Nate Lang, owner of Lang Equipment, first brought powersports into his outdoor power equipment dealership in 2016 with the addition of Polaris. He opened the original location in 2013 in Marshfield, Wisconsin, which serves as the home office. Now, three Lang Equipment locations offer customers Polaris, Honda, Yamaha and Segway, along with outdoor power equipment brands.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t have any UTVs, ATVs or motorcycles, but my friend did,” he says, noting that he bought his first motorcycle when he was 16 after realizing how much he enjoyed riding powersports with his friends and cousins. “My interest just grew and grew.”
Lang recently oversaw the expansion of his latest acquisition in Medford, Wisconsin. The expansion was needed to improve the customer experience and increase efficiency, especially in the service department. “As the sport expands, people want to see higher quality interaction with the dealership,” Lang says. And along with plenty of indoor showroom display space, “I think the most important thing is giving your mechanics workable space,” he adds.
When Lang acquired the Medford location in 2021, all employees stayed at the dealership except one. “They were worried about change,” he explains. The others embraced the changes he introduced, including the use of a DMS for the first time. The dealership had formerly used paper invoices and didn’t have an updated website or maintained social media platforms. After these aspects of the business were updated and sales and service began to pick up, Lang acquired the new building.
“Running our business on a system really made a huge difference,” he says. “We were actually last in the state for Honda and we’re in the top five in the state now.”
He more than doubled the facility size, from 8,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet. “Our techs were in a tiny area and there was a lot of moving machines in and out, so the efficiency was not good,” he says. “We were probably wasting six hours a week, just pushing things in and out. Now, with the bigger facility, there’s none of that and they can leave the machine while they’re waiting for parts and pull in another next to it.”
The additional space has increased major unit sales and parts and service department sales. It has also improved the customer experience, an aspect of business that Lang explains is the most important. “We’re very customer centric,” he says. “We care about the customer and the experience in my Medford location was not the same as the Marshfield or Rothschild location because it was an older building and dreary. Now you walk in and it’s well-lit and very inviting.”
Lang plans to acquire an additional location in the future to continue to grow the Lang Equipment footprint. He explains that he enjoys providing customers with an experience that they don’t necessarily get from other places and wants to reach a wider community of riders. “I enjoy the fact that we offer people an overall great customer experience and meeting them and hearing their stories.”
Along with updated and uniform systems and offering an inviting atmosphere, Lang also invests in his technicians to ensure a positive experience for his customers.
“When I first started, I had the cheapest guys (technicians) that you could get to work,” he says. “I found that doesn’t work. So, I have very experienced techs and we’re consistently two to three weeks out.
“In the Medford location,” he continues, “they didn’t require any training for the technicians they had, so when I went in there, I sent them to the Honda school out in California and I sent them to the Yamaha school in Wisconsin. It really pays off, sending those guys to get certified.”
And his technicians preferred to get certified instead of learning on the fly. “It gives them confidence to know that what they’re doing is correct,” he says. “Even basic maintenance, knowing they went through the schooling, makes me as an owner feel better than years ago when I was hiring starting level technicians.”
To show his gratitude to his technicians and all employees, and to keep them connected, the entire Lang Equipment team gathers for a Christmas in July day. “Instead of trying to get together around the holidays, we do it in July and everybody loves it and enjoys it,” he says. “We’ve had it at restaurants before, but now we do it at my lake house. It’s a nice experience where people can come out and swim and fish and go out on the boats or whatever they might want to do.”
Employees from each store work together often. Although powersports brands don’t overlap from store to store, employees must be on the same page. “It’s very individualized,” he says, “but in the bigger picture, when you add outdoor power equipment to the equation, everybody is on the same page because of technology. Every manager is getting the same email. If we see an issue in one location, it’s being distributed to the others. Anything that comes up that needs to be addressed, I have a good leader in each location that will address those and distribute them through the organization so everybody is on the same page.”
Lang explains that having a consistent system in each location is crucial to create an optimized workflow for employees, and mainstreaming these systems is what he is currently focused on.