Consistent Service Profits Require Consistent Process
Howie’s Tackle & Archery is a perfect one-stop-shop for any outdoorsman that finds themselves in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
For over 30 years, Howie’s Tackle has been making “The Original Howie Fly”. This little fly has been hammering record breaking salmon, trout and steelhead all over the Midwest for all those years. On top of that, they also sell top-of-the-line archery gear and provide motel rooms as well as a fishing-charter service. We sat down with owner Mike Richard and got some insight on what it takes to manage such a successful and multi-faceted business.
Headquarters: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Owner: Mike Richard
Store Facts: Opened in January 2011. The store covers 2,000 square feet. Its showroom floor and work areas cover about 1,400 square feet, and its shooting lanes cover about 600 square feet. Richard also owns and manages the Cherryland Motel, which connects to the store.
Staffing: Three full-time employees and three part timers.
Bow Lines: Mathews, Mission, Hoyt and Carbon Express crossbows.
Arrow Lines: Carbon Express.
Inside Numbers: The store generates about $300,000 annually, of which about 15 percent comes from archery and bowhunting.
Inside Archery: How do you ensure consistent, maximum profits from your service center?
Richard: “You start by making sure you recover your time with the customers. If you keep track from Day 1, and log the time you spend with each customer from when they walk in until when they walk out, you realize you don’t make much by the hour. It’s a tough situation because archery isn’t highly profitable to begin with.”
Inside Archery: How do you maximize each of those hours?
Richard: “You must be consistent in what you charge, but just as important, you must charge for everything you do, no matter how minimal the work might seem to customers. You can’t be afraid to be fair to yourself. They’re paying for your expertise. Remind yourself that you can’t call your attorney without getting charged for the phone call.”
Inside Archery: Do you charge by the hour or by set job rates?
Richard: “I guess we do both. Our chart basically has an hourly rate for service and repairs; and set rates for common, everyday jobs like tying or adjusting peeps, or installing or adjusting rests. We also have a flat rate for replacing strings and cables. You kind of know what to expect there. We post the rates chart on our wall where customers can see it.”
Inside Archery: Is it difficult to make your employees enforce the rates consistently?
Richard: “I’m blessed with two good guys who are excellent bow technicians. They know our rates and everything is itemized. So, it’s just a matter of them charging what’s posted in the shop. You also must take good care of skilled technicians. It’s hard to find people who are reliable and knowledgeable in bow repairs. If I had to go find someone right now, it would be difficult. You don’t find those skills everywhere.”
Inside Archery: How do you assign the service and maintenance work?
Richard: “It helps that all three of us are qualified to take care of almost anybody and any work that comes in. Our two main guys do most of the service work, and they pretty much handle it as it comes in. Another of our archery guys starts helping out in September. He runs our charter boats on Lake Michigan until then. The fishing usually stays pretty good until we get into the early bow season, so that works out well for us. If we were just archery, we’d have a hard time making it in this area.”
Inside Archery: You also operate a fishing-charter service, and you rent motel rooms. Do those businesses complicate the service workflow in archery?
Richard: “Repairs and service usually start picking up about the third week of July. It’s never a specific date. Guys start thinking about bow season the first time they feel any little chill in the air. They start coming in to make new bow purchases, or to upgrade or replace components like strings and cables.”
Inside Archery: Do you have a standard goal or a maximum time allowed for repairs and maintenance work?
Richard: “We try to turn things around as quickly as we can, but it can be a tough mix in that midsummer, early crunch period. If they bring their bow in during July when the Kewaunee-Door Salmon Tournament is going on, they have to understand we’ll be in a crunch with fishing work. For the most part, though, it’s never more than two- to three-day turnarounds unless we have to order something like custom strings and cables. That might take four to five days. We order 98 percent of the strings and cables we need, but we will make them for recurves and older crossbows if we can’t order what they need.”
Inside Archery: How do you determine your rates? What are your criteria, etc.?
Richard: “No matter what it is, we generally want to hit about a 30 to 40 percent profit margin on our work and sales, and that means about a 30 percent margin across the board on components. We make most of our better margins with the accessories and components. Some people buy online and bring it in, but most of our customers are regulars, and they’ll buy the components from us.”