PrairieLand Partners and Godfrey Bros. earned the industry’s top honors as Farm Equipment’s 2014 Dealerships of the Year.

Farm Equipment Staff Report

This year our panel of judges were faced with another strong pool of nominees for the Dealership of the Year. But they made their choices and the 2014 Dealerships of the Year are: PrairieLand Partners, a 9-store network based in Hutchinson, Kan., in the large multi-store operation category; and Godfrey Bros., a single-store dealer located in Jonesville, Mich., in the small-store operation category.

In total, fellow dealers, employees, customers, Dealership of the Year alumni and equipment suppliers nominated nearly 100 North American dealerships this year.

The judges also named four “Best-in-Class” dealers for 2014. In the multi-store operation category, the Best-in-Class dealerships included Agri-Service of Nyssa, Ore., and Straub International of Great Bend, Kan.

In the small-store operation category, the Best-in-Class dealers are Linden Agri-Centre of Linden, Alberta, and New Holland Rochester of Rochester, Ind.

Dealership of the Year Judging Panel

The challenging task of choosing Farm Equipment’s annual Dealerships of the Year fall on three highly experienced and eminently qualified individuals that comprise the independent judging panel. Not only do these experts take on the responsibility of choosing the top dealers each year, but they also advise and give guidance to Farm Equipment’s editors on guidelines for the program and the important criteria needed to make the selections meaningful.

Dr. W. David Downey

Executive Director, Center for Agricultural Business (CAB), Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, Ind.

Dr. Downey is responsible for the development of education programs at the CAB, which is regarded as the leading center for agribusiness education in the U.S.A. distinguished agricultural marketing professor and proficient author, Dr. Downey also consults extensively throughout North America on a variety of agribusiness issues. He has been a Dealership of the Year judge for all 10 years.

David L. Kahler

Retired CEO of Ohio-Michigan Equipment Dealers Assn., Dublin, Ohio

Kahler spent his entire 39 year career assisting equipment dealer-principals with their business affairs. He served for 22 years as CEO. He was an active industry participant who earned the respect of both dealers and manufacturers. Kahler retired from full-time employment in 2008, but still works part-time as the Associate Director for AMG LLC. He is now in his 45th year of serving dealers.

Charles R. Glass

President, Glass Management Group, chairman emeritus, Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn.’s (FEMA) Dealer Relations Committee, Arlington, Texas

With more than 4 decades in the industry, Glass produces an annual tractor and combine forecast and provides technical assistance to various investment groups. A former director of FEMA, he is also a frequent presenter and author of several white papers on the future of farm equipment distribution.

Comparing Numbers

Combined, these six dealers accounted for $616,613,566 of total revenue in 2013. Revenue per employee came in at nearly $894,000. Together, these dealers also produced an average parts and service absorption of 73.4% for the year. The return on assets for these top dealers averaged 6.6%.

As for the 2014 Dealerships of the Year, PrairieLand Partners produced an ROA of 15% and an absorption rate of 78%. Godfrey Bros. posted an ROA of 9% and the highest absorption rate of all the finalists with 84%.

Compared to the industry as a whole, this year’s finalists easily surpassed North American averages for aftermarket absorption. According to the SouthWestern Equipment Dealers Assn.’s “2011 Cost of Doing Business Study,” the average aftermarket absorption stands at 68%.

A Continuing Tradition

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Dealership of the Year program, and to commemorate a decade of recognition, we went back and spoke with the Dealership of the Year alumni to see what’s changed since they received the award and what the recognition meant to them (see Dealership of the Year Retrospective).

Farm Equipment’s Dealership of the Year program was established in 2005 “to elevate farm equipment dealerships that are leading the industry in best practices, operations management and customer care.”

Since that time, 21 dealerships from the U.S. and Canada have been honored as Dealerships of the Year. They are joined by 38 dealers who have been recognized as Best-in-Class dealerships over the past 10 years. Together, these dealerships make up Farm Equipment’s Dealership of the Year Alumni Group and are instrumental in nominating their fellow dealers for recognition.

Words from Past Winners

Here’s what a selection of previous winners had to say about what the award meant to their dealerships.

“I underestimated what the nomination would mean to me personally. Once we were open to assembling our story, it allowed us to recognize the contributions of our people who made it happen. They were lifted up emotionally and the process helped to reinforce our business philosophies and practices — in a positive way. It’s been overwhelming to see the pride our people are showing in what they’ve done to be recognized as Farm Equipment’s Dealer of the Year.”

— Ron Birkey, Retired President/CEO, Birkey’s Farm Stores, Champaign, Ill.

“The performance of our dealership is regularly judged by our major supplier, but to be recognized by the farm equipment industry in Farm Equipment magazine is another thing altogether because it acknowledges the individual contributions of everyone on the staff of Vincennes Tractor. It meant a lot for all of our employees to be singled out by their peers. It was great!”

— Rick Lineburg, co-owner & vice president, Vincennes Tractor, Vincennes, Ind.

“This award means a lot to us because we feel it recognizes what our employees have accomplished. Coming from the industry’s premier magazine and to have the caliber of people on the judging panel say, ‘Janson Equipment is one of the best dealerships in North America’ is a great honor. It’s the highest recognition we could ever receive.”

— Tom Janson, Janson Equipment, Reese, Mich.

“All successful teams appreciate recognition from their peers and their industry. Because of this Dealership of the Year award, we have received great feedback from our employees, customers, manufacturers and other dealers that will inspire us to continue our momentum into the future.”

— Keith Kreps, RDO Equipment Co., Northern Agriculture, Fargo N.D.

PrairieLand Partners, Hutchinson, Kan.

Godfrey Bros., Jonesville, Mich.

Dealership of the Year Retrospective: A Decade of Change & Challenges