Brant Bingham — General Operations Assistant, Bingham Equipment Co.
Years with Company: 5 years (4 in sales)
Age: 30, married to Allie
Owners: Majority owners are Blaine (president/CEO) and Barbara Bingham; minority interest are the Norm Bingham family
Major Lines: Bobcat, Case Construction, Kubota, New Holland and AGCO
Shortlines: BW, Land Pride, Supreme, Great Plains, Dave Koenig, Rhino, Darf, Gearmore, Alamo and Sthil
2013 Revenues: $55 million.
Founded: 1956 in Casa Grande, Ariz., as Norm Bingham Tractor & Equipment
I’ve always wanted to be prepared enough to work for the company, but I wasn’t always sure if my interests would bring me here. I did know that if I decided to go to work here, it needed to the last career decision I made. People deserved that type of commitment. The rule is that, as family members, we don’t have the blessing to join the business until we’re ready and have the capacity to give 100%.
“After giving it a lot of thought, I jumped in after college in 2007 and got hooked after working in the new sales position created for me. I was 23, started to feel a lot of pride in the industry and company, and began to realize that I can be a part of this and I can work to improve it.”
Leaving ... to Come Back
“After almost 4 years in sales, I went on hiatus in 2011 to attend San Diego State full-time to get my MBA, with a plan to return as soon as I finished. My dad, Blaine, had planted the seed about how an MBA would give anyone a big leg-up in understanding today’s equipment business. My wife and I talked a lot and how we wanted our future to look, so if it was going to be helpful for what I wanted my role to someday be, I wanted to do it.
“It was good to get some distance from the dealerships during that time. If I had been too close or still involved in the business, I would have wound up not having enough time to do school because of the work or not having enough time to do the work because of the school. Stepping away, I could focus and be consistent with that full dedication.
“The timing of when to leave was based on looking at our workforce. We could see that 2014 was when a lot of the generational change would start happening. I wanted to be trained and ready to start removing the pressures before those people were ready to start retiring. That was my motivator to leave when I did — to get it done and be back to focus 100% on the business come 2014. I had also wanted to be established career-wise at age 30.
“The MBA instilled the scientific approach to the business. It really helped me to understand more intimately what the numbers mean to the business and not to just use numbers as a means to an end. But to also use them to creatively solve problems you might be up against.”
Experienced in Succession Planning
“My dad, who is 61, lived through succession planning himself, coming back from college in 1977 to help his dad, Norm, now 87, with the business. Dad started in sales, then as a store manager, and then as president/CEO, where he’s been since the 1980s.
“Succession planning is something that my dad has put a lot of thought into. He and the management team have always been aware that a business has a lifespan. They recognized that and are making decisions now that will allow it to prosper tomorrow. He didn’t know back then whether I’d be part of the plan, but we’re all fortunate in that he was thinking about it.
“What’s interesting is that my dad really stepped up when his father was president of the North American Equipment Dealers Assn. (NAEDA). My grandfather took 22 trips in 12 months for NAEDA and every time he came back home, little by little, my dad was doing more. My first week back at the dealership, my dad was elected chairman of NAEDA. So he’s continuing that and traveling a lot and it creates a void for me to fill.
“Now when it comes to the ‘how’ of the succession process, a lot of things have changed since he went through it, so I find myself wanting to take different approaches. Dad’s biggest advice is to always follow through on what you say. The general manager he followed way back when told him to find those who you can always count on to get things done. At the end of your career, he said, they’ll be the most important group you could ever surround yourself with.”
“Our structure is flat; we wear a lot of different hats. My role as general operations assistant is across all departments, to pick up on important tasks and make sure that we’re successful at carrying them out. I’m a resource to help get the right things done. I can be there to assist, brainstorm and help follow through with objectives and deliverables.
“I have to remind myself to be patient yet also be on guard against complacency. I want to interject and improve things, but I don’t want to waste any positive influence I might have by getting ahead of myself...”
“Beyond the operations side, I am getting involved in everything that management thinks can serve as a critical lesson to the overall business. My participation in those meetings varies, but I am being exposed to all aspects, whether it’s HR, legal, expansion opportunities, etc.”
The First 100 Days
“When I came back from getting my MBA last March, I had no operational duties, no emails I needed to send, and no tasks I needed to accomplish. It was fantastic. I traveled around to as many stores as I could and I continue to do that. I’m trying to get a good picture of how this is all working, and letting the people see how excited I am to be back and working with them. I’m keeping lots of notes on the big picture ideas I want to accomplish.
“For the first 100 days, I’m trying hard not to get too wrapped up in the daily operations, but to observe a lot, have fun, spend time with people and get reacquainted with the business. As I get around, I realize that everyone is my superior in some way. You can learn something from anybody, but you must be willing to listen to them.
“Things are going well; it’s early on and still a low-pressure zone at this point. There are things Dad and I definitely don’t agree on. Because he’s been the owner of the company for so long his vantage point can be different from the rest of us, and he has the ability to get things done in timeframes that aren’t available to all of us. I’m working on getting him to listen to what I experience, because that’s ultimately what a lot of people experience at the dealership.
“The biggest challenge for me isn’t so much customers and employees; it’s communicating up to our C-level group that although my ideas may be different, many are still valid — even if it’s not the way that they would’ve done it. One of our vision statements is ‘Adopt a culture of innovation and change.’ Many of them have been in their positions for decades, and been very successful, so I want to share that innovation and change can come in many forms. We need to create an excitement of taking risks and trying new ideas.
“So long as you’re trying to learn and your intentions are coming from the right place, your opinions are valid.”
Hopes for Ownership
“A lot of people view me as the heir apparent — I think in a positive way. It’s something that I take on humbly and recognize the fact that just because I’m here and just because it’s my last name does not mean I’m going to be the right person for the job.
“So in a positive way I appreciate being a symbol of longevity in the company; that I’ll be involved for the long run. And I hope that over time people will agree I’ll be a good leader.
“As far as what’s next, I think the best measure is whether I’ve earned an opportunity for ownership, and that will be performance over time and showing consistent dedication to the company. So I would hope that in 2-3 years that I’ll have enough experience and success to have earned a right to participate as an owner on some level.
What could take me off the track? Giving the impression I know all the answers and don’t have anything left to learn would be anyone’s undoing. That, along would showing fickle dedication to the company, would draw serious doubt into whether I possessed the right makeup for the job.”