"There are many more lessons to learn from people, manager and company failures than successes."

That was an email I received from Johnson Tractor’s Leo Johnson as we were preparing for this SHOWCASE special report. Said another way (by 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer), “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”

In the same spirit, Farm Equipment reached out to a few select dealer executives comprising our Farm Equipment Dealership of the Year Alumni Group (recipients of the annual best-in-industry recognition program, now in its 13th year.) We approached a handful of dealer executives from that group who we know aren’t so prideful as to avoid discussions of mistakes and who continue to demonstrate that they’d rather see others (including their own competition) benefit from their failures than watch others endure the pain of repeated mistakes. That’s a common trait we’ve seen in each of the true “Dealerships of the Year;” they embrace learning and the value of a teachable moment.

Throughout these pages and the following article, you’ll find a collection of dealers’ reflections, presented in their own words. We found the participants candid, insightful and interesting. One “alum” noted that our request of him to recount his biggest failure was a thought-provoking and meaningful exercise in its own right. Another suggested that his peer group facilitator ditch the traditional “best idea” roundtable and replace it with a “worst idea” discussion.

Read on, and we hope you’ll share your “greatest mistake” too via our online commenting tool.

— Mike Lessiter, Editor/Publisher

" One loss is good for the soul. Too many losses is not good for the coach.."
– Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football coach, 1888-1931

Keith Kreps, Executive Vice President, RDO Equipment, Fargo, N.D. (2010 Dealership of the Year)

“My biggest failure occurred in the lead-up to the used equipment market crash in November 2013.

Leo Johnson, President, Johnson Tractor Inc. (2012 Dealership of the Year)

“The fact that I’ve been in the same farm equipment dealership for 38 years may not equate to success as much as stamina.

Brian Carpenter, General Manager, Champlain Valley Equipment, Middlebury, Vt. (2009 Dealership of the Year)

“When asked to share a mistake I’ve made with other dealers, I was challenged to find a lesson learned that was instructive.

Tom Rosztoczy, CEO, Stotz Equipment Co., Avondale, Ariz. (2013 Dealership of the Year)

“In 2001, we purchased 6 locations from 4 owner groups in Utah and Idaho over the course of 4 months (Mistake #1).

Kent Buchholz, Finance Manager & Sales, Kennedy Implement, Philip, S.D. (2012 Dealership of the Year)

“Own everything you do or don’t do. Good or bad times don’t matter; every decision made, or not made, must be owned up to.

Steve Cubbage, President, Record Harvest, Nevada, Mo. (2007 Dealership of the Year)

“If there’s one mistake those of us in the precision ag business make, it’s falling into the trap of thinking there’ll always be something new and better to sell tomorrow — the ‘next big thing.’

Don Van Houweling, Owner, Van Wall Equipment, Perry, Iowa (2016 Dealership of the Year)

“As I look back at my most significant mistakes, I’d say that I’ve entered into sales agreements with companies that didn’t possess the capabilities financially or from a management standpoint to support our goal of being the ‘Clear First Choice.’

Ron Ritchie, CEO, Ritchie Implement Inc., Cobb, Wis. (2015 Dealership of the Year)

“Our team is always looking to the future. We use our mistakes as an opportunity to learn and move on.

Tom Janson, Janson Equipment, Reese, Mich., (2011 Dealership of the Year)

“I don’t dwell on mistakes but instead look forward on how best to improve my business.

Read more below:

Turning Your Dealership Around

My 'Greatest' Mistake

CASE STUDY: Bringing a Dealership Back from the Brink

Failure to Communicate Can Lead to Business Failure


January Showcase 2017 Issue Contents