Champlain Valley Equipment
Headquartered in Middlebury, Vt.

Founded: 1970

Partners: Brian Carpenter, president/general manager; Russ Carpenter; Jason Bessette, store manager, St. Albans, Vt.; Josh Provost, vice president and store manager, Derby, Vt.

Locations: 4 in Vermont. Stores include Middlebury, St. Albans, Derby and Berlin

Lines Carried: New Holland, Case IH, Kubota, Kuhn, Polaris, H&S, Gehl/Manitou, Kinze, Woods, Pottinger, Art’s Way, HLA, Yamaha, Land Pride, Sunflower, Jamesway, Ventrac, Taylor-Pittsburgh, CAM Trailers, Farmi, Pik-Rite, Wallenstein, MK Martin Meteor, Mensch, Bradco

Markets: Dairy is number one, with several specialty areas including orchards/vineyards, maple syrup operations and livestock, including goats, on the rise. Commercial, landscapers, hobby farms, estates and large property owners are also key segments

2013 Revenues: $37,661,972. New Sales: $19,170,458; Used Sales: $6,883,712; Parts Sales: $7,864,346; Service Sales: $3,743,456

Employees: 86

A day-in-the-life exploration of a small dealership in the midst of getting bigger Farm Equipment Staff Report or our once every-two-years Dealership Minds project, Farm Equipment revisited the operation that was recognized in 2006 as North America’s best-run small (one- or two-store) farm equipment dealership.

There are a number of things different about Champlain Valley Equipment, but what peers from other parts of the country are most surprised to learn, says President GM Brian Carpenter, is its low average dollar transactions and the jack-of-all-trades sales force.

“This is not like the high horsepower tractor, spraying, planting equipment and combine-type dealers you see in the Midwest,” he says, noting how other dealers are floored by how many various products a dealer in this area of the country needs to carry under one roof to fully serve a highly diversified customer base. His counterparts in the Midwest might have one salesman doing the same level of sales revenue as his entire 4-store company.

Over the past 20 years, Champlain Valley Equipment — now a 4-store operation — grew at an annual rate of 14.8% as its staff increased from 9 employees to 86 today

If we do a transaction that’s a couple hundred thousand dollars, that’s a monster transaction for us. Our top salesman is doing $3.2 million, and with most transactions being $10,000 or less, you’ve got to do a lot of transactions to get there,” he says. The 4 stores comprising Champlain Valley Equipment carried out 2,913 transactions in 2013. “The requirements placed on a salesperson here — as far as his breadth of knowledge and the number of transactions — are a real challenge.”

Another thing Carpenter’s peers are surprised by is the restrictions in the state. Carpenter had secured a loan for a new, larger shop so it could better handle forage harvesters, but the permitting process was so long that he returned the money he had borrowed. It would have resulted in new tech jobs, but is on hold for now, with hopes for better success next year.

Acquisition Timeline

Profiles from the Issue:

President & General Manager
Brian Carpenter

Leading with Structure to Minimize Chaos in Fast-Paced Business

Centralized Warranty Clerk
Marcellus Cubit
Making Manufacturers Pay Takes Patience & Persistence

Inventory Manager
Derek Gregorek
Organized Inventory Requires Communication & Documentation

Partner & General Manager Derby Store
Josh Provost

Watching the Numbers, Keeping an Eye on the ‘Little Things’

Top Equipment Salesperson
Dave Merrill
View from the ‘Top’ Ag Salesman — Understanding ‘Both Sides of the Desk’

Used Equipment Remarketer & Salesperson
Rick Rusin

Championing the Used Equipment Dossier — for Higher Turns

Store Manager, Berlin Store
Tom Wood
Store Management: Facilitating Others’ Success

Partner & General Manager, St. Albans Store
Jason Bessette
Fostering a Vision Beyond Sales

Human Resources Director
Chantal Persons
‘Personally’ Tackling the HR Challenges of a Growing Dealership

Senior Parts Manager, Middlebury Store
Jeff Randall
Parts Management: Keeping Others Running

Office Manager
Jennifer LaRock
Administration of Growing Firm Means Expanding Responsibilities — as Needed

Service Manager
Aaron Keeler
Service Sales Hinge on Keeping Wrenches Turning

Parts Manager, Derby Store
Ben Hamilton 

The ‘Numbers Guy’ Preps Parts

Parts Manager, St. Albans Store
Tim Curtis 
Embracing Technology for Efficiency

Service Manager, Derby Store
Bill Hodgeman

It’s All a Matter of Managing the Changes

The Essentials of Champlain Valley Equipment Photo Gallery