This year marks the 100th anniversary for Scott Supply, a Case IH dealer in Mitchell, S.D. and Farm Equipment’s 2007 Dealership of the Year.
It hasn’t always been the simplest path, but for the past century, the Scott family has successfully maneuvered its way through the road less traveled.
Sparked by an idea from Lewis Scott to capitalize on the rising motor industry in 1915, a small-scale dealership named Scott Supply opened its doors in Mt. Vernon, S.D. Specializing in farm equipment and machinery from International Harvester, the dealership hit the ground running as the demand for Titan Tractors skyrocketed during the years of World War I.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon didn’t last long. Soon after its founding, Scott Supply would enter its most challenging stretch as a business. Following the economic pitfalls of post World War I and II and the stock market crash of 1929, Lewis constantly found himself with his back against the wall as fellow dealerships collapsed left and right.
As a fourth generation owner of the business, Chris Scott says it’s moments like those that have not only saved the company name, but separated it from the pack as well. Whether it required rationing supplies during the Great Depression or convincing locals to help run the store for minimal wages while employees fought overseas, Lewis and his son Wally set the precedent for the persistence and grit Scott Supply has prided itself on for decades.
“We have a knack for selling ourselves through difficult times,” Chris says. “Wally and Lew were always afraid of ‘going broke,’ and that instilled the fear in my father (Bob) as well.”
Perhaps a combination of that fear and a keen eye for the market led Wally to make what might have been a company-saving decision in 1965. While operating dual businesses in Mt. Vernon and Mitchell, S.D., in the early ‘60s, Wally saw the Mitchell location as a more sustainable option and shut down the 50-year old Mt. Vernon shop.
With just one location to this day, Scott Supply has been able to maintain its identity as an approachable and reliable dealership. By allocating all of their time to one facility, the business has remained large enough to handle the needs of its customers, but also small enough to provide genuine, one-on-one service.
That perfect balance, Chris says, is priority number one.
“We are very hands-on with every aspect of our business. So far, each time an opportunity arose, we decided to improve and ‘take care of the mother ship’ rather than add another location.”
The influence Wally has had on Chris and the rest of the family, however, extends far beyond the realms of business management. Even with his 100th birthday around the corner, Wally still helps out around the shop and establishes connections with customers.
“He passed down his passion for the farm equipment business and his strong work ethic to me,” Chris says. “He recites The Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ and is a wonderful example of how to treat not just customers and employees, but all people.”
Despite operating in a society where large-scale dealerships have traditionally run one-location dealerships out of business, Chris believes the loyalty Scott Supply has established throughout the industry will have a lasting effect.
“Factors that have contributed to our success are taking care of our customers, taking care of our employees, and taking care of our manufacturers,” he says. “If we sell a lot of volume and maintain high market share, there will always be a place for a single location.”
Looking ahead to the future and seeing the potential for further growth, Chris hopes for the Scott name to live on through his two daughters as fifth-generation company owners.
As long as they inherit the values that come with it, the possibilities look endless.
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