Scott Eisenhauer — General Manager, P&K Equipment
Years with Company/Industry: 7.5 years with John Deere/8 years with P&K Equipment
Founded: 1985 as P&K Equipment
Current owners: Barry Pollard, Drew Combs, Scott Eisenhauer
Major equipment line(s): John Deere
Top shortlines: Landoll, Kuhn Krause, Tiger Mowers, Stihl, Honda
Number of stores: P&K Equipment – 10 stores in Oklahoma; P&K Midwest – 9 stores in Iowa
Number of employees: 520
2013 revenues: $450 million
Barry Pollard — he’s the ‘P’ in P&K Equipment — probably took a big leap of faith when he hired me in 2006 to oversee his 4 John Deere dealerships in Oklahoma. I was 29 years old at the time and he said he wanted to make his stores operate as one organization and to start growing the business. Each store had a manager and operated independently at that time.
“For the record Barry was the main investor in P&K Equipment and Wendell Kirtley, who was the ‘K,’ was the day-to-day manager. The partners founded the company in 1985.
“Barry is a neurosurgeon by profession, but his family has always farmed, and he’s still actively engaged in agriculture. Today, he farms 4,000-5,000 acres of land and has a registered Angus operation in Oklahoma. I promise you that his heart’s in agriculture and he loves the John Deere business as well.
“I grew up on a farm but I didn’t study agriculture at Oklahoma State, where I majored in business and graduated in 1999. I never had any intention of getting into the equipment business, but I interviewed with Deere and 2 weeks later I went to work for them.
“After training with Deere in Oklahoma City for a few months, I spent about 2 years in Little Rock, Ark., calling on dealers in southeast Arkansas and down through the Delta region. I was a parts and service guy. At the time, they called us TAMs, or territory aftermarket managers. Then I moved to Tulsa as the territory manager for eastern Oklahoma. From there, I moved back to Oklahoma City as the territory manager for western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. I was there for my last 4 years with the company before joining P&K. In total, I worked for Deere for 7.5 years.”
Taking the GM Job
“Barry called me one day and said, ‘I’m ready to start growing again,’ and that he’d like to sit down and talk. By that time, I had gotten married and had a little one and we really wanted to stay in the Oklahoma City area. So his timing was really good for us.
“I’ve never really asked Barry why he contacted me. I had called on P&K a lot and I knew him and had a relationship with a lot of the folks who worked there. I think I had earned their trust.
“I also think he liked the fact that I had experience working for Deere, understood how the company worked and had a lot of close relationships within the company. He probably liked the fact that I had the business background, good people skills and I was used to speaking in public. He also liked that I have a rural background and I wanted to stay put. Besides knowing the people at his stores, I also knew a lot of the dealership’s customers. Both of us were also proud of being associated with Deere and working with them as a good partner. Working with John Deere is something that is very important to Barry.
“There are individuals with good skills who could perform in leadership roles in our business, but if they don’t have a passion for ag, the equipment business and true customer service, they probably won’t be successful...”
“When I took the job as general manager, P&K had 4 stores in Enid, Kingfisher, Norman and Purcell. This was just about the time that a great deal of Deere dealer consolidation began to occur. Almost immediately, we started acquiring other Deere dealers in the area.
“In fact, the owner of the Stillwater store called Barry and said, ‘I hear you hired Eisenhauer. I think it’s time for us to get together and start talking.’ Literally, we started buying the Stillwater store within a few days after I started the job.
“This was a pivotal store and strategic acquisition for us because it made us contiguous to a lot of other stores and also gave us the turf and golf contract for Oklahoma and Arkansas, which is a pretty exclusive contract with Deere.
“Today, I still oversee the 10 Oklahoma locations directly with help from some key people, and I have a general manager who oversees the 9 Iowa stores and reports to me.”
People & Personal Challenges
“When I took the general manager’s job, I was the ‘young guy.’ I was definitely younger than probably anybody I was managing. The biggest challenge was understanding how to build a rapport, trust and confidence in the people you’re working with in order to get the things done that need to be done.
“Coming from the corporate side at Deere, I didn’t really manage very many people. I came from a culture where everybody you work with within John Deere had similar educational backgrounds, similar mentality and skillsets.
“When you come into a dealership, all that’s off the table. You deal with a lot of employees with varying skill levels, education and mentalities. Understanding how to deal with the different personalities and what’s important to each of them is challenging. Just figuring out how to manage and prioritize all that and not getting bogged down in the personalities and personality conflicts and the employee issues and keeping everybody going in the same direction are the most difficult challenges.
“As I’ve grown and the company has grown, figuring out what I still need to be doing, what I need to let go of and delegate and who do I delegate it to has also been challenging for me. As I look back now, I probably didn’t fully realize what I was getting myself into here. But it’s all been good.
“I guess some people might say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ when it comes to the people part of it, but that’s important to us. Barry and I share many of the same values and attitudes. We’re both aggressive individuals when it comes to getting things done and how we want to get them done. At the same time, he says, ‘We want to take care of our people.’ He and I share this view.
“We want our employees to be empowered to make decisions. We expect our employees to work hard, and a lot of employees put in a lot of hours. We all know how this industry is. But we also want our employees to feel they can take time to go to their child’s t-ball game at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and take care of their families. We try to get everybody together for big Christmas parties and things like that. We do these types of things to make it feel like we’re all on this big team together, as a big family.”
“I not sure if you would consider it ‘formal’ training for this job, but I participate in a lot of peer-to-peer groups. I believe you learn as much going to these different meetings and talking with people. I also participate in some dealer performance groups. These are like 20 Groups, but we’re not currently involved with a 20 Group. I’ve also been involved with a couple of Deere Dealer Performance Groups and I’m on the Deere Dealer Advisory Council.
How P&K Equipment Expanded
When P&K hired Scott Eisenhauer as its general manager in 2006, the dealership operated 4 John Deere stores in Enid, Kingfisher, Norman and Purcell. Immediately following the hire, the company began expanding.
2006 — Acquired the Stillwater, Okla. dealership.
2007 — Acquired 2 turf stores in Edmond and Oklahoma City, and immediately closed the Oklahoma City location.
2008 — Acquired 3 stores in Tulsa, Pryor and Bartlesville.
2009 — Moved the Tulsa store to Owasso, Okla., a suburb of Tulsa.
2010 — Acquired the dealership in Blackwell, Okla. “With the purchase of this store, we wrapped up our large ag footprint in north central Oklahoma,” says Eisenhauer.
2012 — Acquired 6 stores from Green Valley Ag and Turf in DeWitt, Hiawatha, Keystone, Lowden, Maquoketa and Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and established P&K Midwest.
2013 — Acquired 3 stores from Waterloo Implement in Waverly, Sumner and Waterloo, Iowa.
“I’ve gone through the Oklahoma Ag Leadership program, where you spend 2 years attending seminars and other events. I’ve kept active on different boards of directors, including several Oklahoma State boards and industry type ag organizations here in the Oklahoma City area. I’m on the Southwestern Dealer Assn. board. To me, these types of activities help you grow and develop and learn from other people who are in the industry, and specifically in the equipment business.
“From a mentoring standpoint, I consider Barry as my mentor in this business. He’s a very sharp individual and we talk a lot, probably every 2 or 3 days, if not more often. Occasionally, he travels with me to visit the store because he wants to see everybody and have a presence.”
Confident, Not Arrogant
“If there was a defining moment in my career, it happened early on with Deere. I was actually in training with a gentleman who had been with Deere for 30-plus years and he was probably a little rough around the edges. I was fresh out of college and thought I was doing a pretty good job. During my first review he pretty much blasted me and told me that I needed to get more engaged and be more outgoing and take charge. It really set me back, but from that point on I understood that I needed to step up to the plate and take the reins. For lack of a better term, he was telling me not to wait for people to give me direction.
“When I look back on that, it set the groundwork for what I needed to do to be successful in this business. I always thank him for that.
“If a younger person asked me for advice about taking on this type of responsibility, I would tell them to have confidence without being arrogant. You cannot be arrogant, period. You need to ‘walk the walk.’
“Don’t be afraid to do whatever needs to be done. Be the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Show everyone you’re on the team and you will not ask them to do something that you’re not willing to do.
“I believe this was the single biggest thing that allowed me to build rapport and trust with P&K employees. And I’ve continued to do this along the way. From a time perspective, I’m not doing a lot of the things that I did when I first started this job, but if I’m walking across the shop floor, I’m not too good to stop and pick up a piece of trash.
“I firmly believe if you’re not passionate about the equipment business, about agriculture, about taking care of customers, you’re not going to be very successful in our business.”