Investing for the Future
Vermeer High Plains
Vermeer High Plains was established in 1979 in Nebraska. It serves Nebraska, South Dakota and three counties in Wyoming as a parts, service and sales distributor for Vermeer Manufacturing.
Before Vermeer High Plains got its start, Vermeer had had a dealer presence in the state of Nebraska. “Vermeer Manufacturing Company asked me if I would be interested in taking over the territory,” says Vermeer High Plains Founder and Owner Kevin Klein. “So, I started my own company, and here we still are today.”
Over the years, there have been many accomplishments for Vermeer High Plains. The first was when the company achieved what Kevin calls the ‘five million dollar club.’ “That was $5 million in purchases per all the individual dealerships, so that was a big benchmark,” he says.
“Our goal, and the one thing that we have strived for the most – that we’ve worked the hardest at and which still remains one of our objectives today – is to be the best in sales/dollars per capita. We have a relatively small population based territory,” says Kevin. “We have approximately 2.3 million population base. We’ve ranked as high as number one in sales/dollars per capita, and we’ve been in the top three for the past ten years.”
The Vermeer product line is one of the things that sets Vermeer High Plains apart from its competitors, but it is not the only one. “Vermeer is an innovative company that’s always on the cutting edge of the products that they offer, and from a product standpoint, that certainly helps,” says Kevin. “But the number one differentiator between us and our competition is our own employees.”
Vermeer High Plains’ staff retention and loyalty is impressive. “Out of thirty-one employees, there are fifteen who have been with us for over fifteen years,” says Vice President Sales Dusty Klein. “That’s half of our employees. And two have respectively been with us for twenty eight and thirty-three years. We’ve always ran like a mom-and-pop store,” says Dusty. “And even though we’ve grown from a three-person shop to a thirty person shop across multiple locations, we’ve tried to keep that same feel with our employees.”
Vermeer High Plains believes in family. “We’re very lenient in making sure that families are taken care of,” says Dusty. “Whether it’s sick children or a sick spouse or anything else like that, we’ve been willing to work together and cover each other. We have a lot of people here who wear multiple hats so that when issues arise, our employees know that we are covering for them.
“It’s not the amount of people that work for us; it’s the amount of people that work together,” says Dusty. “Along with that, we have maintained the idea that, at the end of the year, there are profit shares where everybody gets a little bit of the whole thing. We’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to contribute a significant amount to the 401K, and we’re willing to do it.”
Vermeer High Plains aims to keep its customers productive and profitable. “One of the things that we strive to do when a customer comes in, whether that customer is looking for parts or services, is to make sure we have the part,” says Dusty. “So, we strive to put money back into the dealership and to stock up on parts. If a customer comes in wanting ten parts, we want that customer to leave with ten parts because we have them all in stock.”
Vermeer High Plains also believes in investing in its future. It often adds service people and trucks to ensure customers get the highest degree of service. “As we reach capacity for what we have, we are willing to reinvest into the company and continue to grow so as to keep the customers up and running as they have become accustomed to,” says Dusty. “We’ve had our service department called out to multiple other states – as far as Tennessee and Michigan – because that is how far we will go to take care of our customers. Wherever our customers are, we’re there with them. If we have to put a tech on a plane or have that tech drive all night to take care of our customer, that’s what we have done, and that is what we will continue to do.”
The company is presently adding a fourth location in Omaha. “We have made the decision to put up a new building, and we traveled around to multiple other dealership locations to see what has worked best for other dealers when building new offices, as well as what some of their best practices are,” says Dusty. “In addition to the office, there will be a training facility for customers to use, so we can have one-on-one training with our vendors and customers. We are excited about the plans that we have coming up, and we’re hoping to be in the new location by Summer 2018.”
Vermeer High Plains is dedicated to its customers. “If there are any problems, discussions or disagreements, no matter what they are – whether it’s the sale of a piece of equipment or the parts or the service – if there’s a problem, the number one priority here is to make problems go away as fast as they arise,” says Kevin. “I don’t care what it takes or what it costs, but that problem goes away. And no matter what has happened, after thirty-eight years of being in business, I have yet to have one complaint filed with a Better Business Bureau. So when I say we make problems go away, that’s exactly what happens.”
“The other thing is that we shoot straight,” says Kevin. “We are able to find our problems, handle our problems and make our problems go away, but we don’t ever lie to our customers; we straight shoot no matter what it takes or how bad it hurts or what it is at the time.”
“To sell with integrity – whether it is parts and machines or service time – to take care of the customer is our philosophy,” says Dusty. “I think we’ve been extremely fortunate in that we have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience through our employees. But it’s not necessarily what we know that matters at the end of the day; what’s important is how we make a customer feel.
“If the customer feels like he’s being treated fairly and being taken care of the way he wants to be taken care of, a customer will come back. He’ll stay with you through thick and thin,” says Dusty. “However, if you have all the answers and know everything, but the customer doesn’t enjoy his experience with you, he’s going to find somebody that gives him the experience that he is looking for. That’s probably our biggest philosophy – treating the customer the way that we want to be treated. We develop relationships, we maintain them and good things happen.
“We want customers to continue doing business with us and to know that we’re going into business with them,” says Dusty. “We do not look at a deal as in saying: ‘all right, we sold a machine, and good luck to you.’ When you buy a machine from us, you have us as your partner for whatever your projects are. If you have turnover and you need training on your machine, we are willing to provide it. If you have a tough job that you can’t accomplish on your own, you give us a call, and we come out and help. We are totally in partnership with you, and our whole goal is to make you safe, productive and profitable. We are with you for the lifecycle of that machine.”
Vermeer High Plains believes that some of its success can also be attributed to Vermeer family ownership. “The way that they treat their dealers and the dealership network relationship that they have is unparalleled in the industry,” says Dusty. “They are the reason why so many Vermeer dealers are as successful as they are. They take the time to listen; they’re willing to adopt change, and they care about the voice of the customer through their dealer network as much as the dealer network cares about their customers. So they are a great manufacturing company to work with and represent.
“The working relationship between the dealer network and corporate is outstanding,” says Dusty. “Through all of our other alliances and partners, Vermeer has always been a stand up; it believes the same philosophies that we do and we incorporate the philosophies they represent.”
As Vermeer High Plains begins the process of crossing over into the second generation of management, it retains the same philosophy it has always had: honesty, dedication to its customers’ needs and a continued willingness to invest in the future of its company, employees and customers.