Williams Tractor is a diversified dealer organization based in Fayetteville, Ark., with two power sports stores, two locations devoted to row-crop farmers, a construction-only store and their first two dealerships that cater to rural lifestyle customers and livestock producers.
At a time when many large multi-store dealership groups are corporately owned, Williams Tractor is owned by Doug Williams, his brother Dwight Williams and their first cousin, Gary Tollett. The dealership expected to top $140 million in total sales in 2016.
It would be difficult to find a better place in North America other than Northwest Arkansas to locate a rural lifestyle dealership. The rugged hills are scenic, but were not overly blessed with wealth a century ago. Mostly too rough for row-crop farming, the area was home to modest dairies, beef cattle producers and poultry operations. Then the boom hit.
Three companies led the influx of wealth to the area about 45 years ago: J.B. Hunt, Tyson and Walmart. With the world headquarters of all three in a small geographic circle, equipment dealers in the area prospered and among them, at that time, was Williams Ford, located in Fayetteville, Ark. The dealership was owned by Don Williams, Doug’s father, who bought the dealership from an acquaintance in 1973. His sons, Doug and Dwight, joined the operation in 1988 and bought their father out in 2000.
Doug Williams credits much of the dealership’s success to the great location. “Probably not very many areas in the U.S. have been so insulated from the ups and downs of the economy. It’s been up for 25 years, even in the recession that we had in 2007, our ‘down’ was not nearly as down as 95% of the country, so we’re very blessed to be in Arkansas,” Williams says.
Today, Williams Tractor stretches from the hills of the northwest part of the state to the rich agricultural areas in the southern Arkansas delta and into Louisiana.
In 2014, the addition of Gary Tollett fueled expansion. Tollett had divested from a successful group of animal health distributors and was looking for a business to invest in. He brought with him capital and a desire for additional growth. Doug handles the operations side of the business. Dwight manages the Rogers, Ark., stores, and Tollett focuses on financials, along with looking for opportunities to grow and utilize economies of scale.
Expanding the Dealership
The home store offers New Holland, Case IH and Kioti tractors; Bobcat and New Holland construction equipment; Polaris powersports products; Hustler, Big Dog and Bad Boy zero-turn mowers; Woods Equipment; Rhino; Bush Hog; and numerous other short lines. A second location was added in 1990, in Berryville, Ark., catering mostly to the buyers of less than 100 horsepower equipment.
There are two Williams’ stores located side-by-side in Rogers, Ark., a powersports-only Polaris dealership, Freedom Powersports, purchased in 2005, and Bobcat of Northwest Arkansas, built the following year, offering Bobcat and New Holland construction equipment.
A second Freedom dealership was added in Fayetteville in 2015, handling Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM and Kymco. Also, in 2015, the South Ark Equipment stores were added in McGehee, Ark., and Rayville, La. Those locations handle New Holland and Landoll equipment to serve the area’s row-crop farmers.