Chris Shea is ready to take JCB of Georgia to even greater heights of success.
JCB of Georgia, also known as Low Country Equipment, has a rather unique situation compared with other JCB equipment dealers throughout North America. JCB of Georgia is located right next door to manufacturer JCB's North American Headquarters in Pooler, Ga., near Savannah.
The 15,000-sq. ft. (1,393 sq m) dealership is leased from JCB on its manufacturing property. After opening for business back in 2001, JCB of Georgia went through a few ownership changes over the years. Now, as the dealership celebrates its 15th year of business, new owner Chris Shea is ready to take JCB of Georgia to even greater heights of success.
“I've always enjoyed machines like tractors, backhoes and excavators,” Shea said. “I always liked to play in the dirt, like a lot of little boys do. My dad was a railroad man, and he liked heavy equipment, so getting into the equipment business came to me naturally.”
A Legacy of Hard Work
Shea's father also instilled a sense of ambition in his son. At the age of nine, the younger Shea was borrowing his father's lawnmower —without asking first — and cutting the neighbors' grass to make spending money. From there, Shea began accompanying his dad to equipment auctions where he learned how to assess a machine's value, buy the right machines, clean them up and resell them for a profit.
After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 2004, Shea called JCB of Georgia in the hopes of getting a position in equipment sales with the ultimate goal of someday owning his own equipment dealership. At the time, there were no open equipment sales positions, but there was a job available as a parts salesperson. Shea signed on in June 2004, and thanks to his ideal background, work ethic and ambition, became an equipment salesperson in only two short months.
“I sold a skid steer loader the first day on the job, and I've been one of JCB's top salespeople in North America ever since,” Shea said. “I believe they started keeping track of individual sales efforts back in 2005. I've been the top salesperson four times since then. Last year was my biggest year; I sold 106 new JCB units.”
Shea worked hard, invested his money wisely and was eventually able to purchase the dealership he had grown to love. His wife Jessica has a marketing background, and her role involves growing the JCB.
Support From Savannah
Shea said that he's received an amazing amount of support from the Savannah area since the news of his dealership purchase went public. He's received numerous congratulatory phone calls and visits from customers, friends and family who are proud of his accomplishments. The staff at JCB's North American Headquarters has also been a big help to JCB of Georgia over the years, and Shea expects that to continue.
“Being located so close together, we interact with the staff at the JCB facility more than most other dealers, of course,” Chris said. “They have a lot of people who've been on staff a long time, and they're really like an extension of this dealership. They care what happens to me, and I care what happens to them. It's a great working relationship.”
There's also another major benefit of being located so close to JCB's factory.
“If I don't have a machine on our yard, I can take customers next door to the factory and show them what I'm talking about,” Shea said. “That only gets complicated when the customer really wants to purchase the machine, but it's already been spoken for by a dealer somewhere else. I have to explain that I'll still need to order that machine for them.”
Diversification Pays Off
The kind of success that Shea has been able to achieve in equipment sales and service doesn't come overnight. It requires a great deal of out-of-the-box thinking and planning, great employees and an excellent product. While JCB's full line of heavy equipment — backhoes, excavators, skid steer loaders and more — is JCB of Georgia's primary focus, Shea decided that it was also important to diversify his business.
In January 2016, the dealership began negotiating with Massey Ferguson to bring on its tractor line. But Shea didn't stop there. Due to the dealership's proximity to Beaufort County, S.C., and Hilton Head Island, Shea did some research and discovered there are more than180 landscapers registered in that county alone. Knowing landscapers need a wide variety of equipment, Shea also brought on the SCAG line of professional lawn care equipment and Echo power tools in the hopes of becoming a one-stop-shop for landscapers.
“There are all these lawn care guys who start out with just a lawn mower and a weed eater, and they want to grow their businesses,” Shea said. “If I can get in with them early on and position myself as their point person when they need a lawnmower and a weed eater, when they do decide to start landscaping yards and they need a skid steer, they're more likely to choose a JCB machine since we're already doing business with them.”
Successful Past, Successful Future
Now that Shea owns JCB of Georgia, his day-to-day role has changed somewhat. He's hired two people to replace him in his former position. Between training them and still managing the sales department and the rest of the business, he's a busy man.
“I have a great staff here, it's basically a well-oiled machine,” he said. “Everyone works well together, and the day-to-day operations have continued without any problems. I may sell a customer his first machine, but I don't sell him his second machine. Everyone here is responsible for getting us repeat business. The parts guy, the service department, everyone who's involved with the dealership drives us to be successful. It's a fact — and one I tell my older children all the time —that if you want to be successful in life, you have to surround yourselves with likeminded people. We have 29 people on staff, and they all come to work with smiles on their faces.”
The small-town Georgia boy has definitely come a long way from his days of borrowing his dad's lawnmower to make a few bucks. Shea truly appreciates the way his parents raised him and the fact that he learned the value of dollar early on. All of his experiences have led him to the position he's in today.
“I'm lucky, I was able to get a job doing exactly what I wanted to do in life. I can't wait to get up every morning and demonstrate equipment, sell equipment. It's really like a story book. I've worked hard, and now I'm living the American dream.”