Expanding, acquiring while staying humble
Jesco Marine & Power Sports remains mindful of community during growth
Jesco Marine & Power Sports, in Kalispell, Mont., has undergone big changes in the past couple of years. The dealership acquired a Polaris dealership, absorbing the line into its store, and then Jesco built a new facility, more than doubling the size of its dealership.
Despite this, general manager Chris Parrott’s goal is to remain a neighborhood business where everyone feels welcome.
“One of the things that we want to do is make sure we maintain a very positive image in the community,” he said.
A new home
Jesco’s expansion began in early 2012, when the dealership purchased a nearby competing dealership. That acquisition added Polaris, Victory and Bennington pontoons to Jesco’s lineup, which already included BRP’s Can-Am, Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo brands, along with Alumacraft, Regal, Centurion, Weldcraft and Chaparral boats.
With those new brands came added units, and in order to display more product and increase inventory levels, Parrott felt it was time to build. A new 40,000-sqaure-foot facility was built to replace the old 18,000-square-foot dealership. Construction began in the summer of 2012, and the staff and inventory moved in during early 2013.
“We felt that there had been a demand that wasn’t being filled in this valley,” Parrott said. “There’s a lot of buying interest, but nobody had really stepped up and put together prominent product lines and put together a facility where they could represent the product adequately.”
The new facility and new brands offered Jesco a chance to host grand opening parties and reach out into the community. Jesco also added a commercial outside sales program to serve other businesses in the area. All combined, the changes led to a positive 2013.
“We experienced a lot of growth, but there were a lot of factors that contributed to that,” Parrott said.
Polaris leads the pack
The Polaris line has been a big boost for the dealership. Polaris side-by-sides have quickly joined the Can-Am product to make that segment a best-seller for Jesco.
“That’s also the product category that I would say was the leader last year, and is still the leader this year,” Parrott said, adding that continued growth is keeping side-by-sides at the top.
Marketing coordinator Lauren Bradley said with Polaris’ extensive brand marketing, the dealership’s biggest goal in advertising the product is letting customers know that Jesco carries it. But the word has gotten out to enough customers that the brand has done “exceptionally” well for Jesco, Parrott said.
“It’s a fantastic product line, very in demand,” he explained. “People seek it out. It’s one of those brands. People don’t come in looking for a snowmobile, they come in looking for a Polaris; they don’t come in looking for a side-by-side, they come in looking for a Ranger.”
In 2013, major unit sales led the dealership financially, followed closely by service, which has also seen its fair share of growth.
“We definitely have the most certified techs in the valley where we live, so we really pride ourselves in educating our staff, so people know when they come here, they’re getting the absolute best service,” Bradley said.
Employee and community loyalty
Though acquiring new brands and building a new facility have attributed much to Jesco’s growth, Parrott credits his staff for keeping customers happy and bringing them back time and again.
“We have a huge focus here on the employees,” he said. “I know everyone here on a personal basis. I know their kids’ names; I know where their kids go to school; I know who’s sick. We built our success on our people.”
Because Jesco cares for its staff, the staff is willing to work hard for the dealership.
“If everything went away, or if times got tough, the people here would carry us through. We’ve got a great group of people,” Parrott added.
Jesco is able to retain its exemplary staff because the dealership is a year-round employer. With all the lines offered, Jesco is able to focus on boat, PWC and motorcycle sales in the summer and transition to snowmobiles in the winter. Off-road products are promoted year-round.
To keep customers interested in Jesco Marine & Power Sports 12 months out of the year, marketing keeps up to date with each product line. Big pushes are made before each vehicle’s season, during the prime of the season and as the season winds down and deals are offered.
“It’s definitely important to stay on top of the life cycle of each product line,” Bradley said.
One of the dealership’s goals is to market out in the community, and there are plans for that in 2014. Jesco looked at the price it could be paying for newspaper advertising and compared that to spending the same dollar amount supporting Little League and other community activities, and compared the impact of each.
“I think that we’re seeing that we’re getting much greater return on being involved in the community,” Parrott said, adding that it makes a bigger impression on someone when a business has their name on a Little League jersey, rather than in the newspaper classifieds.
The community factor is also key in showing customers that the company remains humble and grateful, despite its recent growth.
“We want to make sure that we’re still taking care of John down the street,” Bradley said.
The key to growth, Parrott has found, is balancing growing with humility and recognizing that while some people have risen up out of the recession, others are still hurting financially. At the same time, he’s being cognizant that he’s running a business that needs to grow to succeed.
“We just have a real proactive approach to business,” he said. “We’re not just sitting back and waiting.”
Jesco Marine & Power Sports
Location: Kalispell, Mont.
Employees: 24 full-time; 0 part-time
General Manager: Chris Parrott
Brands Carried: Can-Am, Polaris, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo and Victory; Alumacraft, Bennington, Centurion, Chaparral, Regal and Weldcraft