Ben Bremer is proud of his family business. 2018 marks Hoyer Outdoor Equipment’s 50th anniversary, and that doesn’t come as much of a surprise if you ask Bremer. After all, putting family first is the cornerstone of Hoyer’s success.
In its third generation, Hoyer Outdoor Equipment remains an idyllic family business, with uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and even Mrs. Hoyer herself contributing to the cause.
Bremer’s grandparents, Owen and Cheryl Hoyer, were born and raised in Northeast Arkansas, where the couple worked for Owen’s father at his sawmill. In 1965, with little work left in the region, the young family moved to southern Illinois in search of better opportunities in the timber industry, cutting furniture squares and hauling them west to Missouri and Arkansas in Owen’s personal pickup truck.
Owen’s brother soon started a chain saw dealership to further serve the loyal lumbermen who kept the mill humming, prompting Owen to focus his work on chain saw repairs, originally tearing down and fixing them on the kitchen floor of his farmhouse.
1968 marked the official founding of the family business. During the years to follow, the Hoyers would add several other chain saw and power equipment brands, including Husqvarna, to the product lineup as the Hoyer enterprise continued to flourish.
Today, Hoyer Outdoor Equipment, Brookport, Illinois, offers a full range of outdoor power equipment, from wheeled to handheld. In typical family business fashion, all children grew up working the counter, dusting the shelves, and assisting with whatever was needed. Eventually, Bremer bought the business from his grandparents. To him, being a million-dollar business is not at odds with being family run through and through. This is attested to by grandma, who still works in the office.
When it comes to the biggest challenges of running a family business, Bremer said, “working with family, of course. You have to be sensitive to different personalities and handle things a bit differently than you would in a corporate environment. I spent some time working for PepsiCo before returning to the family business, so I know what that’s like.”
But Bremer credits the company’s longevity and success to precisely that family bond. “Family creates a special kind of trust, and a bond that is hard to match,” he said. “Everyone has the same ambition to get the job done and see the business succeed. Non-family employees don’t have quite the same skin in the game.”
When hiring from outside the family, Bremer said he looks for people who are a good fit and not intimidated by the family dynamics. He considers it to be a laid-back dealership that takes its focus on family seriously. Whether it is flexible work schedules around family activities or the ability to bring your child to work, Hoyer Outdoor Equipment makes sure that employees and customers know that the business understands and wants them to put family first. Bremer credits their employee retention to this philosophy. Nearly everyone has been with the company for more than 10 years.
“Working here, you don’t have to be worried about missing your kid’s ballgame,” he said. “We create a work environment that’s low stress, and a bit more forgiving. We want our employees to be happy. Then they won’t be looking to work elsewhere.”
Hoyer Outdoor Equipment is located on the far edge of the map in the Southern Illinois countryside. It is not near a main road, let alone a major highway, and there are no other businesses nearby. So, how did the company stay successful in that environment?
“Most people are surprised when they come to us for the first time and are shocked by the size of our inventory, because nobody expects it this far out in the country,” said Bremer. “We have a large indoor showroom with a very large selection of mowers. It’s a really nice space. Chances are high that we have exactly the Husqvarna mower model you are looking for, and it’ll be nice and clean.”
Bremer adds that people are often used to dealers having products that are dirty from being demoed outside, and that his clean indoor showroom approach is a deliberate move to make customers feel comfortable. He relies mostly on word-of-mouth advertising, and it works. In southern Illinois, customers are family, too, and they pass the dealer relationship down from generation to generation. Today’s customers likely grew up being brought to the dealership when they were kids themselves. Nothing unusual, as the family’s own kids are running around the business every day.
Another surprising aspect for new customers is that the showroom is almost entirely staffed by women. “It sounds like a cliché, but people don’t expect female staff to be knowledgeable about chain saws and mowers, but it makes a big difference for our customers,” said Bremer. “We have a lot of female customers who come to us because they feel comfortable in our setting. So, in terms of expanding your customer base, this is a great way to reach different audiences.”
Most importantly, though, he said Hoyer Outdoor Equipment considers itself to have the best technicians in the region. Hoyer’s technicians average a 22-year tenure with the company, and with it comes historic product knowledge that’s hard to replicate. “You can’t train or repeat that kind of knowledge, it just comes with experience,” said Bremer. “We’ve had our youngest brand for four years and our big mainstays, like Husqvarna, for more than 40 years. If someone needs a part for an older saw, we likely have it. We’re the business people come to when nobody else can help.”
Article provided by Husqvarna Brand Division NA.