Sean Young — Branch Manager, Young’s Equipment Inc.
Years with Company/Industry: 8
Owners: Tim and Sean Young
Major Line: Case IH
Shortlines: Bourgault, MacDon, Equipment Technologies Apache, Kubota, Seed Hawk, Farm King, Convey-All, Vermeer, Land Pride and Highline
2013 Revenues: $246 Million
My dad, Tim Young, started the company in 1988. I was about a year and a half old then, so basically I've been around the dealership my entire life. I started working there when I was 12 during the summers, sweeping floors and washing equipment, and since then, I've pretty much done everything in between.
"Succession planning began in 1998 when I was 12 years old. My father, who is general manager and CEO, and I sat down and discussed a plan. At that point, I was too young to fully comprehend what we were talking about. I understood it on the surface, but I had only worked one summer of my life and enjoyed it. At 12, you have no concept that this is going to be for the rest of your life - this is what we were actually talking about. It's something I wanted to do at the time, and that never changed. My father and I had regular conversations to make sure coming back to the dealership was still something I wanted.
"The process in between has been great. I've never felt that because we had this conversation when I was 12 years old that I absolutely had to come back to Young's Equipment. I could always change my mind. That made it a lot easier; it was a very comfortable position to be in."
"In 2007, I went to work for Farm Credit Canada, an agricultural lender, as a summer intern to learn a different aspect of the agricultural industry. I started out working in the lending department, and then, after a year and a half, moved into process management and redesign, which involved finding efficiencies and creating polices and process documentation. This experience is becoming very applicable because we're going through that process as a company right now - documenting more of our policies, making sure everything is written and clear and that we're able to move forward with what we want to do.
"We didn't want to get stuck doing things the same way they had always been done, and that was a big part of why I spent time working away from the dealership. That allowed me to see how other people do things, make sure that we're doing things as efficiently as we can. It also gave me the opportunity to make sure it really was something that I still wanted to do.
"My time with Farm Credit Canada was a great learning experience and it reconfirmed for me that this was the industry I wanted to be involved in. This isn't just a family business to me, this is the industry that I love and where I want to work for the rest of my life."
"In 2010, I returned to Young's Equipment, working closely with the corporate sales manager and inventory manager to learn the sales side of the business. Our inventory manager had been talking about retiring for the last several years, and that's what gave me the opportunity to come back. My role was to make it possible for him to finally retire. That still hasn't happened though.
"In 2012, we needed someone to run the store in Weyburn, and I jumped at it. I saw it as a great opportunity and it has been a huge learning experience for me. As the branch manager, I've been able to see a lot of different sides of the business. Looking back now it just seems like a logical stepping stone and I was lucky to have the opportunity to make that move.
"Before I started, we had a lot of discussions about how we would frame my move to Weyburn to the staff. One of my biggest concerns was I didn't want people to think, 'They're just doing this because it's Tim's son and he needs somewhere to work.' Through meetings and conversations with the staff, we tried to give them an idea of my background and why we were doing it.
"When I made the move to Weyburn, I worked closely with the other managers to make sure I knew what I needed to do the job. A lot of people, like our corporate parts, service and sales managers, would come down and spend time with me and just go through different things, making sure I knew how they expected things to be done.
"From there we decided it would be a good time for me to look into some more training. I enrolled in the Jerkins Dealer Candidate Course, which is designed to help train future owners or high-level managers. That was a good decision. I found a lot of value in the classes, though circumstances here in Weyburn have prevented me from finishing the program.
Bumps Along the Way
"As this was my first management role, there was a big learning curve - especially dealing with people issues. This has been a big eyeopener for me. I also really needed to learn the service side of things. My only experience had been washing and helping mechanics and stuff as a kid, but I didn't have a lot of product knowledge or understand how everything ran in the department. That was a steep learning curve as well.
"I don't know anything about repairing combines so I can't be out there showing the guys, but I always try and impress people. I'm willing to learn and work..."
"There's always a little bit of a feeling-out period, but there was never really any issues where I felt like the staff didn't trust me or felt like I couldn't help them with things. If there was ever any concern over my age, I never felt like it because the staff was good about working with me. Sometimes I'd get the feeling customers had a little bit of doubt, but for the most part they were supportive as well. I try to let my work speak for itself. Right from the start, I felt I had the support and the trust of our people and I worked hard to keep that.
"If Tim and the other corporate managers had any problems with the transition, I wasn't aware of them. I'm sure there are times where I might get annoying with all of my questions. To their credit, they've never made me feel that way and they're always supportive and helpful.
"It would have been nice to have a little bit more management experience before moving down and managing the Weyburn store. But, it's been a learning opportunity and I've grown with the location. I probably wouldn't change a whole heck of a lot.
"Taking on the service manager's duties, I definitely didn't know what I was getting myself into. Even when we finally found a service manager, I still at that point didn't really know. It's only been in the past 6 months that we've started cleaning up some of the messes I left. The customers got served and we got the work done, but there are things I could have done better that wouldn't have left our new service manager as much work to clean up.
"I should have been more diligent about closing work orders and some of the necessary things that we had to do in terms of warranty work. My priority has always been to get the work done, make sure the customer is going and happy, and we'll deal with the rest later. It caused some problems with getting paid on some of the warranty work and that kind of thing, but we were able to work through it.
"Early on in my time down here there would be days where I had to get paperwork done and I'd close my door for a couple hours. That gave the impression that I wasn't available or open to talk. A lot of people will see your doors closed and won't knock on it and issues can go unresolved. That's one thing that I would change.
"I've learned now that there's plenty of time to do paperwork after hours and I've got no problem staying late. I feel I've developed better relationships with my staff and our customers since I've changed my approach that way.
"You're never going to get everything right, so having those relationships gets you that credibility and trust to work through the times when you do stumble."
Making the Process Work
"The biggest thing I've learned is to keep open communications. Having open conversations with Tim and some of the other managers made it a lot easier and more comfortable for me. Open dialog is a big thing.
"Management needs to be sure they are building relationships with their staff. One of the wisest things our management did was talking with the store staff before I took over. They explained why and how they saw the process working and it gave them the opportunity to voice concerns to someone other than me.
"Another thing would be the support the management team provided. Having the corporate sales manager down here, having the corporate service manager down here to take some of the load off when I was doing the service manager work, that help has been amazing.
"I don't think I would have been able to get through it or get to this point where we're at now without that kind of support."
Down the Road
"In July 2013 I purchased 25% of the company from a silent partner in the business. Ultimately, the plan is for me to take over from Tim and to start assuming more corporate level management duties. The biggest challenge is going to be how I - and how we - make that transition. We must make sure it's handled correctly and everyone buys in.
"Part of getting there will be letting me handle some more of the corporate-level projects that I have been working on and continue to have conversations on a regular basis about where we're at and where we want things to go."