What comes to mind when you read this sentence: “Sometimes the idea for a small business comes from a bad experience, such as paying too much for something and thinking there must be a better way to get the product or service.”
Are you thinking big box store vs. independent equipment dealer? Not so in this case. It’s from a news story about a new business in Wisconsin called The Mobile Repair Guys that started when a customer became frustrated over a repair. The customer saw a need and opportunity and set up shop in a mobile trailer. He travels to customers’ homes to service mowers, snow blowers and generators.
In terms of box stores, rural lifestyle dealers have the advantage of being smaller and more independent, but this is an example of a new layer of competition that is smaller and more independent — and franchising across the U.S.
I asked several members of our editorial advisory board what they thought of this kind of competition. Gene Saville of Lamb & Webster, a Case IH, Kubota and New Holland dealership in Springville, N.Y., says, “In our area, I wish we had more. There is always more service work than can be done, especially in the spring rush.” He says the cost of pick-up and delivery added on to the maintenance charge is often more than homeowners or rural lifestylers want to spend.
Rick Bailes of Bill’s Tractor, a Mahindra, New Holland, Gravely and Hustler dealership in San Antonio, Texas, says, “I think if it was a reputable, growing company that presented itself in a professional way, it would be cause for some concern. On the other hand, you may be able to sell them some parts.” He says partnering further, such as by subcontracting jobs, is risky. “We don’t subcontract out whole jobs because it’s hard to hang your name on something you don’t have full control over,” Bailes says.
Chris Frodel of Mid-State Equipment, a John Deere dealership in Janesville, Wis., and our 2012 Dealership of the Year, has a front-row seat as this mobile repair business is in their trade area and competes with their own mobile repair business. “I do see them as a competitor, however, I think there is a place for both of us,” Frodel says. She shares these important side benefits: Mid-State sells the mobile repair business some parts and it frees them up to focus on their rural lifestyle and commercial segments.
It comes down to knowing your niche — the strengths, products and services that make you different. Then, it’s not about who qualifies as a customer or not, where the next competitor is coming from or what lines you do or don’t carry. It’s about uncovering whoever needs what you do best.