U Motors of Fargo North Dakota experiences little employee turnover, and owner Jill Arneson credits this to a couple of intentional practices. Arneson and her husband, Cale Arneson, provide benefit packages for employees.
“For my husband and me, that’s important as parents who have had a disabled child with medical complexities. It’s important for us because you never know if that’s going to be you, and we want to make sure that we can provide that for our people,” she says.
The dealership also provides employee perks. Arneson refers to Family Lunches that are catered, whether as a celebration or simply to show appreciation on a random weekday. Employees are also encouraged to play on the product they sell, so they have access to demo units.
“We have many people with kids and there are typically a lot of snow days, so it’s not unusual to see a kid or two in here when school is shut down, running around, playing with coloring books and having races in the showroom,” Arneson notes. “We get it, we have kids, so we’re pretty loose about that stuff. We support them and their families inside the business and outside.”
“A lot of our people left to go work somewhere else after college and ended up circling back here,” she continues. “Many of them have been with us for years. We’re like family and we try not to put anybody in a box. We let them show their own personality and have fun.”
Personality and social media
And the staff’s personality is proudly displayed on the dealership’s website, which includes comical pictures and lighthearted descriptions of employees. “We keep it pretty light and loose around here,” Arneson says. “It’s how we integrate people into our company culture.”
Arneson is involved in the marketing department of the dealership and explains that short form videos like Instagram Reels and TikTok’s generate a larger response compared to other types of content and platforms. About six of U Motors’ 65 TikTok posts have gone viral. And the posts that haven’t gone viral, many of them still received views in the thousands. The dealership has an impressive 4,000−plus followers on TikTok.
Arneson explains that the dealership’s social media showcases the fun that employees have in the dealership. “When we get more playful and show our personality on social media, that’s what people get a kick out of most.”
While it is more to manage, each U Motors location has its own Instagram and Facebook profile. Arneson explains this creates less confusion for customers because different lines are carried at each of the three dealerships.
Expanding to three locations
Arneson met her husband at the dealership when they both started working there in 2008. Cale Arneson bought U Motors of Fargo, North Dakota, from his family in 2013, shortly before he and Jill Arneson married.
The couple then purchased a different building in Fargo and moved to that facility in 2016. As the marine segment of the business grew, they acquired a location in Lakes Country on Big Pelican Lake in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. During COVID, they purchased a dealership in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. The Minnesota dealerships are about 25 minutes apart and an hour drive from the Fargo location.
“They’re spread out a bit so we can cover enough ground, but not too close, so there’s plenty of customer base for the three locations,” Arneson says.
She started part-time at the dealership in college. After graduating, she was asked to come back and manage the apparel and accessories department. “I just grew to love it,” she says. For a short time, she managed the parts department, then handled the company’s finances and accounting. After taking a few years off to care for her oldest daughter, Arneson returned as a support person for Nate Harms, the general manager who has also worked at the dealership since 2008.
“Nate started as a lot attendant and he helped wash bikes, kept the lot clean, arranged the showroom and now he’s our general manager. He’s fantastic,” she says. “My husband works outside of the business, so Nate has our full trust, and I’m here to support him and our staff. I do a bit of marketing now, and I’m part time because I need flexibility with our daughters’ schedules. I help where needed and plan events.”
Promotion and upcoming events
The dealership hosted its first open house since the pandemic began on June 10. U Motors hired a professional photographer and videographer to capture the fun throughout the day. The Twinstunts, a Yamaha stunt team, were in attendance and put on two events during the day.
“There will be food trucks,” Arneson says before the event. “We will pull a lot of our showroom outdoors so customers can mill around and do a bunch of giveaways and have loud music playing in the parking lot. Our lot is almost a whole city block in town, so we have a lot of space for activities. This is really exciting for us.”
The dealership will also participate in a Dare to Compare event on July 8. U Motors and Minnesota Inboard Water Sports of Brainerd, Minnesota, will bring a boat from each line they carry to a local marina where customers are invited to compare products.
“It’s not common. People are usually a little apprehensive to do that with a competitor,” Arenson says. “But there’s more than plenty to go around here, and at the end of the day, we want our customers to be satisfied with their purchase. So, if it’s not our product and they’re better suited for something else, we get that. And we look at other dealers as niche neighbors, not competitors. It’s a really fun event.”
Arneson is especially proud of the dealership’s support of nonprofit organizations. Her oldest daughter was born with a brain tumor and had to undergo brain surgery, so the dealership’s annual Scooters for Tumors event is important to Arenson.
“It’s going to be on July 16 and it’s kind of a unique event,” she says. “It’s predominantly scooters, and last year we had about 100 riders. We also allow motorcycles, a couple of side-by-sides come along, and classic cars followed us. We have a really fun day. We raise money for a local nonprofit called Pray for Grace, it’s a brain tumor nonprofit here in North Dakota that’s near and dear to our hearts.”
“I’ve been holding scooter runs since 2010,” she recounts. “We used to do them for breast cancer awareness and as our lives changed, we shifted gears to a brain tumor nonprofit.”
U Motors recently partnered with Cboys TV, a YouTube channel run by regular customers, and will provide them with a demo boat for the summer. Arneson explains they have a large YouTube and Instagram following, and partnering with them will drive traffic to U Motors on social media.
“We also send our people out on a lot of bike runs in the summer and want them to enjoy powersports year-round. There’s a lot of fun snowmobiling events that we attend and send our people to,” she says. The dealership also hosts a Black Friday event every year, joined by a bartender who serves drinks and mimosas throughout the day while guests participate in giveaways.
“We were in this business in 2008 and we saw what could happen with the economy, so that’s always in the back of our mind,” Arneson says. “We’re always being super cautious, preparing ourselves for the worst and setting ourselves up so we don’t fail. We’re keeping our eye on all of it.”
The dealership’s current focus is on making careful trades to ensure inventory continues to flow in and out of the showroom, “and focusing on customer service and customers that we already have, so, should the economy go south, they’re still coming to us and we’re still servicing the products that they have.”