The Western Equipment Dealers Assn. (WEDA) announced that Peter Lacey of Cervus Equipment is the 2014 Canadian Dealer of the Year.

Lacey started his career in the industry in 1982, at the age of 25, when he and his brother in law John Donald acquired Deermart Equipment, a John Deere dealership in Red Deer, Alberta

Over the next several years they joined together with 3 other John Deere dealership partners/dealer principals located in Central Alberta. One of the biggest challenges they recognized at the time was that it was difficult to find young dealers, who were willing to move and to be a dealer for the next 20 years, while at the same time have the necessary equity needed to acquire a dealership.

These challenges were the genesis of the idea for Cervus, where, as a public company:

  • the capital to facilitate the succession of John Deere dealer owners would be available in the public markets
  • the opportunity for ownership would be available for as much as what a new dealer was able to invest
  • ownership opportunities would be available to all employees that wanted the chance to invest
  • new and used wholegoods and parts inventories could be shared among the dealers within the group
  • knowledge and experience wouldn’t be lost when an owner sold the business to the new owner
  • best practices could be shared for operational improvements
  • owners would not need to be concerned about who to sell their business to in the future as shares are traded on the exchange every day

After discussing the idea with his partners in 1999, Lacey put together a proposal outlining the benefits of combining dealerships into a public company, and it was submitted to John Deere for approval. John Deere saw merit in the concept and gave the group the go ahead and Cervus went public in 2000. The 4 John Deere dealerships in Central Alberta were merged together and shares were issued to the owners, managers and employees to meet the public company requirements for a listing on the exchange. Today, Cervus is the only publicly traded John Deere dealership group in the world.

In the past 14 years, Cervus has expanded to include 35 John Deere dealerships in Western Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and a minority interest in 7 John Deere dealerships in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Other great brand “business to business equipment dealerships” include 18 Peterbilt Truck dealership locations in Saskatchewan and Ontario, 9 Material Handling locations in Western Canada (that market Doosan, Clark and Sellick forklifts), and 6 Bobcat and JCB construction equipment dealership locations in Alberta.

Cervus has over 1,800 employees throughout its 68 dealerships worldwide. Revenue in 2015 is expected to exceed $1.2 billion. Cervus and its dealerships have been recognized with many awards including the Western Producer Outstanding Dealership of the year in 2006 for its Saskatchewan John Deere group, in 2008 for its Alberta John Deere group and John Deere’s Manager’s club for the Alberta locations in 2014.

Lacey is now the executive chairman of Cervus after serving as CEO and president for 12 years, and he and his wife Kathy continue to be significant shareholders. In 2012, the CEO and president position was transitioned to Graham Drake. Drake is one of original founding partners of Cervus.

Community involvement has always been a priority for Peter and Kathy Lacey. He served as a director on the Red Deer College Board of Directors for 7 years, and as chairman for 4 of those years. Red Deer College and Cervus have a long standing relationship; working together on leadership development to train leaders within Cervus.

Recognizing that leadership development is important for all organizations, Peter and Kathy Lacey provided Red Deer College with a gift of $250,000. These funds are to help the college develop an online curriculum for leadership development for businesses as well as a program for management and leadership development for non-profit organizations.

They actively support the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, as well as the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools. They have travelled to Kenya several times with the Lacombe, Alberta-based “A Better World” and supported the construction of a school that now has over 500 students and two health clinics. More recently they provided funding to support micro credit loans for agriculture projects led by women to help them generate income.

Lacey also served as a director for Canada West Equipment Dealers Assn. and as president in 2011.

The award was presented to Lacey at WEDA’s 2015 western Canadian dealer conference held in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Dealer of the Year Award is named in honor of Bill Lipsey, former executive vice president of the Canada West Equipment Dealers Assn., who died prematurely of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1998. The award recognizes an individual dealer for their leadership within the industry, their dedication towards growing their business into a successful entity and their commitment and legacy to their community.