Two small, independent businesses recently became compact and utility equipment (CUE) dealers for Massey Ferguson, a global brand of AGCO Corp. The opportunity to take on a well-known brand doesn’t always come along for small, independent business owners, particularly those wanting to start a new business. But when the chance came along, the businesses in Alabama and Arkansas signed on.
Local, start-up business capitalizes on opportunity
Grass Roots Equipment and Outdoors, Batesville, Ark., opened its doors for the first time in December 2017 as a start-up Massey Ferguson dealership. Bill Miller, co-owner, is not new to the equipment business. He spent more than 11 years managing operations at a 25-year-old family-owned dealership that closed.
After being contacted by AGCO about selling compact equipment and offering parts and service, Miller saw the benefit in a well-known brand with a reputation for high quality. He bought and remodeled a building and opened the new dealership. “I was fortunate that AGCO was willing to take a chance on a start-up business,” says Miller. “We’re excited about this opportunity, and we’ve already heard from members of the community they’ll be coming here for parts and service for the Massey Ferguson equipment they already own.”
How does Miller plan to compete with larger, more established dealerships in the area? He says it boils down to customer service and being small and nimble when it comes to making decisions. Miller hired four former co-workers who share his mindset to staff the new dealership. He is originally from the area and knows many of his customer base.
“We treat our customers like family because that’s what they are to us,” says Miller. “This isn’t just a job for me or my employees, it’s our passion. We take it personally to make sure we sell the right piece of equipment to match the customers’ goals. In the end, people buy from people and that’s what will help us stand apart from our competition.” The support he receives from AGCO aligns well with his business philosophy.
Miller continues, “What’s amazing to me is how responsive a company of this size is when we have product, finance and system questions. It doesn’t take two to three days for AGCO to get back to us, it’s usually within the hour. It’s refreshing that they have the same old school desire that we have to take care of customers.”
Miller even takes ‘going the extra mile’ further. For example, he loaned a mower to a man whose mower was being repaired elsewhere. “He had mowing to get done. Neither the original dealer nor the repair shop he used provided loaners,” says Miller. “He stopped by our place and asked what we do in these situations. We always try to go the extra mile, so I gave him a loaner. It’s actions like these that ultimately turn people into loyal customers.”
Another business advantage Miller has gained is the ability to quickly provide equipment quotes to customers. “We used AGCO’s system the other day and were able to provide the customer with a price quote within 30 minutes,” says Miller. “Another customer commented that we were the only dealer that responded within 24 hours on a price quote. When customers are considering a purchase, they want pricing information right away. With AGCO, we can deliver that.”
Expanding from trucks to tractors
When Eric Benson, general manager of Long-Lewis Truck and Tractor in Bessemer, Ala., decided to add compact tractors to complement the heavy-duty trucks he sells to the vocation, construction and off-road industries, he chose Massey Ferguson.
“Entering a completely new venture, I wanted to go with a brand that had high name recognition and a tradition of quality,” says Benson. “Massey Ferguson fit the bill.” Why tractors?
“I grew up around tractors and was sort of nostalgic about farmers working the ground,” says Benson. “I thought our customers would be interested in compact tractors for personal use and since they are familiar with our service and knowledgeable people, they would buy from us,” says Benson. “Tractors would be a quick start up since we had the service shop and technicians in place.”
Benson says his intuition was right, and they sold eight tractors in the first 45 days. “Traffic has been good, and while I’ll always say sales could be better, I am pleased how fast we got into the market and the success we’ve had with Massey Ferguson.”
Benson adds it’s been a good experience working with AGCO. “There’s a lot of support for the Massey Ferguson brand in the area and from AGCO,” says Benson. “If we have questions, our AGCO contacts always get back to us right away. It’s not like you get set up as a dealer and then you’re on your own to figure things out.”
Benson plans on building upon the initial success with Massey Ferguson by focusing on the quality of the product and going beyond customers’ expectations for service. “Every customer expects good service, so we have to do things that set us apart from competitors,” says Benson. “I take to heart the advice given in the book titled Raving Fans. It’s a must read for any business.”
Doing a lot of little things adds up when it comes to providing superior customer service, notes Benson. “The first compact tractor we sold was delivered on a Wednesday and the customer was giddy,” says Benson. “We got a call late Saturday afternoon that while operating the tractor the hydraulic fluid started leaking. My technician and I made an on-site call and fixed it, so he could continue working that weekend. It was a little extra effort to make the call, but this customer has already sent me three referrals.”
Long-Lewis Truck and Tractor is a subsidiary of Long-Lewis Inc., founded as a hardware business about 130 years ago that moved into automobile sales in 1907 as the first Ford dealership in Alabama. Today, it is the oldest Ford dealership in the state and has won more president’s awards than any other Ford dealership in the state. “Long Lewis is synonymous with Ford and superior customer service,” says Benson. “I plan to build our Massey Ferguson business so Long-Lewis becomes synonymous with superior service and the Massey Ferguson brand.”
New dealers benefit from Massey Ferguson’s comprehensive and competitively priced product lineup, along with AGCO’s strong offering of dealer support tools, including parts sales; product service; sales and marketing materials; assistance with inventory management and ordering; distribution management; dealer systems support; staff training; and financing through AGCO Finance. Onboarding takes as little as 30 to 90 days, depending on the dealership’s preference. Each of these new dealerships also receive ongoing, on-site support from a business development specialist, a new role created within AGCO specifically to support new compact and utility equipment dealers.