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Farming w/ Passion

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This report aims to track ownership changes and consolidation trends of North American farm equipment dealers.
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To The Point:
No Secrets, Just Relentless Execution

Mike Lessiter, Editor/PublisherIn preparing for our 30th year in business in 2011, we brainstormed how we might push the envelope to start off our next 30. The “Dealership Minds” coverage on Birkey’s Farm Stores in this edition is one of those projects.

We’ve always prided ourselves on our “dirty-boots” approach. Just like you, our effectiveness stems from being out in the field with our customers (and our customers’ customers). It’s why, even though we’re a small company by publishing standards, we spend more on editorial travel than anyone in our segment of the farm equipment industry.

As you saw starting with the gatefold cover, this issue is altogether different as we take you “inside” Birkey’s Farm Stores — an Illinois-based dealer group we thought we knew well. Ron Birkey was among the first dealer execs we met after acquiring Farm Equipment in 2004, and he and his team are frequent contributors to our articles and surveys. We’ve attended their sales meetings, staff barbecues and even bunked in with them at a hunting event. (The good, bad and ugly are all on display when you share an 8-person bunkhouse, by the way.) 

But you don’t really know what makes someone tick until you work a day in their shoes. We got a little closer to that with this project, as we set out to understand how each cog in a successful dealership “machine” truly functions.

This 9-reporter effort was an aggressive undertaking for our company. In addition to plenty of pre-trip meetings, it also involved 2,223 miles of road travel, 21.3 gigabytes and 180 pages of notes. And a hefty meal and bar tab at Michael’s Restaurant in Bloomington, Ill.

You’ll learn more about Birkey’s in this issue's articles, but here are some observations: 

No Management ‘Flavors of the Day.’ With 6 minority stockholders, ideas must pass an arduous “sniff test.” While naturally bringing caution, it also keeps staff from chasing a rabbit down a hole.

Focused Thinking. Definite themes kept bubbling up in our interviews, almost at a “mantra” status. Clearly, managers are communicating what’s most important, with their marching orders in synch. There’s no crossing of the fingers and hoping for results — milestones and expectations are clearly defined.

No Silent Partners. Birkey’s owners have been required to be in the trenches with employees and customers. This eliminates board pressure or influence from those who don’t know what they’re talking about. Subordination to the interests of the business, not to one’s location or pet department, is also paramount.

Sure & Steady. Birkey’s doesn’t seek heroics; just steady production that continually moves the business forward. It’s another sign of the trust team members place in one another.

Behind the Numbers. Birkey’s works diligently not only to share numbers, but also to explain what they mean. It’s no surprise then that employees realize how they can move the needle when they show up for work each day.

Throughout this project, Birkey’s openness surprised even our own staff. There was no guarding of a playbook, nor any secrets for that matter. What this company does best is execute — at every step of the way. 

Regardless of whether you’re a big or small dealership, we hope these pages provide a chance to reflect on your own business, and what it takes to truly keep your farm customers productive. We hope you’ll pass it around the dealership, too.


 

Check out other articles from the February 2011 Issue of Farm Equipment:

Dealership Minds: Profile of a Successful Dealership
A day-in-the-life exploration of Birkey's Farm Stores detailing the inner workings of one of America's best-managed farm equipment dealership groups. 

2011 Ag Connect Expo Illustrated
With 382 exhibitors, 174,500 square feet of displays and a myriad of educational sessions, the 2011 Ag Connect Expo, January 7-11 in Atlanta, Ga., offered enough to keep four Farm Equipment editors more than a little busy.

How to Sell:
Making Tracks Work For Your Dealership

Planning For Profits:
Strong Store Managers or Centralized Structure?

Ahead of the Curve:
'Autonomous' Tractors Are on the Horizon

Trade Values & Trends:
Average Resale Values of Farm Machinery: 2008-2010

The Business of Selling:
Record Farm Income and Impending Dealership Failure

Exclusively Online Content:

Stuck in the Muck Contest Goes Viral
Record rainfall across Canada’s Prairie Provinces during 2010 turned cropland into a sticky quagmire that swallowed equipment. When spectacular photos began circulating online that depicted four-wheel-drive tractors equipped with triples and high-clearance sprayers stuck in mud beyond the hub, a farm equipment dealer in Saskatchewan found a way to recognize the challenging year and have fun at the same time. 

Required Skills for Multi-Store Managers
Insight from George Russell & George Keen, Currie Management Consultants about the necessary skills for managers in multi-store structured dealerships.

Or view all of the articles and online content featured in the issue by clicking here.


 

Posted February 7, 2011


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