Pictured Above: Kasey Thren of Clare, Mich., owns Complete Deer Management, a consulting company for wildlife land management. Photo Courtesy of Kasey Thren
Kasey Thren of Clare, Mich., transitioned from landscaping for people to landscaping for wildlife when he started his deer management business in 2012.
“I fell into this profession of quality deer management because it was a calling to me. I love hunting deer and it has always been a staple in my life,” says Thren, who has certifications in deer management, land management and wildlife/forestry conservation. He blogs and produces videos about his projects and posts them on his company’s website, www.CompleteDeer.tv.
Thren belongs to a huge group of outdoors enthusiasts. More than 11.5 million people, 5% of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting in the past year according to the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The Quality Deer Management Assn., founded in 1988, now has more than 60,000 members in all 50 states.
He recently upgraded his deer management equipment after researching multiple brands and relying in part on user testimonials. Thren is now willing to share his own testimonials, even attending trade shows with Gene’s Power Equipment to talk about the equipment he purchased from them.
“We have an interesting relationship, built on mutual trust and respect. Besides the Yanmar tractor being a good fit for him, I really wanted to work with him. With his business, he is in the position to be quite visible and I wanted him to be driving a Yanmar tractor,” says Greg Robinson, owner of Gene’s Power Equipment. (See the sidebar, “Gene’s Power Equipment: Growing Through Loyalty”.)
Building a New Business
Clare, Mich., is in snow country — receiving 41 inches of snow on average compared to the U.S. average of 26 inches. Snow removal was part of his business along with mowing and landscaping. For more than 15 years, Thren relied on his Kubota L3710HST that he bought used from an individual. “It was a little underpowered for what I was doing with it and I had put at least 2,500 hours on it. It ran great, but it was wearing out and repairs were starting to add up. With this land management and hunting property management business, the Kubota didn’t have enough horsepower for what I needed,” says Thren.
Thren had been installing food plots on his own 20-acre property and for others before launching his business in 2012. He knew for some time that he needed to upgrade his tractor. “Nothing against the Kubota, but it was overworked, so the search was always on for a different tractor. I have a Kubota dealer 6 miles to the west and a Yanmar dealer 6 miles to the east and, within my home range, I also have John Deere and New Holland dealers. I did extensive research on all the compacts and I already knew a little bit about Yanmar. The new Yanmar YT series had what I needed,” he says.
- Be ready for those customers who want to know as much about your dealership as the equipment they are interested in purchasing.
- Take time to learn about niche businesses to uncover a customer’s equipment needs and special requirements.
- Find ways to partner with customers who are active on social media or who promote their own businesses by highlighting the equipment they use.
In the fall of 2016, Thren purchased a YT347 Yanmar compact tractor, with 46 horsepower and integrated hydraulic mechanical transmission (i-HMT) technology. “I haul the tractor behind my truck all summer long, so weight was a concern, but I needed more horsepower to better operate the implements.
I was a little skeptical about jumping up by 10 horsepower, but its range and lift capacity would allow me to do all the stuff I wanted to do,” he says.
One feature Thren did not want was a hydrostatic transmission. With his older model Kubota, he needed to keep pressure on the foot control while operating for up 4 hours at a time, which could be very tiring. The new designs have changed, but Thren still wanted a mechanical transmission. “I need a lot of low-end torque, like when the tractor is close to getting stuck. The throttle was always on a constant RPM and I like the tractor to idle down when I stop. The new i-HMT transmission was very intriguing, offering the convenience of a hydrostatic along with the efficiency of a shuttle shift. I thought it might be confusing to get the hang of and I wondered if I was going to use all the options, but all my skepticism went away,” Thren says.
Kasey Thren (right) works with Greg Robinson (left), owner of Gene’s Power Equipment of Coleman, Mich., to purchase equipment for his land management business, including a Yanmar YT347 compact tractor and Yanmar YFS60 food plot seeder. Photo Courtesy of: Lauren Manderbach
Another factor that influenced his decision was speaking to another Yanmar tractor owner, a reference that the dealership provided. “He told me he has bought 3 Yanmar tractors and he loves them. I have now offered to do the same thing for the dealership. I told Greg that if anyone wants to test out a tractor, they can come over and hop in the seat and drive around,” Thren says.
A Full Range of Tools
Thren travels up to 60 miles to install food plots. The goal is to provide wildlife with nutrition that supplements native vegetation. He uses his equipment to mow over tall grass and young trees, plant and fertilize crops, repair the soil, clear paths and other projects. “It takes 3-5 years to get a food plot established for longevity. It takes a commitment to do something like that,” Thren says.
Thren added a Yanmar YFS60 food plot seeder that he also purchased from Gene’s Power Equipment. He uses the seeder for planting soybeans, buckwheat, brassica, wheat, kale, oats and rye.
“You have to instill a sense of trust…” — Kasey Thren
Thren has acquired other equipment either through buying from individuals, at auctions or from farm stores. His lineup includes a Del Morino roto-tiller; Land Pride 60-inch back blade; Tartar Cyclone fertilizer spreader; Husqvarna chainsaw and backpack blower; STIHL chainsaw and trimmers; SMV 3-point boom sprayer; an older model rotary cutter and a home-built box blade; as well as a variety of hand saws and pruning saws. He’s researching adding ECHO outdoor power equipment to replace some of his older hand-held equipment.
Gene Robinson (right) founded the company in 1974. It went through several changes before becoming Gene’s Power Equipment. Gene’s son, Greg (left), took over ownership of the dealership in 2001. Photo Courtesy of: Lauren Manderbach
The building that houses Gene’s Power Equipment of Coleman, Mich., is a nod to its legacy as an International Harvester (IH) dealership. It is a prototype IH facility built after WWII. It features a multi-paned, roof-to-ground glass front and a tall brick structure displaying the manufacturer logo and dealership name.
Today, the dealership, which was purchased by Gene Robinson in 1974, serves the rural equipment sector in its small town of 1,200 people and surrounding area. They carry Yanmar, Cub Cadet, Exmark and Woods Equipment.
Gene’s Power Equipment
Founded: Gene Robinson founded the business in 1974 and his son, Greg, took over ownership in 2001.
Location: Coleman, Mich.
Lines: Yanmar, Cub Cadet, Exmark and Woods Equipment
Business System: Aspen by Charter Software
“We’re sentimental about the building,” says Greg Robinson, Gene’s son who took over ownership in 2001. “The area has changed from a farming to a bedroom community. No one would build a new dealership where we are and make a go of it, but people know to come to us for lawn and garden equipment.”
Making the Transition
The dealership’s transition from ag equipment to rural equipment included about 10 years as a light truck sales and service center. Greg had earned his marketing degree in 1982 and felt it was time for the dealership, then called Gene’s Truck Sales, to make a change. “I told my dad, ‘I have this marketing degree. Let’s do something with it. We hung on to Cub Cadet, which had been part of IH and was purchased by MTD. We grew with Cub Cadet and were loyal to them. We saw each other through some hard times. We were reinventing ourselves with them. As Cub Cadet got into compact tractors, zero-turns and utility vehicles, it provided opportunities for us,” Greg says. The dealership added Yanmar compact tractors in 2007 through MTD’s partnership with Yanmar.
The dealership has also been a Woods Equipment dealer for more than 20 years and added the Exmark line 3 years ago to expand its commercial mower offerings.
Testimonials from Yanmar tractor customers help the dealership earn business. For instance, Kasey Thren of Clare, Mich., was looking for a tractor for his deer management business and had specific needs related to power, weight and operation. He was especially interested in the technology behind the YT347 Yanmar compact tractor.
Greg says the integrated hydro mechanical transmission (i-HMT) is a technology used on some higher horsepower tractors that Yanmar has brought down to its compact lineup. “Hydrostatic transmissions are generally only about 75% efficient compared to gear driven. The i-HMT is as convenient to use as a hydrostatic, but is 90% efficient, providing way more power to the wheels, with no clutching. This technology uses an ECU and it’s worked flawlessly for us,” Greg says.
“Kasey made 5 or 6 long visits to the store and it was as much about learning about us as about the tractors. He asked about how we take care of our customers and he was concerned about who he might work with next. He wanted it to be a good long-term relationship as opposed to just buying equipment.
Thren also purchased a Yanmar YFS60 food plot seeder from Gene’s Power Equipment. He had been researching others when Greg found him a demo unit and offered it at an affordable price.
The relationship has expanded into a promotional arrangement. Greg knew about Thren’s educational videos and encouraged him to produce a new video with his Yanmar tractor. Check out Thren’s video testimonial, www.completedeer.tv/tools-we-use.html.
“I made it part of the tractor deal. That was how we got started and since then we have hired him to work a farm show for us. He was also at a deer plot event hosted by a local sporting goods store where we displayed our tractors. Who better to talk about the tractors than someone who uses them?” Greg asks.
A skid steer is next on his list of equipment he would like to purchase, along with a forestry mulcher and grapple. “Then, I can expand my business and take on some forestry work and projects like clearing land for houses,” he says.
Thren is willing to share advice on food plots and operating rural equipment through his website, videos and trade shows. He has used this outreach to promote the products he uses as well as Gene’s Power Equipment.
Kasey Thren consults with landowners regarding establishing wildlife food plots and other land management projects. His Yanmar YT347 compact tractor, Yanmar YFS60 food plot seeder and Tartar Cyclone fertilizer spreader are key pieces of equipment. Photo Courtesy of Kasey Thren
He continues to visit the dealership occasionally to check on new equipment, ask questions about things like sprayer calibration as well as maintenance. “I can do my own maintenance, but it’s reasonable to drop off my tractor and have them change the oil. I have also had them install auxiliary rear lights and do maintenance on my trailer,” he says.
What advice would Thren give to dealers selling rural equipment? “Keep your word and be as honest as possible. Don’t say you’re going to do something if there’s a chance you might not be able to do it.
“As dealerships get larger, there are multiple owners and multiple salespeople and it can be hard to build relationships, but you have to instill a sense of trust. If you say you will call back with some information, call back, even if you don’t have the information. That’s big to me. And, have a list of customers that are willing to talk about their equipment and your dealership,” Thren says.