Ranchland Tractor & ATV in Saucier, Miss., has conducted a remarkable turnaround, culminating with earning Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s Dealership of the Year in the single-store category. In less than 8 years, David Holman, a new owner from outside the farm equipment business, conquered the monumental challenge of a complete culture overhaul in an older, established dealership.

Improvements made to the store’s appearance were a first step in building sales. They had asphalt laid around the facility to minimize dust blowing into buildings and to maintain the appearance of new equipment. LED lighting was added in the showroom and shop, as well as outside, to illuminate the business at night.

Holman’s financing experience was valuable in attracting new customers. “We have built relationships with secondary funding sources and finance companies. You can’t misstate income or things like that because once they find out, they won’t trust or deal with you anymore. It’s also important to take care of your finance companies, especially when customers default. Don’t be as concerned about making money for your dealership as much as preserving the lender relationship because it’s way more important than one deal,” he says. 

Increasing tractor sales continues to be critical, especially since margins are trending lower. “It doesn’t do any good to sell at a low margin to customers hours away from your dealership. You won’t make any money by the time you’ve delivered it and spent time with the customer. I want my population of equipment to be within 30-50 miles of this store. Those people will come back for parts and service. As we focus on the absorption rate, the only thing that will get the rate higher is for the equipment to be locally sold,” he says.

Holman says a bright spot of sales is mowers. They have improved from selling 50 zero-turn mowers a year to closer to 200. The mowing season is long, close to 8-10 months out of the year, and many customers mow twice a week.

Powersports are not as profitable, however, in terms of wholegoods sales. They focus now on related areas to improve margins, such as accessories, F&I (finance and insurance) products and extended warranties. Holman realized the dealership was doing customers a disservice by not selling accessories. “Why would someone buy a side-by-side without a roof? The sun is going to bake them or they will get wet from the rain. Having accessories mounted on the units is the way to make margins on powersports,” he says.