Quality, courtesy, professionalism. Those are the words that define Sam Stearns’ Mr. Mower Man, an outdoor power equipment dealership, based in Scottsburg, Ind. “I treat every person like I’m glad they came here, because I am,” he says, emphasizing that creating loyal customers is how his business—and any business—will succeed.
This is all part of the dream he’s had since he was just 19, and working elsewhere. Stearns wanted to have his own business, but admits he came to this profession in a roundabout way. “Most guys start in this business because they’ve been turning wrenches somewhere since they were kids,” he says. “It wasn’t that way at all for me. I was looking for something where I could work and live in the same place—or same vicinity.”
He’s now 11 years into that dream as owner of Mr. Mower Man. In the beginning, he leaned on his dad’s expertise for fixing small motors. Then slowly but surely, he found he no longer had to ask questions, but was able to answer some for his dad.
It’s Not About the Lowest Price
Learning the technical part of the business was just the beginning. Stearns has integrated a lot of solid business lessons over the years as well. Pricing was a big one. “A lot of businesses try to make themselves known for low prices, but that’s not the game I want,” he says.
But that wasn’t always the case. “I thought if you had a reputation for high prices, it was the kiss of death,” says Stearns. That is until he sat in on a session given by Bob Clements, who coaches dealers in the industry on how to have high performance dealerships. Here’s what Clements said: When a customer walks away, you want them to say, “He’s a little high, but does excellent work.” For Stearns, it was a revelation. “That sounded so foreign to me,” he says. “But the information stuck.”
Putting it into practice in a business you depend on for your livelihood is a bit more difficult, he says, but it leads to creating a solid reputation and word-of-mouth advertising for his business. “I want to focus on high-quality products that serve people for years, and give superior service work that doesn’t have to be done again,” he adds.
And here’s a nugget of wisdom that Stearns would pass on to anyone starting out in the business: “Get in contact with others who know more than you do, then shut up and listen. I had to do a lot of shutting up and listening, and I’m the better for it.”
A Big Year Ahead
This year is shaping up to be transformational for Stearns. Last fall, he made another dream come true. He bought three acres of property on a highly transited highway, where he plans to construct a new location. The higher visibility will also be good for the line of Country Clipper Zero Turn Mowers he added to his business in 2013.
This transition also means hiring employees, as he looks to expand not only the physical building, but what he’s able to accomplish with the service and sales he provides. That’s also an important reason he’s a member of Equipment Dealers Association. “The main motivation behind joining was to be able to have legal advice and a heads up about issues that are out there I never dreamed about,” he says.