PrairieCoast Equipment is Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s 2015 Dealership of the Year in the multi-store category. The team at the Kamloops, B.C., location includes, from left to right: Doug Teeple, Wayde Marshman, Russ Platt, Tyler Goss, Derek Boe, Jarrett Price, Emil Peters, Devin Gooch, Dennis Landis, Ryan Johnson, Drayden Moore, Frank Holt, Ryan Preece, Dominic Berger, Terry Tosh, Sierra Brugger and Karla Nevins.

PrairieCoast Equipment began in 2009 with the merger of 4 John Deere dealerships in Alberta and British Columbia. The dealership opened a new rural lifestyle store in Kamloops, B.C., in 2013, bringing new awareness to an area it had served for more than 40 years.

PrairieCoast, now comprised of 8 locations, receives the 2015 Rural Lifestyle Dealer Dealership of the Year award for multi-store dealerships, based on its performance, innovation and more. The Kamloops location has the largest territory in the dealership group, stretching from Prince Rupert on the west to Kelowna on the east and covering nearly 890 miles (1,400 kilometers).

Building a Dealership

Dennis Landis, PrairieCoast chief executive officer, and his family owned Peace Farm Power, one of the 4 dealerships that now makes up PrairieCoast Equipment. The other dealerships were Friesen Equipment, Greenway Equipment and Greenline Equipment. He explains the reasons behind the consolidation: “We were a single store for 30 years and we were very successful as a small family business. But then to get to the next level, we went to a second store, a third store, a fourth store and continued like that for 10 years. John Deere was pushing for larger volume dealers and there are a lot of gains in that,” Landis says. (Related Video: Evolving from a Family-Based Business)

However, he says the consolidation also brought about concerns, especially related to serving the different markets over the large territory. The realities of limited opportunities to expand ultimately led to the decision to merge. “John Deere approached us to spearhead the expansion. And it probably took a year of us being approached by John Deere to say, ‘Yes, that probably could work.’ We put all four ownership groups under one roof and we did it in one day and everyone came in as partners — and some of us had never even met,” Landis says.

What the judges say …

“PrairieCoast Equipment is an 8-store dealership with an extremely high revenue number for a rural lifestyle dealer …

Their return on assets was very impressive at 9.93% ...

Their market penetration was very strong at 51.9% ...

Their growth over the last 3 years was excellent with a total of 35% …

They have a solid community involvement program.”

Two of the ownership groups have since been bought out. “Part of the merger was a succession plan for them as well,” he says.

Focusing on the Market

The Kamloops store is primarily driven by the cattle business, hobby farms and smaller acreages. “The average rancher here would have anywhere from 60-200 head in a cow-calf operation. The last few years the cattle prices have increased so we’re seeing growth in that area,” says Ryan Johnson, regional manager, who oversees the Kamloops store.

“We’re seeing more and more people coming from the major centers, such as Vancouver, looking for smaller acreages to retire to or to lead the hobby farm life. And there’s been a big push in the last few years for homegrown food,” he says.

PrairieCoast Equipment

Founded: 2009

Locations: 8

Employees:  265

Major Line: John Deere Shortlines: Brandt, Stihl, Degelman

2014 Revenue: $186 Million ($144,075,605 wholegoods; $27,255,256 parts; $13,278,228 service; and $1,513,115 agriculture management solutions (precision ag))

3-Year Sales Growth Figures: 2012: $161,024,629 2013: $180,543,233 2014: $186,092,204

2014 Return on Assets: 9.93%

Awards: Named to Canada’s Best Managed Companies in 2013 and 2014; John Deere Aftermarket Achievers awards in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; John Deere’s Number 1 Tractor Dealer in Canada in 2011; John Deere Manager’s club winner in 2013 and 2014

The wide territory offers the biggest challenge as well as opportunities for growth. “We have to go about our business with a total team approach. Due to our geographical challenges, it’s a must that we are able to lean on each other,” Johnson says. (Related Video: Growing the Service Business with Remote Service Techs)

Starting New

Kamloops is a city of about 85,000 that is located in what is known as the interior of British Columbia. The new store at 30,000 square feet is double the size of the old store. It’s also located right on Trans-Canada Highway 1, the main highway that crosses Canada, while the previous store was tucked away in an industrial park. The service department is about 15,000 square feet; the parts warehouse is 8,000 square feet; and the showroom is about 4,000 square feet. There is also a second floor that has a breakroom and extra storage and a mezzanine provides an open atmosphere.

“We grew out of our location and wanted to create more of a destination store. For example, in our showroom, you’ll see a lot of toy displays and clothing displays. We never had that at our previous location. We opened at Christmas time and we were all just astounded at how many people were just coming in to buy toys,” Johnson says.

Landis says the dealership has built 4 new stores in the last 8 years, all customized for each location and customer base. The new building in Kamloops provides other advantages. “It’s not just size. It’s also the efficiency of the layout of the building as well. If a building was 40 years old, it probably was added onto 4 or 5 times and each time you end up with a hallway or dead space,” Landis says.

The Kamloops store rotates the equipment it features in the store and on the front lawn. Smaller equipment, such as lawn tractors and small attachments, are located outside, under the store canopy. Larger tractors are located in a lot beside the store and can be viewed as customers drive in.

Dealer Takeaways

  • Expand your thinking about the future of your dealership. How can your dealership double in size or revenue — and then double again?
  • Consider basing technicians in the field to better serve a large area or to provide more convenient service to your customers.
  • Evaluate your employee rewards programs. Consider ways for your employees to have a larger stake in the future of your dealership.
  • Carefully choose the leaders of your family dealership. The best leader may be someone other than a family member.

“What we noticed when we opened this location is how many non-typical farmer-type customers would come in that didn’t even realize there was a John Deere dealership in Kamloops even though we had been here for 40 years,” Johnson says.

Working Together

The Kamloops team includes two ag sales people, one turf sales person, a parts manager and four parts staff, a service manager, service writer and 10-16 service technicians, depending on the season.

Numbers and experience help direct the dealership’s sales strategies, with Johnson doing regular updates to see what might need to be changed. He says market share and customer satisfaction are key indicators for him. “We get our annual unit budgets from John Deere in November based on market share. Those numbers get broken down between the regional managers based on what stores we feel can achieve the budget and based on where we finished our previous year. That would then get trimmed down individually to each salesperson. That obviously gets tied in with each store’s annual budget based on unit projections and previous year’s history and what we feel the market’s going to do in the coming year,” Johnson says.

He then checks the store’s performance each quarter, checking gains in market share. “July 2014 might not be the same as July 2015 depending on the weather, so generally, quarterly results give us a better idea of where we sit year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter,” he says. (Related Video: Interfacing with the Team and Ensuring Accountability)

Johnson meets weekly with his sales team and monthly with his department managers. He also checks in with customers for their views on how the sales team is doing. “I try to be as involved with the customers as I can. I ask them questions like ‘When was the last time you had one of our sales reps at your farm?’” Johnson says.

They work with John Deere to send regular surveys to customers where they are rated from 1-10 on the entire experience. A rating of 9 or 10 is passing and everything else is a fail. Johnson says the Kamloops location regularly hits the 10 rating.