Pictured Above: Fussnecker & Sons, Ripley, Ohio, opened in 2010 and recently added the Massey Ferguson line.
When Dusty Fussnecker started selling used farm equipment as part of his FFA project in high school, he had no idea it would be the start of a successful lawn and garden business. That was just 7 years ago and now Fussnecker & Sons of Ripley, Ohio, is a successful tractor dealership, recently adding the Massey Ferguson line.
Starting the Dealership
Fussnecker traded used tractors throughout high school and chose to pursue it as a career after graduation since there wasn’t room for him in his family’s farming operation. After calling about 50 lawn mower manufacturers, Fussnecker partnered with Ariens in 2010 to become a Gravely dealer, setting up shop on the farm. “They really were a wonderful company to get started with,” he says.
After a successful first year, Fussnecker bought a foreclosed house on 5 acres of land a few miles from his family’s farm. In May of 2011, he moved his business to the house and 2-car garage on the property, which is located at the intersection of highways 62 and 68 in Ripley.
Manufacturers were now taking notice. Grasshopper approached Fussnecker in 2012 and he began carrying the line. Fussnecker says he used the house as an administration office, the living room for the sales office and parts counter and the 2-car garage as a service shop.
Customers weren’t comfortable entering at the front door of the house so Fussnecker knew he had to make some changes as the business grew. “I had one sales rep tell me one day, ‘You know what, you’re not in the funeral home business, son. You need to get out of that house,’” Fussnecker says. So he moved the customer-facing parts of the business from the house to the garage.
Fussnecker started the first of several renovations in 2012 when he turned the service shop into a show room. In 2015, he made an addition to the renovated show room and in 2016, he renovated the office, showroom and shop. He gradually expanded each side of the 2-car garage as the business grew, the latest addition being a 40-foot x 80-foot steel structure attached to the side of the original building. “The original 24-foot x 30-foot portion of the building is nothing but a parts room now,” Fussnecker says. “We now look more like we’re in the business than ever.
“We pretty much started to plateau that business as far as I was concerned. It seemed like we were getting to the point where we were the biggest we were going to get,” Fussnecker says.
Dusty Fussnecker (left) started his business as a lawn and garden dealership. His father, Nick, joined the business with the addition of the Massey Ferguson line.
Expanding the Dealership
To expand his business further and create an opportunity to add his father, Nick, to the operation, Fussnecker says he half-heartedly made an inquiry to Massey Ferguson in the summer of 2016. The inquiry was a successful one and Fussnecker & Sons officially became a Massey dealer in November 2016. “About a few weeks after becoming a dealer, we sold our first tractor and that really boosted the morale for the business,” Fussnecker says.
He says he chose Massey because of the need for someone to carry the line in the area. The previous Massey dealer in the county retired in the 1990s and since then, local farmers have had to drive about 2 hours to reach the nearest dealership.
“It created a void in our area for a dealer. There was a need for a dealer on the parts and service side,” Fussnecker says. He had both production farmers and the rural lifestyle market in mind with the addition of a tractor line. He says his family’s background in production farming and the success of the business as a lawn and garden dealership made them confident they would be able to reach both markets.
“We are in production agriculture — we have a background in it. At the same time, our primary business here has solely been lawn and garden. We’re good at what we do in lawn and garden, so we figured the rural lifestyle customer wasn’t going to be hard for us to gain.”
Fussnecker says the community has responded to the Massey Ferguson name coming back to the area. “The local neighborhood has just been very excited since we’ve put it in. Their response has been very warm to it. They’re happy to see us in. They’re happy to see it back,” he says.
Fussnecker says the biggest challenge in taking on Massey was feeling intimidated. “You always have somebody that’s telling you a horror story,” he says. Three years before making the inquiry with Massey he had one of his own when he did business with another tractor company. “We were with them for about 8 months and the dealer support was nonexistent,” he says. The sales rep he worked with was terminated shortly after he signed on and inventory was sent to him with parts missing.
“It took me 3 years to get confident enough to get back into considering putting a tractor business back in the store,” he says.
Fussnecker & Sons recently completed renovations of the dealership.
Planning for Success
Fussnecker says he has been impressed with Massey and the parent company AGCO. For instance, he says they sent several people to train him and his father on how to use the computer system and order parts. “Our reps have pretty much been just a phone call away,” he says.
Fussnecker consults his father and two sales reps when planning his inventory. He says the sales reps provide insight on products he should and should not add to his inventory. “They’ve been very honest with us,” he says. The Massey Ferguson reps have also put Fussnecker in touch with other established Massey Ferguson dealers, who have offered advice.
He and his father run all aspects of the dealership and Fussnecker says they are resourceful enough to get by until they can hire employees. Nick focuses on service and they are looking for a full-time mechanic this year. “I used to be a ‘one-man band here,’ so I’ve worked everything in this store. And, I still try to keep myself very familiar with everything,” he says.
Fussnecker says he is working to understand the competition. His dealership is 6 miles from a well-established John Deere dealership and another mile down the road is a Case IH/Kubota dealership. Fussnecker says those larger dealerships may lose the personal touch with customers and that could mean customers will turn to his dealership.
His main priority this year is promoting that he’s carrying the Massey Ferguson line and he plans to build his marketing strategy around that message. He also wants to find people that will be an asset to the company and promote a positive culture in the store. “I want employees to be proud they work for me. I want them to be happy to be here,” Fussnecker says.