Special Report: How
Business Has Changed for Dealers
Managing a Tornado
Of Change for Dealers
If merging with a local dealer stressed your patience and your will to do it again, consider Jim Irwin’s story. The retired Case IH vice president of North American Ag Business was clearly challenged by the multiple mergers and acquisitions that International Harvester and Case went through in quick succession, along with the acquisition of individual lines.
“It was not easy molding those cultures together,” he says. Figuring out the turmoil among the competing dealers was one thing, but there was trepidation within the manufacturer each time as well. “During Case and the IH merger back in 1984, we were taking a parts inventory at a dealership that was going to be merged. About 7 were wearing IH hats and an equal number wearing Case hats.
“I got Case IH hats to everyone so they wouldn’t know which side they were on. We wanted to get people outside of their little groups to try to become part of a bigger organization, part of the family. I always aimed for that philosophy.”
He also recalls a Texas dealer meeting when a Tenneco executive (Case’s parent firm who acquired IH) showed a slide of a new tractor that had a color scheme that the dealers in the crowd weren’t at all happy with. “I thought there was going to be riot.” The color scheme was corrected at the same meeting two days later, which ended in a standing ovation.
Then after the Case IH-New Holland merger in 1999, Irwin says there was even more uncertainty. “There were a lot of questions whether we’d make it or not, and a lot of dealers were down in the dumps after so many other changes they’d been through. Our competition was trying to take advantage of it. We held a steady hand on the wheel both within our organization and the dealer organization, and I’m proud of what we did to establish the Case IH brand. We put some chinks in the competition’s armor that they hadn’t realized until it was over. How we responded put a lot of confidence back into the Case IH dealer organization.”
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