suggestions and offer exactly what we need to succeed as a company. And these are great things!”
How has Ideal changed your life at this dealership?
Abe: “It made my work seamless. I’ve been here since 2011, having started as a landscape manager. Later on, I became an IT person and then I went into marketing. But no matter what job I had here, I was always working with Ideal. Now as I’m going into service, the transition is going to be even easier, just because everything ties together so well.”