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.

“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.

Building Relationships

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.

Marketing Together

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,

“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.

Read more about rural lifestyler Kasey Thren and his Complete Deer Management business.