Taking Care of Business
When Dale and Christy Hughes purchased Lawn Care Equipment Company, their hope was “… to bring a new era of excellence to the outdoor power equipment world.” That was in 2016 and the dealership is making good on its vision. It’s also one of the few outdoor power equipment dealerships in the area that’s owned by a woman.
The dealership originally opened in 1957 and was located in Brentwood, Missouri. But the dealership outgrew the old space so the Hughes’ moved it in 2018 to a new state-of-the-art facility in nearby Webster Groves, Missouri.
Lawn Care Equipment also operates a second store in DeSoto, Missouri. The two locations serve much of the St. Louis area and the majority of Jefferson and St. Francois counties.
Dealing with transition
When a business changes ownership, it’s not unusual to see employees exit the “new” business. Lawn Care Equipment was fortunate key employees were retained and continue with the dealership. Overall, the success of the dealership is also reflected in employee growth.
“Some of our employees have more than 40 years in the industry. They bring their knowledge to their jobs,” said Dale Hughes, vice president of Lawn Care Equipment.
To make certain the “new era of excellence” is maintained, Hughes said technicians and sales associates all receive equipment training via online school and in-person classes provided by the manufacturers.
“It’s all about people,” he said. “None of this would be possible without our employees. When you work together as a team, things go smoothly.”
The rate of transition in the equipment industry is not just about ownership changes, which seems to occur daily, weekly or monthly. Employees are on the move, too, through retirement or job changes. Attracting people to the industry has been challenging.
To make sure Lawn Care Equipment increases its visibility and promotes the industry, the dealership participates in the annual job fair conducted by the State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Missouri. This kind of activity is something more dealers throughout North America are doing to reach career counselors and future employee prospects.
Service is the center of attention
The Webster Groves location at a casual glance doesn’t look like a hub of activity, but it is – and in a big way.
In addition to a parts department and sales center, the dealership’s service area provides technicians with a productive work environment. Work benches are hydraulic scissor-type lifts to give technicians adjustable height options when working on either commercial or residential equipment. The shop is fitted with overhead cranes to lift equipment. It’s also a heated and air-conditioned space to provide comfortable working conditions.
“There’s a camaraderie among the employees, but the actual physical facility also provides a good work environment,” Hughes said.
Best brands available
The equipment lines carried by Lawn Care Equipment are based on overall product quality. The dealership sells and services Mahindra tractors. It also sells and services trailers and a wide variety of power equipment, such as commercial and residential mowers, snowblowers, pressure washers, trimmers, chainsaws, blowers, generators, attachments and hand tools.
“We think they’re the best brands available to our customers,” Hughes said.
About 60% of the dealership’s customer base is comprised of residential customers and 40% is comprised of commercial customers. Hughes said one of the goals is to increase the dealership’s commercial customer base to 50% in the future.
Dealing with the unexpected
Whether you’re in the business of selling potato chips or outdoor power equipment, the pandemic has presented serious challenges. Bottlenecks in the supply chain are chief among them. Hughes said he’s had difficulty obtaining both wholegoods and parts in a timely manner.
Staffing problems also hit Lawn Care Equipment in the early stages of the pandemic. Fortunately, the dealership has hired many qualified employees from within the industry.
Staying the course
Dale and Christy Hughes have been business owners since 1991 and they’ve had to dodge a few potholes along the way. “The pandemic has been just another bump in the road,” Hughes said.
In addition to Lawn Care Equipment, the Hughes’ own Kranz Body Co., a full-line truck equipment distributor in St. Louis.
“We started a business with nothing and survived The Great Recession from 2007 to 2009,” he said. “We had to get through that and we have to get through this. We have no choice.”
It’s no easy task “to bring a new era of excellence to the outdoor power equipment world.” Lawn Care Equipment is determined to do just that.
Lawn Care Equipment Company
Established: 1957, new ownership in December 2016
Locations: Webster Groves, Missouri; DeSoto, Missouri
Owners: Dale and Christy Hughes
Employees: Approximately 40 employees
Major lines: Mahindra, Stihl, Gravely, eXmark, Echo, RedMax, Toro, Honda
Customer Base: residential customers, commercial customers
Keys to Success:
Article Written By Lynn Grooms
Lynn Grooms is an agricultural journalist living in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.