How Does a Multi-Location Dealership Start?

Beverly Written by Beverly Leavitt October 4, 2021 Member Updates

A black and white photo of quonset with a tractor in the large door and two men at the people door.

For Keith Davis’ family, it started with one; one man who didn’t want to raise livestock but still wanted to work in the ag industry. So, Glenn Davis started importing machinery and selling it in 1954. 

One generation later, Karl Davis started working for John Deere corporate. A job that took him to Europe and away from his family, so for the sake of his marriage, he decided to stay home and work alongside his dad. 

One family business that beckoned Keith to join his father and grandfather as they expanded. 

How Keith Tells It 

After growing up in the parts department (like most dealership kids do), Keith went off to McMaster for Business. Throughout his education, he worked helping companies expand, including a local water meter company that did installations for the municipality, which later moved him to Nova Scotia to start a project from scratch, hiring the team to do it. 

He then went on to complete his MBA at York University. 

With all of that experience and knowledge under his belt, he came home. And just in time for the family business to grow. 

Exponential Growth 

What started as a small shop on a parcel of the farm in Nobleton, has now merged with several dealers and has locations in Halton, Brampton, Port Perry, Omemee, Kingston, and Earlton. 

Reflecting on the recent years, Keith says: “from my green-tinted John Deere glasses, the stand-alone dealers are becoming rarer—there’s only a handful. The rest are multi-store locations. Most John Deere dealers have a minimum of five dealerships—and we might be one of the smallest in Canada. The entire dealer network in Canada is made up of around 30 entities.”

On top of geographical growth, they also expanded their services to now include agricultural, residential, and golf course equipment. 

This type of system plays in his favour when it comes to acquiring product. Having the buying power of seven dealerships to back him up, he’s able to play a more competitive role in the manufacturer’s eyes and get more in-demand stock. 

It’s All in the Job Description

If you ask Keith what his job description is, he’s likely looking over a pile of paper on his desk and listing everything short of mowing the lawn (though, he may do that too). As regional manager, Keith oversees HR, operations, accounting, or in short, he’s the go-to guy. 

While Keith keeps the dealerships running, he says: “the rest of the operation relies on the economy of scale. We get to pool our talents and offer specialization. For instance, one single store dealership, depending on their location, wouldn’t be able to afford a full-time technology specialist on staff, but that specialization for us comes from a wider footprint. 

Our staff are tasked with specific customer groups that they can service, and they learn how to do it well.”

So while Keith may wear many hats, his staff don’t and that makes them better equipped to service niche agricultural needs.

Bump in the Road

Covid-19 threw a curveball Green Tractors couldn’t have seen coming. Fortunately, and in part due to their size, they didn’t have to lay off even one person. 

In doing so, Keith says: “we’ve been able to take away one component of fear. There’s been a lot of change and turbulence in the industry and people were uncertain of their future, but we’ve been able to work through it.”

While they’ve maintained a steady workforce, Keith admits, “We’re too slow as an industry level when it comes to doing business online. It’s always been old-school face-to-face, but now it’s shifting to more transactions without meeting the customer or shaking their hands before the deal is done. 

We’re still adapting to it and shifting to digital, because when test drives don’t exist, what do you do? We’re working to establish that level of trust and still conduct business.”

In essence, Keith chalks up their success to adaptability. The industry is changing and they’re willing to change with it so they can offer the best product with highly qualified staff to customers no matter how they shop.