Olympia dealer J&I Power Equipment (2024)

J&I Power Equipment Co.
Olympia and Yelm, WA
Year founded: 1974
Owners: Randy and Lori Longnecker
Employees: 26 full time, 3 part time
Annual sales: over $3 million
Sales mix: 82% wholegoods, 10% parts, 8% service
Customer mix: 68% consumer, 32% commercial
Shop labor rate: $66 per hour for outdoor power equipment, $76 for diesel and marine engines
Major lines: ASV, Cub Cadet, Honda Marine, Honda Power Equipment, Hustler, Kubota, Land Pride, Stihl

The third time is the charm for J&I Power Equipment Co., with stores in both Olympia and Yelm, WA. The family-run business has been a finalist in both the 2003 and 2004 Dealers in Excellence as a result of their successful business practices. Since, they have grown considerably and have even more successes to be proud of.

J&I started out at its original Olympia location in 1974. Husband and wife team Randy and Lori Longnecker had a successful start with a clean and professional operation. Over the years they have assessed certain manufacturers and products, as well as business practices, to be sure what they are offering is top-notch.

In March 2006 the Longneckers opened a second location in Yelm, WA, that is run mainly by their three children. It is the hope of everyone that they will someday take over. "One major goal is to have a more formal succession or exit plan in place," explains Longnecker. "Our growth and current size, along with our three children involved in the day to day operations, make this one of our top priorities."


With such a large operation, the Longneckers need an experienced and dedicated staff. They have succeeded in building one impressive team. Something that may have attracted the 26 full-time and 3 part-time employees is the long list of employee benefits. Medical coverage, a 401k, paid vacation and yearly performance review bonuses are all part of the benefit package offered.

Many of their employees have actually been with working at J&I for several years. One distributor, Larry Dean of Power Equipment Systems, has noted how this can have a positive effect on service. "Their sales department is always fully loaded and their staff is the most knowledgeable of any sales department that I work with," explains Dean. "Their key personnel, service manager, parts manager, sales staff, A/P and A/R have all been with the business a long time, which allows daily business to flow as seamlessly as possible in this industry."

At J&I they realize how valuable their employees are. In an effort to keep employees satisfied with the amount of scheduled hours, business hours have been adjusted accordingly. Longnecker claims that their employees are the company's largest asset, with many working at J&I for 10 or 20 years, if not more. "These employees have made J&I what it is today," says Longnecker. "Therefore, if it requires extending hours or opening Sundays to keep these people, we will do that."


One way the Longneckers have stayed on top of their game at J&I has been by embracing modern technology and using its capabilities to improve their business processes. "We continue to use technology to our advantage as it evolves in order to help control employee cost as well as enhance efficiencies," explains Longnecker.

Through the addition of a conference room which houses a computer, conference phone and plasma screen TV, they hold in-house training sessions for techs and salesmen. In the future they hope it will prove to be a great tool as manufacturer web training becomes more common practice. This will amount to considerable savings, considering the cost of sending employees offsite for sales and technician training.

They have also added a camera system and central server to help manage the newly added location in nearby Yelm. With the central server POS system, they are able to control inventory levels and address any corrective computer actions all from one location. Originally added for security reasons, Longnecker explains the security cameras serve a dual purpose. "We invested in a camera system initially as a security measure, but they also work well for times when I have a question for someone at the other store. I can look at the cameras from my PC and make sure that the person is not tied up with a customer. It sounds like a small thing, but it does save time and frustration."


The continuous success in sales and service at J&I Power Equipment, along with the growth in their market area, led to the opportunity for a second location. The Longneckers took advantage of this opportunity right away. "Our decision to open a second location was largely based on the growing population of our current market," says Longnecker. "This growth was beginning to affect travel times not only for our existing customers, but also for future customers that will be located in what has started to be outside our market area."

The second location in Yelm is just 20 miles out from their original location in Olympia. They decided on this location only after careful consideration. "Our planning and research showed that 12 percent of our dollar volume was coming from the location we were considering," Longnecker explains. "We also decided to purchase rather than lease in order to help control our future overhead and get a better return on investment."

This smart thinking has led to a very profitable operation and a successful first year for the second location. They have created an efficient and cost-effective way to operate the two locations. In addition to the POS system which allows for well-organized inventory maintenance and tracking of sales, they carefully considered how to manage service and storage between the two locations.

Having the larger original location is helpful when planning for storage of equipment. At J&I they have decided to keep the bulk of their inventory at the original location. Being only 20 miles apart makes exchanging parts between stores simple. They also concluded it would be beneficial to only provide outdoor power equipment service at their second location. "Having a large percentage of our existing dealership dedicated to service and warehouse, we did not have to duplicate the entire service department," explains Longnecker. "The second store is set up for outdoor power equipment service, leaving larger equipment service for the Olympia store."

This way of operating saves in the cost of purchasing duplicate tools and equipment. The efficient way of running the two locations has kept the quality service going, which has led to success for both locations. "The exciting part is that the Olympia store has continued to grow after opening the second location," Longnecker adds. He has made countless investments over the years at J&I. He has been rewarded with the success of his business and will continue to experience even more growth as he carries on with the wise spending.

Olympia dealer J&I Power Equipment (2024)
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