On the Cusp

David Pike started Pike Lawn & Garden in 1983, and back then, it was only a part-time hobby. He was working as a heavy equipment mechanic and primarily fixing construction equipment when he started repairing lawn mowers on the side. Word of his skills spread throughout the area, and soon, he was repairing all kinds of outdoor power equipment for a growing customer base. 

When early retirement from being a heavy equipment mechanic came at age 49, Pike knew it was time to make his side hustle a full-time gig. He launched Pike Lawn & Garden and began operating out of a two-car garage. He built a warehouse nearby to stock equipment to sell. The company began a steady upward trajectory to become a regional powerhouse. Pike says he learned the lessons that underpin his business back in those early days, including: 

  • When you fix something and fix it well, people come to you. 
  • The trick to selling is offering something other people don’t have. 
  • Your best salesperson is your last customer. 
  • Customers like it when you thank them for their business. It makes them feel good. You can’t buy that with money. 

In 2010, Pike Lawn & Garden moved in from the countryside and opened a new facility in Brandenburg, Kentucky. His son, Adam Pike, and son-in-law, Charlie Hacker, each purchased a third of the company, making it a family-owned enterprise. 

Though the company’s clientele has grown significantly, it hasn’t changed much. About 75% of its customers are homeowners, half of whom are buying commercial mowers, and 25% are professional landscapers. 

 “The typical yard here is three acres and up. There are a lot of farm homesteads, so people are mowing a lot of ground,” Pike said. “They’re on their mowers for several hours a week and they need a commercial mower. Most of them are buying 60-inch deck mowers. They’re cutting on rolling, hilly ground with fescue grass on it. It’s about as steep as you can mow.” 

Pike Lawn & Garden now sits on 10 acres, and a good chunk of that space is the company’s demo field, where customers can try out lawn mowers. The main building the company works in is 6,600 ft3 and there is a separate 15,000 ft3 warehouse for stocking machines. 

Pike credits AriensCo with helping the company create its new space and operate in it efficiently. Before breaking ground on the new headquarters in Brandenburg, a Gravely representative took the Pike team, along with other dealers, on a tour of several large and successful dealerships in Louisiana and Texas. Pike says he took a lot of notes and learned a lot on that trip. 

 “Those dealers understood who their customer base was, and they built their strategy around them. They knew how to satisfy those customers’ needs,” he said. “They focused on running lean and efficient. They were very structured and had standard operating procedures. They weren’t just reacting to what happened each day.” 

 Pike Lawn & Garden has since grown to nine employees. Pike attributes this growth to maintaining a focus on what makes the company successful. It still exclusively sells and fixes lawn mowers, despite calls to expand its product offering, and it still adheres to the same values that sparked its early success. 

 “You have to keep the core values. You have to do what’s right,” he said. “For our customers, the price of the machine is fourth or fifth down the list of what they’re looking for. What makes one company different from another is that it keeps its commitment and operates with values. It does what it needs to do to make the customer happy. When you do this, success happens. Your company will grow, it’s that simple.” 

Changing times

 With nearly 40 years in the business, Pike has seen a lot of changes and developed a keen sense for when new technology will bring lasting transformation. From the decline of rotary tillers to the rise of string trimmers, Pike Lawn & Garden has had to continually adapt to stay profitable. 

 “At one point, I owned 100 used four-stroke mowers. I reconditioned them, painted them, put new decals on them, installed new engines and sold them. It was a very profitable business back then,” he said. “Today, you can hardly give a rear-engine mower away.” 

This was just one of the first of many changes Pike would see come to the mower market. Now, he’s observing the early transition to battery-powered equipment. He says Pike Lawn & Garden is selling more every week and that the technology is “growing like crazy.” 

 The company is even transitioning to electric and battery-powered equipment for many of its operations. Electric tools reduce waste, minimize noise and maintenance, and in general, make work easier. From battery start kits to drop lights and LED light bars, the whole shop is going electric. Making the switch is about being lean and efficient, and reducing waste. 

 Pike says electric automobiles are paving the way for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. (He and many members of his family drive them for their personal vehicles.) Pike says once you own an electric vehicle you won’t want gas anymore. They’re so quiet and they operate so well that “it’s amazing” to him. And with car companies building new battery plants and charging stations around the country, that is changing the mindset of the average consumer. 

 “I want to make sure I get the first Pro-Turn EVs in the area. I intend to have some of the first ones sold, because when people find out how nice they are and how much they like them, they will become advocates for you. The demand will feed itself,” he said. “The stores that sell the first electric mowers will be strong and they will be the winners. The trick is going to be knowing when the right time comes… and it’s getting close!” 

 Pike has seen new trends arrive to the market before and senses a building demand for electrics. He predicts the adoption of Gravely Pro-Turn EVs at commercial landscaping companies is coming sooner than later and says that human nature is playing a crucial role. 

 “When you’ve been in business for 40 years — and this sounds funny — but it gets to where you feel the pulse of the market. When you’ve been doing something for a lifetime, you can see the changes start if you have your eyes open,” he said. “Human beings like the feeling of ‘I have something you don’t have; I have something new.’ They like to be at the ballgame bragging about their new mower. This is going to happen.”

By Damian Joesph

08/04/2022 | On the Cusp

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