What’s your biggest challenge in finding qualified management and/or middle-management level employees? What sources do you use to find these employees?

“We have not been in the position to require another manager, but I would suggest it is quite similar to finding any other employee. It is hard to find really good people or it requires paying a healthy salary to get them.”

— Darryl Buttar, Bob Mark New Holland Sales, Lindsay, Ontario

“In some cases, it is difficult to compete with big business and government agencies not only in payroll dollars, but also in employee benefits, working hours and perks. We have done well in partnering with tech schools to find entry level talent and then promoting them from within. We run employment ads with at least 15 colleges and universities. Most colleges have a career services department. Running ads in Monster.com and other similar online ad services have not proven to be effective. Word of mouth is probably our best recruiting tool.”

— Martin Phillippe, Lakeland Equipment Corp., Savannah, N.Y.

“Your question is a tough one, but an important one. Finding qualified managers in the agriculture/heavy equipment industry can be challenging since you are looking for a manager who can handle many unique situations. He/she must be able to communicate and work with employees, customers and managers across the organizational spectrum and most importantly, be a team player.

“They must be knowledgeable about their product or area of responsibility. They must also understand finances. Preparing a forecast and budget and then successfully managing them through the year is critical. The final criterion is does the individual fit within the culture of the organization. This is overlooked many times, but I feel it is one of the most critical requirements for the job. The most qualified individual who does not fit within the culture of the organization will not succeed.

“Of course everyone wants experience. For me, it must be successful experience. The fact you were a manager for 5 years does not mean you were very good at it. Did you increase revenues, reduce expenses, bring on new product lines, improve processes, manage through a downturn, experience minimum employee turnover, can you handle a fast paced multi-tasking environment, etc.? Do you have ‘successful’ experience?

“How do we find these people? Our HR department is active with our local colleges and universities. We participate in career fairs, sponsor students at local and regional vocational schools, we have intern programs and we have a management training program.

“We like to promote from within. However, we also network within our fellow dealer community and we have several managers that began at another heavy or agriculture equipment dealership. You need a blend. An occasional fresh set of eyes and new ideas are important to keep from becoming stagnant.

“I also try to recognize potential managers while the employee is still in a lower level job. If the individual reports to me, I find out if the individual has desire for management (surprisingly not everyone does). If so, I will work with them by giving them an assignment and/or testing to see if they have the basic skills or intellect to succeed in a management role. If the individual does not report to me, I speak with their current supervisor and suggest some extra assignments or testing for potential managers.

“Once you are in management, your training does not stop. We require all of our employees to have at least 40 hours of training each year. Our new managers attend new manager classes held throughout the year. We send them to programs for new managers, enhancing their skills. We send our senior managers to advanced management classes. We like to consider ourselves a learning organization.”

— Richard Scott, Whayne Supply Co., Louisville, Ky.

“There are certainly a very limited number of quality managers available for the ag industry for all store departments. With that in mind, I look at all hires for possible future management possibilities. Meaning I could be interviewing for an entry-level position with the intent of a possible management position far into the future. So my best resource is my current employee pool. By empowering all employees to make decisions in the best interest of the company, you are able to see their abilities and teach them to become leaders. To summarize it simply, I like to grow them.”

— Rob Prissel, HC Clark Implement Co., Aberdeen, S.D.

“This is probably the greatest challenge facing dealers in the future, especially as dealerships get bigger, both as single entity stores and now with more multiple locations. The multiple outlet stores require much greater management skill than a single entity store, as decisions must be made further from the ‘top boss.’

“Some managers are hired from within, growing up through the ranks, with years of on-the-job training, preferably with a farm background with managerial training along the way. These people have the machinery smarts as well, with proper business training and the ingredients to create a profitable workplace. Having said that, a good technician or salesman does not necessarily make a good service manager or sales manager.

“To me, the most important criteria of a manager are the ability to achieve objectives through others and to manage resources, which are basically the dealership’s money. In today’s world, these two criteria are more important than the ‘nuts and bolts’ part of the business.

“I have looked at our provincial ag college with various degrees of success and failure. If the candidate has a genuine interest in the business and has been good in farm management, they have the proven ability to learn and retain their learning.

“We also have to keep a watch for people in demonstrating their abilities at other dealerships or other businesses. I am not convinced the average ‘head hunter’ cuts it in this business, so the employer has to keep his ear to the ground and network if not developing from within.

“The integrated management systems developed by DIS, HBS and other such companies are a must in today’s dealerships, and they would enhance their potential if they offered management courses to personnel of dealerships that use their systems. The consistency of such training would create better dealership management and enable better management decisions.”

— J. William Seaman, Bremner Farms Ltd., Moncton, New Brunswick

“Honestly, the biggest challenge is just finding that right qualified person. They are extremely hard to find. I don’t have a problem hiring someone from another industry, if they have the experience I am looking for. We had a general manager who came from the food industry and we have had salespeople that never sold tractors in their life and worked out fantastic. One of our best salespeople used to sell boats.

“Of course, this does not happen overnight and it takes time for them to get acclimated and learn the ag/rural sales side.

“Fortunately, I have never had to use specialized placement agencies and recruiters for finding people. But as hard as it is now to get good people, I will certainly consider it down the road when the time comes that I need another manager.”

— Rick Bailes, Bill’s Tractor, Adkins, Texas

“I am not technically a manager, but I do deal with several managers. In my experiences, the biggest challenge I see is finding managers that are true ‘leaders’ and exhibit those leadership capabilities that a manager needs to be successful.”

— Jerad Geisler, Birkey’s Farm Store, Macomb, Ill.

“We have used nearly every source available to recruit employees. We haven’t hired anyone referred to us by a recruiter, but only because we have never had an applicant referred by a recruiter that we felt was worth the fees attached. We advertise on AgCareers, in area newspapers, farm publications such as High Plains Journal and Farm Talk, local radio stations and we recently started using Craigslist.

“Many years ago I recall hearing older businessmen say, ‘The problem today is no one wants to work.’ I thought they were just grumpy old men, but nowadays, either I am a grumpy old man or it is true, not many people want to work — especially the hours that we work in the ag equipment business.

“Being in a metro area makes it even more difficult to find employees willing to work the hours. We are being forced to completely rethink our business model and hire more people and keep them as close to 40 hours as possible.

“The best way to fill middle management and upper management slots is to grow your own. We have had limited success doing that. To sum it up, finding great employees is difficult. We have to pay them well, offer competitive benefits program and treat them like family.

“Finding loyal employees with a great attitude is extremely difficult so we are always in the recruiting mode and we do our best to keep them after we find them.”

— Name withheld by request

“The gap appears to be between experience and the actual use of the equipment, from old to new, and keeping up with current technology and communication methods with the customers, while understanding their needs and wants.”

— Rick Rinehardt, Corriher Implement Co., Newton, N.C.

Have an Idea?

Is there a topic or situation that you’d like to hear more on how other dealers across North America are handling? If so, send your questions to managing editor Kim Schmidt at kschmidt@lesspub.com and we may use it in an upcoming Industry Q&A.