Many dealers who have managed to successfully integrate an acquired dealership into their businesses have found some facet of process they would like to do over, given the opportunity. Here are some of do-overs shared in the Farm Equipment survey on strategies to integrate one dealership culture into another after an acquisition.
Tim Young, Young’s Equipment, Regina, Sask.
“I would have learned more about the hours of operation that the staff was used to. Oddly enough, some dealers operate with a leaner after-hours and weekend staff than we do because our locations [which were contiguous to their stores] are open very long hours to serve the customers. We should have discussed that with the staff before we bought the location. There are times that this can be a point of contention between stores, as one has evolved with long hours of customer service and other have evolved with less of a presence.”
Donald Ferguson, Construction Sales & Service, Crestview, Fla.
“In the past I did not put enough time into finding sources to do the end financing for the customer. This problem has grown completely out of control today. So few customers can qualify for a loan with these finance companies tightening their credit score requirements. A big time problem!”
Herman Wilson, Pioneer Equipment, Houston, Texas
“Promises of help from our manufacturer were just words of company employees who had no authority or resources to address the issues. Without manufacturer support, most acquisitions will fail. The local manufacturer employees are caught between corporate management who do not know the market and the dealer who knows the dictates they receive are not workable. Too many times, one size fits all is the program and the dictates do not address customer needs.
Mike Hansen, Arthur Farm Power Inc./DBA Farm Pride, Arthur, Ill.
“If we had to do it over, we would have the previous owner transfer to another location. We made the mistake of leaving him in charge and consequently nothing was changed. Ultimately, we ended up replacing him with a new manager and it was best thing we could have ever done. We trained him the way we expected a location to be managed. We also ended up replacing the parts manager and service manager. We should have done this from the beginning.”
Shawn Skaggs, Livingston Machinery, Chickasha, Okla.
“One of the biggest mistakes we made in a recent acquisition was putting in a management team of all new managers without giving them a detailed budget. Those people were proud of what they were doing and intended to do everything they could to make the rest of the company proud, but they had no idea what we could and could not afford in that dealership. It is pretty hard to go into a group of people who have been working their tail off and explain to them that a few wrong decisions are causing them to lose money in a way that will take months to recover from. You have to be clear on the budget and explain it to everyone on that management team if not everyone in the dealership.”
Joshua Anderson, Anderson Sales and Service, Crestwood, Ky.
“We had an opportunity to do a small acquisition closer to home which gave us a ‘trial run’ several years ago. This allowed us to make sure a new acquisition would go smoother. The only item I would do over is to have the computer company change over earlier. There were a lot of ‘blind spots’ for the two months leading up to the upgrade.”
Clint Schnoor, Agri-Service, Twin Falls, Idaho
“Our last acquisition went very well, but I would say that making sure everyone understood the numbers in detail and how the numbers can change could have been better. Doing it over, I would have approached the price calculation differently from the beginning. Kind of like selling equipment, you have to listen to the buyer/seller to really understand what they want.”
Chris Baxla, Baxla Tractor Sales, Seaman, Ohio
“Do better due diligence on hiring prior managers and don't just assume they are managers. They, perhaps, are great employees, however, not managers.”
Gaetan Cournoyer, Groupe Symac, Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
“More communication with employees to make sure they understand and adhere to the mission and vision of the new ownership. We would have saved time and energy. The former employees know the customers and they will bring the message (good or bad) to the customer base. They have to be convinced before spreading messages.”