“I see the whole industry changing quite a bit. The whole industry, in my opinion, is going through a succession planning cycle right now. You look at who’s running most dealerships as well as who’s running a lot of farm operations out there, and I think in the next 10 years you’re going to see a tremendous amount of leadership changes, which is good, that’s where we’re at in the industry right now. Technology is ever present in our business and I think it is in the ag industry as a whole. Gone are the times when you could really work on a piece of equipment or sell a piece of equipment, find parts for one without having a computer. Those days are gone.
“As we manage our relationships with our customers, we have to have better information on them, we have to know more about them, and we have to pay attention to really what they’re looking for in technology. I said it many times and I’m not real shy about this statement, iron is getting very similar among all the major brands. From the competitive standpoint, there are just not a lot of differentiators anymore. We’re all good at something, and we’re all better than the other guys at something.
“At the end of the day, what is an ag dealership really in the business of selling? What it’s really selling is the customer experience, our ability to serve our customer better than our neighbor. That is very much a focus of our industry. I would say we’re becoming more of a service industry than we ever have been before, so that’s important for us to look at.
“As we go forward, we’re definitely going to see larger dealerships and larger farms. That’s the trend and I don’t think it’s going to change. This is something that is causing us some growing pains, but as you become a larger dealership, how do you maintain that hometown feel that some of your customers know you by? How do you teach that? How do you encourage your employees to be part of that? It’s something you’ve got to work on every single day to make happen.
“This is something we’re trying to reinforce by really defining what that means for us. What does it mean to come into an Agri-Service dealership? Even though we’ve got 10 stores — and we’re looking to add more very quickly — how do we maintain that same customer approach when we’ve got 20 dealerships? How do you do that? I think we’re on the right path to it and we’re monitoring how we’re doing with our customers, but it’s got to be a continuing effort to make sure that we all understand that’s what we’re trying to deliver.”