MTI Canada was founded in 1955 in the small town of Lévis on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, opposite to Quebec City. In the 65 years since, it has grown a dealer network that comprises more than 600 locations across all of Canada’s 10 provinces.
In accordance with its 65th anniversary, MTI Canada has many reasons to celebrate. In September, the company received two prominent awards at the Lévis Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala: Grandes Distinctions Desjardins, offered by Desjardins, MTI Canada’s longtime financial partner, and Performance – Mid and Large Companies, given by the chamber itself.
An award of such stature belies the company’s humble beginnings. MTI Canada began as a family-owned agricultural equipment and parts distributor. In 1982 it became Canada’s exclusive product and parts supplier for Ariens and Gravely. Today, the company operates a 110,000 sq ft office and warehouse (still based out of Lévis) and its 14 sales representatives crisscross the entire country on a daily basis.
“MTI Canada is a family-owned business just like AriensCo,” Owner Jean Bacon said. “Our companies share the same core values. Our 52 experienced and devoted employees share one goal above all others: customer satisfaction. We all work as a team to reach this goal every day. I like to think of MTI Canada as a big family.”
Bacon and his wife, Joanne Lebel, both CPAs, are married in life as well as in business. They bought MTI Canada in 2008 and have run the company together since. “Our team is comprised of many highly-experienced employees, some with more than 40 years at the company or in the industry. Together, we have a deep understanding of the industry.”
Dealers in MTI Canada’s network are carefully chosen. Bacon maintains that they must be qualified to give proper service to all Ariens and Gravely products. In Lévis, the company has a showroom and test yard where dealers can see, test and experience Ariens and Gravely products. Customer service clerks and technicians are well trained on AriensCo products and readily available to answer dealers’ inquiries. Every two years, MTI Canada, in collaboration with AriensCo, organizes service schools throughout Canada where dealers can learn more about Ariens and Gravely products.
MTI Canada’s dealer network serves both residential and professional customers. Ariens snowblowers are widely known in Canada and have made Ariens a household name in the country. Ariens zero-turn mowers are also increasingly popular among residential consumers because of the “high quality and reliability established by the manufacturer’s snowblowers,” Bacon said. Gravely zero-turn mowers are the primary tool of choice for MTI Canada’s commercial customers.
“Gravely customers are looking for equipment that will last through continuous tough work,” he explained. “Commercial cutters are our main customers, along with large residential property owners who like to get the job done just like the professionals with the equipment to match.”
Bacon said one technique he uses to help dealers sell Gravely is to note that the products are made by the better-known Ariens brand, and they feature the same level of quality with professional features. “It’s always our first and best argument to win their business,” he said.
The approach has come in handy as zero-turn mowers continue toexpand in popularity in Canada. Bacon said it took about 10 years for the trend towards zero-turn to reach Canada, after the machines became a mainstay in the United States in the 2000s.
“It’s definitely a growing market as many consumers are moving away from conventional lawn tractors to zero-turn,” he explained. “A zero-turn consumer is able to get the same quality cutting while getting the job done faster.”
One of the ways that MTI Canada supports its dealership network is by having a vast product inventory ready to go at all times, “ready to battle any storm,” as Bacon likes to put it. MTI Canada aims to be the complete solution provider to each of its hundreds of dealers.
“We want to offer our dealers the most complete portfolio of products in the outdoor power equipment industry and the support to make sure that each dealer is committed to MTI Canada,” he explained. “We’re proud to service Canada coast to coast. We always aim for next-day shipping or two-day shipping, depending on the location.”
Over the years MTI Canada has rolled out incentive programs for which buying levels can result in discounts, and a floor planning program which give dealers latitude, financially speaking. The goal is to build a close partnership with each dealer and form a win-win business relationship in which the dealers can get many advantages and benefits from sticking with MTI Canada.
“We participate in many trade shows across Canada to increase awareness of the Ariens and Gravely brands. We support dealers with product knowledge through service schools and through our technicians. We maintain a huge inventory of parts to back up all equipment sold,” Bacon said. “Dealers and their customers perceive the Ariens brand as high quality and reliable, a manufacturer that builds long-lasting products that are built strong. Simply put, that is good for business.”
Canada’s lawn-mowing season and climate varies within the country’s expansive territory. Eastern Canada, for example, has a short grass-cutting season but a long snow removal period. St. John’s, in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the 4th snowiest major city in the world, averaging 134 inches every year, while Vancouver, in British Columbia, on the country’s West Coast, gets only nine inches of snow a year, having a much longer cutting season from mid-March to late November. Generally speaking, the seasons are divided between May to August for lawn care, and December through February for snow removal.
The most challenging province to ship to, Bacon notes, is Newfoundland, where trucks must take a ferry to get there and then drive 10 to 15 hours to reach our dealers, sometimes in the middle of a snowstorm. This challenge, however, is one that MTI Canada looks forward to each year.
“If we are fortunate, a substantial snowstorm comes in the beginning or middle of November, resulting in significant snowblower sales among our dealer network,” Bacon said. “We love winter!”
Moving into the future, MTI Canada is focusing on improving its operations. Even with 65 years in the business, Bacon says there is always room to grow. To do this, the company keeps clear goals in mind: be a knowledgeable source of expertise, maintain a healthy stock, provide top-notch service, be a great business partner for its dealers, and of course, stick with AriensCo.
“We expect AriensCo to keep doing what they have been doing for the last 87 years. And we look forward to continuing being part of the family.”