Located smack dab in the middle of North Dakota’s oil boom has meant plenty of new business for Vallely Sport & Marine, but it also presents its fair share of challenges.
With percentage growth in the double digits the last two years, the company’s employees have been under more pressure – and finding more employees in a booming economy isn’t easy.
“North Dakota’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation at about 2.5 percent, and it is lower in the communities where we are located,” said sales manager Josh Vallely. “To accommodate this growth we have had to get creative in staffing our dealerships to handle our increase in business.”
That has meant cross-training employees in multiple jobs, as well as finding more part-time “support people” that can float between departments.
Vallely has also put an increased emphasis on investing in its employees, spending thousands of dollars in 2013 on internal and external training opportunities. Two key management employees were enrolled in the Spader Leadership Development Program, consisting of five three-day sessions over 18 months.
“We felt that this program was the perfect platform to provide these two key employees with personal leadership growth opportunities, get both stores’ management teams on the same page, and to help our third-generation business continue to grow,” Vallely said. “The program was competed in early 2014, and was very beneficial to our organization and personal growth of our employees.”
With the increase in business have come other opportunities to improve the business. In 2013, Vallely undertook a major renovation of its Minot, N.D., location, which has seen tremendous growth since it was acquired in 1986.
The service department was completely remodeled, starting with moving and installing new overhead doors in a spot that was more efficient for the technicians and improved workflow. The entire department was reskinned with new interior steel wall covering, new lights throughout and new workbenches and storage areas.
Vallely also expanded its second story to add an employee training and break room, which will hold the entire staff for company meetings and training. Plans call for connecting this room via video conferencing to the Bismarck store to be able to hold company-wide meetings.
The customer facing showroom, parts department, service write up area, and bathrooms were completely remodeled, with new carpet and tile, repainted walls and a new layout to better accommodate the increase in business and work flow.
The company launched a new VallelyMarine.com in 2013 with the goal of better directing customers through the site to find the products they want, whether it is an ATV, boat or related accessory.
“With as many products as we carry, this has always been a challenge,” Vallely said. “Now when a customer that is coming to the site is looking for a used boat, they don’t also have to look through used ATVs or other unrelated products. Our accessories are also categorized this way so when a buyer comes to shop they are looking at exactly what they want.”
The website is also now optimized for mobile and better integrates the company’s social media efforts. The idea is for visitors to be able to almost everything they could do in the stores.
“We view our website as a third location,” Vallely said. “The website helps us build credibility to customers that have not been to our store. They can read all about us, our history, and our services.”