In an intensely competitive market, Zimmerer Kubota has prospered by serving a diverse array of markets and keeping customers as the #1 focus.
A family-owned, multi-store equipment dealership that has become an institution in north Texas came from humble beginnings.
Zimmerer Kubota & Equipment was founded in 1979 near Fort Worth, Texas, in a 10 x 20-foot portable metal building with a floor made of pallets and plywood. Some 35 years later, the company now has 5 locations in and around Fort Worth, which, along with Dallas, anchors a metropolitan area of more than 6 million people.
Zimmerer Kubota has access to varied segments that include rural lifestylers, small farmers, construction companies and government entities. Zimmerer has been a Top 10 national Kubota dealer for more than 25 years and is also a top U.S. dealer of Land Pride equipment. The dealership group eclipsed $30 million in gross equipment sales in 2013, a number that should be met or surpassed for 2014.
Zimmerer Kubota has locations in Fort Worth, Denton, Gainesville, Decatur and Cleburne, Texas. Its orange and teal “ZK” logo can be seen frequently in the countryside, on school properties, corporate terraces and construction lots.
Intense competition is also a reality due to big box stores and equipment dealerships in close proximity selling nearly every major tractor and mower brand.
The dealership stands out by working to be the “best choice” in the market, says dealer principal Sam Zimmerer, who owns 25% of the company. In his view, customers want more than just the cheapest price.
Check out the 4-part Season to Season video series featuring dealer principal Sam Zimmerer that accompanies this story. He discusses the founding and growth of Zimmerer Kubota and how the dealer network differentiates itself from the competition; how to run a top-notch rental department; and Zimmerer Kubota’s long-time association with the Fort Worth Stock and Rodeo Show.
I just say, ‘Look at who we are and how long we’ve been here. Look at my parts department. Look at my computer system. Look at my phone system. Look at my trucks. Look at the rental department,’ ” says Zimmerer, who joined the business in the early 1980s after being laid off from his manufacturing job. “It doesn’t matter to everybody. But to most people, it matters.”
Zimmerer Kubota & Equipment
Founded: 1979, with a 26,000 square-foot main store in Fort Worth, as well as stores in Denton (1989), Gainesville (2011), Decatur (1999) and Cleburne (1986)
Ownership: Brothers Sam and Larry Zimmerer, 25% each; brother Leonard, 50%
Location: Main store near the I-35/820 interchange in Fort Worth. The Denton, Gainesville and Decatur stores are north of the city. The Cleburne store is south of the city.
Lines: Kubota, Land Pride, Rhino, Bush Hog, Scag, Honda, Stihl, Houle, Shindaiwa, Terrain King and Mill Creek
Challenge & Solution: Zimmerer Kubota & Equipment uses comprehensive inventories, aggressive branding and knowledge of diverse markets to thrive in an intensely competitive market.
Zimmerer Kubota’s major brands are Kubota and Land Pride, and the company also carries and services Rhino, Bush Hog, Honda, Stihl, Houle, Shindaiwa, Terrain King and Mill Creek equipment for its varied customer segments.
Depending on the location, Zimmerer’s customers might be a rural lifestyler or small farmer with anywhere from 5-600 acres to thriving construction companies or massive school districts with multiple high schools. Zimmerer Kubota also has a robust rental business for the turf and construction industries.
Zimmerer estimates 40% of the Fort Worth store’s customer base is in construction, with the remaining 60% split among municipal, commercial lawn and turf or rural lifestyle/small farm customers, with the mix changing slightly toward more farmers in rural Gainesville, Decatur and Cleburne.
Each of Zimmerer’s locations has a store manager, as well as managers overseeing the sales, rental, parts and service departments. Each manager handles operational issues within their departments and directs questions about inventory, expenses and similar matters to the controller or office manager at the Fort Worth dealership.
Wholegoods inventory throughout Zimmerer Kubota is organized by a RIMSS computer system that displays equipment available at each store and when that piece of equipment arrived. Zimmerer meets monthly with Kubota and Land Pride representatives and handles most of the wholegoods ordering and management.
Four full-time drivers deliver equipment to customer locations or handle inventory movement between stores. The Fort Worth office also has a “driver’s board” where other dealerships can fax in requests for specific equipment models to balance their inventories or control which equipment is sold first — although if an outlying dealership is out of a model and needs it immediately, they must make a special trip to pick it up.
“These guys all get along pretty well, but there is a little ‘tug-of-war’ sometimes with some stuff, especially if it’s short,” Zimmerer says.
Zimmerer Kubota started in a portable metal building north of Fort Worth, but has grown to a multi-store dealership selling more than $30 million a year.
While Zimmerer Kubota offers a relatively healthy lineup of brands, Kubota and Land Pride form the majority of their business and the equipment lineup is carefully thought out, says Zimmerer. He frequently cites a desire to not become a “supermarket of brands.”
In fact, when Kubota signed Land Pride to a partnership agreement several years ago, Zimmerer’s management protested.
“And now, so many years later, we’ve become one of their largest dealerships in the U.S.,” he says.
The reason Land Pride and Kubota worked well for Zimmerer Kubota, boils down to financing.
“Kubota woke up and said, ‘Why are we financing all these ancillary lines at 0% interest when they don’t butter our bread?’ A customer buys a $10,000 or $15,000 Rhino Batwing mower and a Kubota tractor, and guess what? That Rhino wasn’t 0% too,” Zimmerer says. “Now, if you want 0%, you have to buy the Land Pride or Paladin/Bradco equipment with the Kubota equipment. That changed everything for us and it was financing driven.”
Zimmerer also credits Land Pride for making good equipment, as well as the company’s area representative for taking care of the needs of customers and the dealership.
Bush Hog forms a smaller part of their sales now and Zimmerer is still servicing it, even though most of their success with the line comes through municipal business.
“We have so many customers that already own Bush Hog stuff, and we try to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. I hate to get in and out of any brand. If we’re going to be a dealer for a line, I think we owe you something,” he says.
The job of paring down the list of equipment brands began many years ago. “We could be a dealer for every zero-turn mower known to mankind if we wanted to be, but what good does that do me?” he says. “Yeah, I might sell two of these or one of those. But then my guys don’t know the programs, they don’t know the product, or I can’t keep parts for them, so there’s no fun in that.
“If you knew how many times we get called to be a dealer for somebody, and I say, ‘I’m sorry, I understand, but I really don’t need your zero-turn mower. I’m sure you’ve got a fine product, but we don’t need it.’ ”