“When you add stores, it gives you a chance to integrate your culture. When we added the Oklahoma stores, we didn’t have to make a lot of people changes. You always have some changes to make, but we didn’t have to do anything too drastic.
“As we’ve grown, most of the changes involved processes. We added the corporate office within the first year, and centralized more processes over time to take advantage of economies of scale. It was much more dramatic when we added the Iowa stores. We worked hard on getting a lot of our back office stuff centralized and figuring out what we still needed to be doing onsite in Iowa and what could be handled through the corporate office in Oklahoma and finding the mix that worked well for those operations. I think we’ve done a pretty good job with that, but we still have some room to improve upon. But that’s been a big step forward in getting things to run a little more smoothly.
“We’ve brought on a comptroller/CFO to oversee all of our bookkeeping back office functions as well. That’s something we didn’t have and we probably didn’t need to have when we were only 4 stores, but certainly as large as these organizations are getting today that’s a very vital piece of making it work.
“In terms of individual store management, I would say generally ours is a fairly strong store manager model. We’ve got some good store managers to handle the day-to-day stuff. They’re empowered to make decisions. I also call them mini sales managers because they oversee the salespeople at their stores and drive what’s going on there.
“We’ve got a corporate level sales manager helping with the deals and trade-in values and that type of thing, but the store managers are there to drive what the salespeople are doing on a daily basis, and holding them accountable. We’re definitely proponents of having somebody there at the store who can make decisions and can handle customer issues when they arise, and to provide that local community feel for the individual store locations. That’s again back to our culture creating a family friendly single-store when you walk in the door from a customer perspective.
“From my perspective, it’s all about your employees and the people you surround yourself with; hiring good store managers, people that can help you is what makes the difference. The challenge is to attract good people and get them engrained in your organization. I believe this has been one of the best things we’ve done, especially from the store manager perspective. We haven’t had a lot of turnover in that area, especially in the Oklahoma organization. Certainly we’re more established here and we have a pretty good track record there and have invested in several of them upfront, but it’s been very positive for our organization.
“We’ve tried to do the same thing with the stores in Iowa when it comes to getting the right people in the right positions. To do this, we had to make some changes to get the people who shared our thought processes, our drive and the traits that we wanted to instill in those locations.
As the stores get bigger and bigger and become more complex, finding good people who have the skillset, who have industry knowledge, who have some manufacturer-dealer knowledge, who have the drive and want to work like we do in the equipment business, will continue to be one of our biggest challenges going forward.
“It will take a concerted effortto attract and retain those types of good employees. I firmly believe that in the equipment business, if you’re not passionate about it and about agriculture, about taking care of customers, you’re not going to be very successful in our business.”