Over the past 15 years, Champlain Valley Equipment, a 5-store New Holland, Case IH and Kubota dealership in Vermont, has acquired six other dealerships. In several cases, the selling owner was offered a new position within the dealership. Brian Carpenter, general manager of Champlain Valley, says making the transition from owner to staff member has gone smoothly in each case.
“Part of why it has worked for Champlain Valley to keep the previous owners involved at the dealership, and part of why they’ve accepted positions, is because we talk about the transition at length ahead of time,” he says. “They freely accept the reduction in authority, knowing it also means a huge reduction in responsibility for them.”
The following is a timeline of Champlain Valley’s acquisitions, including Carpenter’s commentary on which owners stayed involved in the dealership and why.
1970 — Champlain Valley Equipment opened as a single-store Ford Tractor dealership in Middlebury, Vt.
January 2001 — Acquired Green Mountain Tractor in Middlebury, Vt., expanding the operation in Middlebury and consolidating everything under one roof. “The owner of Green Mountain Tractor was nearing retirement age when I approached him to make the acquisition,” Carpenter says. “After the deal closed, he chose to retire.”
March 2005 — Acquired Fine Line Equipment, a Case IH and Kubota dealer in St. Albans, Vt., to become a 2-store dealership. “I offered the owner of Fine Line Equipment a position as a salesperson and to this day, he’s still one of our top salespeople,” Carpenter says. “He isn’t involved at all in the management of the store. When we acquired the location, he had a very loyal customer base and he was involved in sales, so I offered him a position.”
October 2008 — Acquired Derby Equipment in Derby, Vt., to become a 3-store dealership. Derby Equipment was owned by a 4-owner group, three of whom were no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the dealership. “One of the owners was a younger, very bright gentleman,” Carpenter says. “I offered him the store manager position and an opportunity to buy into the business. Today, in our succession plan, he’s the number two man in the company.”
April 2012 — Acquired Desmarais Equipment, a Kubota and Massey Ferguson dealer in Orleans, Vt., and consolidated the business into the Derby location. Carpenter offered the owner a position as a salesperson at the Derby location. He stayed on for a few years and then retired. “He was already retirement age when we offered him the position, but having him stay on for a few years helped us transition the customer base to the Derby location,” he says.
October 2012 — Acquired Riverside Equipment, a Kubota dealership in Berlin, Vt., becoming a 4-strore dealership.
July 2014 — Acquired L.W. Greenwood & Sons in East Randolph, Vt. The dealership was owned by two brothers, one of whom had to retire for health-related reasons. The other brother was offered a position as a salesperson at the location. “We offered him a position to help transition the customer base, which was very loyal to L.W. Greenwood & Sons. He’s still with us, and I think he’s enjoying the business a lot more now than he ever did as an owner,” Carpenter says.