By Grant Walter
Offering the Fine Art of Off-Road Customization
Maximum Elevation Off-Road is now housed at its brand-new location in Paris, Texas.
Collin Hadley is a planner. He started Maximum Elevation Off-Road (MEO) with the goal of growing his shop into a nationally recognized brand. SEMA News caught up with Hadley as MEO was completing its move to a new, 8,000-sq.-ft. space. There, MEO will continue its mission to bring the polished customer experience of a Mercedes-Benz service department to the off-road community.
SEMA News: Tell us your story. How did Maximum Elevation become what it is today?
Collin Hadley: Off-roading was a hobby of mine. I began my career as a Mercedes-Benz technician in Dallas. My wife and I had just gotten married, and we wanted to raise our kids somewhere smaller, so we picked Paris, Texas, because it’s where I grew up. There was an off-road market there that I thought I could serve, so we packed up and moved.
SN: Who are your customers?
At 8,000 sq. ft., the MEO facility services a wide range of customers, including fleet vehicles and restyling jobs for dealerships.
CH: My customer base ranges from teenagers to doctors who want a six-figure Jeep Wrangler. When I sit down with my marketing team and we try to pinpoint where our target customer base is, we have a hard time. It is majority male, and the ages range from 16 all the way
The best way to sum it up is that, whether it be male or female, young or old, we have the ability to adjust, communicate and relate to any form of customer. I’ve made sure that I built a team that has the ability to relate and communicate with any kind of person who’s coming in, and
I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been successful.
SN: Do you do any business-to-business jobs?
CH: Yes. Paris has quite a bit of what I like to call “fleet industry.” We have Campbell’s Soup, Kimberly Clark and others. A big part of this business is also being able to modify vehicles for dealerships to sell. Sometimes we have to rely on local paint and body shops to do some really custom work that we’re not able to do, or some manufacturing facilities around here to do some custom metal cutting. I’ve tried to create an atmosphere where local businesses can rely on us to help and service them, and vice versa.
The clean, comfortable lobby décor betrays a unique mindset when it comes to customer experience in off-road customization.
SN: Speaking of marketing, have social media and the web played a significant role in your business thus far?
CH: They have, and that’s one thing that I’ve struggled with in previous years, because they evolve so quickly. So I’ve brought on a company that is totally focused. In fact, it’s a SEMA member also: Mountain Motion Media. They’re out of Durango, Colorado, and we’ve partnered with them to head up all of our marketing for 2019.
SN: How do you hire the right people?
Collin Hadley, Founder/Partner
Pro Tips for Success:
CH: It’s all about personality and capabilities. Whenever I am hiring somebody new that I don’t otherwise have a feel for, I like to do working interviews. If possible, they come in and work for a week in our facility. We see if they fit in. It gives me an opportunity to see what their work ethics are and what their qualifications are.
SN: How much inventory do you keep around, and do you sell online?
CH: I generally keep around $100,000 worth of inventory in stock. I hope to increase that as necessary, but we’re fortunate in that we have good wholesale distribution in the United States. I’m really diving into brick-and-mortar. All your bigger names in the industry have taken a stand to focus more on e-commerce, but realistically, Amazon is my biggest competitor, and it’s hard to beat. I feel like my efforts and strategy are better focused on building our brick-and-mortar experience versus exhausting our resources on e-commerce.
SN: Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs who are just starting out or feeling stuck?
CH: Seek out and shadow as many people as you possibly can who are doing it right. Use them as mentors. That’s one thing that I always struggled with. Right now, I’m 34 years old. I started my business when I was 25, and I’ve had to learn from the hard knocks of business because I was going it alone.
Also, if you have a dream or a vision, take a step back and build a plan on what it’s going to take to achieve that from start to finish. You’ll find that you’ll start knocking things off the list in no time, and you’ll get to where you want. You have to have a plan with anything you do.