Corey Ingle knew better.
As manager of a struggling lawn and garden business, Corey had begun to wonder about his future. For ten years, he saw what worked and what didn’t and how he might put that first-hand knowledge into his own independent dealership.
“There were so many things that I was prepared to do differently,” Corey said. “How to work with people, how to be present in the business. It’s hard to run it and not be present.”
Along with his business partner Steve Newsom, Corey scouted out a perfect location in the heart of Winston-Salem, N.C., to sell and service outdoor power equipment. And in April 2006, Forsyth Mower Works was born from scratch.
“A lot of my customers found out where I was at and came with us,” Corey said. “Knowing the customers for such a long time, building those relationships and sticking to my word, people knew me and knew what I stood for,” Corey said about starting a business from the ground up.
Corey called it “a roll of the dice.” It didn’t take long for a payoff.
“Within six months of opening, we had already done more in sales than I had ever done at the other dealership. It exploded almost overnight.” Why?
“I’d like to think that it was me, but I think the area needed something new and fresh.” With one used truck, a couple of part-time employees and a large parking lot that was easy for trailers to get in and out of, Corey and Steve built and expanded the business. They now have nine full-time employees and are looking to add to their workforce.
Forsyth Mower Works features the latest models in name brand tractors, lawn mowers, and other power equipment including BOB-CAT, Honda, Cub Cadet, Stihl, and many others.
It also runs Parts and Service departments with a showroom feel.
“If you wanted to send your wife and kids in here to get something, we wanted to make it inviting,” Corey said. “It’s not a rough, dark, dingy lawnmower shop or mechanic shop. It’s a clean and bright atmosphere and there’s nothing like it in our area.”
There’s another payoff for Corey: seeing the joy his customers have when they know they have the right equipment to mow their grass and make their landscaping beautiful.
“If it’s anything like me, if you work a busy workday, your phone’s ringing off the hook, if I can go do something like mowing, where I don’t have to have my phone on and you can kinda escape from all that stuff…
“My neighbor, he mows his yard 3-4 times a week—it’s insane,” Corey said. “We get to talking and he says that’s the only time he’s got time to himself…being outside. He enjoys it.”
Over the years, Corey has seen a transformation in his diverse customer base. When he first started out, most of his clients were commercial landscapers, but there are now more and more residential homeowners working on their own lawns.
“The consumer is buying the high-end machines,” Corey noticed. “Before, it would be hard-pressed for a consumer to buy a $10,000 lawnmower. Nowadays, they aren’t thinking twice about it.”
As new product lines come on the market, Corey needs more skilled workers to service them and he’s on a crusade to find more qualified workers for his industry.
“The equipment and technology is getting more advanced every year. That’s why businesses and schools really need to push education.
“Community colleges used to offer small engine programs or mechanical programs and high schools had trade classes, but they don’t offer those same classes anymore. There’s a shortage right now in trade workers.”
Corey looks back over these last dozen years and celebrates the uniqueness of the business he first envisioned and has now realized. He’s proud that his independent dealership is contributing to the local economy and community in meaningful ways.
“Our industry pumps millions of dollars into the area. We work with local municipalities, schools, and other small businesses directly. They spend that money here. Our guys spend their paychecks at the local grocery store. It all stays here.
“I love what I do and it’s done well for me. I hope my employees like it. But we have our struggles just like everyone else.”
And just as he did in the beginning, Corey is still watching and wondering, still seeing what works and what doesn’t.
“My goal is to keep building the business. We’ve got a lot of potential things that we can do that we are capable of doing right now, if we can get the workforce in place. We’re successful now, but what we’re capable of is endless. There’s no telling what we can do.”