Hitting the Road
Boise Small Engine has transformed from a mom-and-pop shop into an AriensCo “million-dollar dealer” over the past three years. So, how did a company that had already been in business for a decade manage to achieve such impressive growth in such a short time frame? By hitting the road.
Ryan Gratton, territory manager at Boise Small Engine, revealed that the secret lies in building relationships with customers by getting out of the shop going to meet them where they do business.
The company serves customers across Idaho, from the locals near its headquarters in Boise, to those living in rural areas in Eastern and Western Idaho who don’t have access to local small engine shops. Many of them live in the mountainous and desert regions of the state.
“For them to come to me is a big ask because they need to take a day off for it. If you are a commercial cutter or a small owner-operator, you can’t afford a whole day away from your territory,” Gratton said. “I take the business to them. I make it so they don’t ever have to step a foot in my dealership to do business with me if they don’t want to travel.”
Gratton sees the mobile element of his business model as the main differentiator that sets Boise Small Engine apart from other dealers. Aside from greatly extending the dealer’s reach in Idaho, this strategy also enables Gratton to get to know customers better and build stronger relationships.
“Although Ariens equipment is available in many brick-and-mortar stores, our customers want a more exclusive sort of relationship with who they are buying it from,” Gratton explained.
Prior to joining Boise Small Engine, Gratton went to Penn Foster Career School to become a landscaper. He then worked for the local municipality parks department. It was here he learned valuable lessons about the equipment landscapers need to succeed, and just as importantly, the service and support they need to keep them running.
The irrigation supplier for the municipality where Gratton worked was Silver Creek, which is now Boise Small Engine’s parent company after it purchased the dealer four years ago. When Gratton decided to retire from the parks department and make a career change, Silver Creek hired him as a mechanic to work at the newly acquired Boise Small Engine branch.
“Silver Creek acquired Boise Small Engine because it wanted to be a little more competitive with one of the local companies that does quite a bit of equipment,” Gratton said. “Boise Small Engine was more or less a mom-and-pop shop, but once it was strengthened by the Silver Creek Backbone, Boise Small Engine slowly grew into a premier dealership. I’m proud to be a part of that journey.”
Gratton’s background as a landscaper and mechanic has given him a unique enthusiasm for interacting with customers and solving their equipment challenges. He has been a machine enthusiast since he was a child and says his job at Boise Small Engine is a “dream come true.” His positivity is contagious, which generates trust among colleagues and helps him cultivate business relationships.
“You are going to have to react to many things. But then, when you are not busy reacting, it is important to be proactive and see if you can get in front of somebody,” explained Gratton. “It’s a constant balance of trying to figure out being reactive and being proactive.”
By traveling to see customers where they work, Gratton can gain extensive knowledge of their business needs and suggest unique equipment solutions. He loves having in-depth conversations about customers’ equipment and landscaping processes and often writes them down in a notepad.
Gratton’s real-world experience with equipment helps him suggest novel solutions for his customers that translate to better performance in the field. He was intrigued with the potential for the new Mammoth 850 snow removal vehicle, for example, but his region doesn’t accumulate much heavy snow in winter. Still, he believes the Mammoth 850 can accomplish even more.
“I was talking to an irrigation contractor about Mammoth,” he said. “They were looking for a year-round machine to handle dust and snow and didn’t realize the Mammoth could fit their needs. I suggested the Mammoth could be used as a power broom in summer and snow remover in winter. If we put water in the brine tank and have it sprayed on the broom, it can effectively clean up the dust and prevent it from floating in the air. When it comes to snow time, we can just watch Mammoth carry all the weight.”
Gratton says that AriensCo’s drive to be a reliable and supportive partner to its customers resonates with him. Ariens and Gravely equipment are Boise Small Machine’s featured products, not only due to their performance, quality and reliability, but also the unparalleled service and support AriensCo provides to the dealer.
Gratton says that AriensCo shows its dedication to support with activities that enhance dealer and customer knowledge, such as the company’s willingness to provide demo machines for customers or its offering of technical training classes for dealers. The strategies make AriensCo equipment easy to use and easy to maintain, improving the experience of owning them.
“I think a lot of what really wins people over with Gravely and Ariens is the support,” Gratton said. “It’s AriensCo’s responsive customer service that makes it easy for dealerships to work with them to grow a business. Considering our own growth over the last three years, the partnership with AriensCo has served us well. There will never be another brand that will replace Gravely and Ariens for us.”