One way Allen Qualls measures success in his independent dealership is with an empty workshop.
“I try my best when somebody buys something from me, I want to give them the information that they need to keep my shop empty so I have nothing to work on.”
Allen, the owner and operator of Outdoor Power Equipment of Troy, Alabama, puts a premium on educating every customer who buys a lawnmower or handheld power equipment from him.
“The reason that I do that is because I see so many times where people make mistakes with a machine they bought and do something wrong that causes it damage or doesn’t give them the performance out of it that it should give them, only because they didn’t know any better,” Allen said.
Allen started his dealership in 1998 when the local motorcycle dealer decided to get out of the lawnmower business and offered it to Allen. “It was just a business opportunity that came available and I jumped on it.”
Outdoor Power Equipment, which caters to mostly residential customers, is a full-service dealership: sales, service, and parts, featuring Toro and Echo brands.
“Before we sell somebody something, we ask them about their application: what do you need out of the mower, tell me about the size yard you’re cutting, what type of grass you have, that kind of thing,” Allen said, “so that we can say, ‘You don’t want that model then because it’s not going to do good in that application, but this one will.’
“Some places will let people walk in the door and buy what is easiest to sell them instead of telling them, ‘No, the lawnmower you want is not what you need.’ Once I know what they’re going to need it for, I can put them in the right model so that they’ll be happy with the purchase.”
Allen wants every customer to be happy, but he also knows how important it is for them to have fun. To Allen, that is the true definition of the joy of mowing. You can make it more fun, Allen believes, depending on the type of machine you have to do the job.
“When you take somebody that has never had a fast zero-turn mower before, you’re taking them off a Volkswagen and putting them on a Ferrari,” Allen said proudly. “Mowing time now becomes play time. A job you have to do is now more pleasurable.”
In the service department, Allen’s philosophy –along with the aforementioned goal is keeping you out of his shop – is that when you do need him, you are not going to get what he calls “parts changers,” but skilled and knowledgeable professional mechanics.
“I will not ever throw parts at your equipment at your expense, hoping to hit the right one because I don’t know which one of them is bad,” Allen said. “We know how to find out which one it is, we find out what the problem is, and we fix that.”
That level of knowledge and professionalism is what separates Allen’s Outdoor Power Equipment from competitors, including big box retailers and gives him an advantage.
“I would never in a million years buy something from a place that can’t work on it. When I’m buying something that I know is going to have to be worked on at some point, has to get warranty work done that comes with it, I don’t have to take it to somebody else out of town.”
Allen says that every day he walks through the door of his independent dealership, his goal is the same: educate customers so they get the most out of their lawnmowers and other power equipment. And when they do need him, they can rely on him and his team.
“I try to try to keep every customer a return customer because we are in a small town and we rely on repeat business. So it’s important to offer them the best thing, the best buy for the money, the best quality, and provide the best service with the most qualified mechanics available.
“I want customers to come back to me because they want to come back to me, not because hey feel that they have to.”