To read the introduction to this "Greatest Mistake" series click here.
“The fact that I’ve been in the same farm equipment dealership for 38 years may not equate to success as much as stamina. I’ve certainly had some measurable success over the years as well as some well-intended mistakes. Hindsight is 20/20, so looking back at the mistakes is easy. Here are 4:
“In 2001, we took on the line of Condor man-lift equipment. We didn’t understand the man-lift market — or lack thereof — in our area. Just about every time we touched one for a rental or demo, we lost money. Our best day in the man-lift business was the day the last 3 were sold at auction — and at a substantial loss.
“In 1981, we purchased our first semi-truck. I failed to research the market and study our needs; I simply bought a used truck and trailer from a dealer who went out of business. Turns out the truck was grossly underpowered. The guy selling it to me said ‘Just drive like you’re mad at it.’
“The drinking of the Kool-Aid. While I’ve usually been loyal to my main supplier and embraced programs and goals, I may have, at times, substituted its short-term objectives with the long-term well-being of my own dealership. The usual issue was inventorying a product that it built that was outside of its core strengths. The net result was usually higher inventory, higher debt-to-asset ratios and lower profit margin.
“Finally, our single largest financial, emotional and customer relation mistake involved a new product introduced by a well-known shortline supplier that was brought out too early. We should’ve metered out the first new products slowly to ensure quality and reliability. We let high availability, high customer demand and our own greed overshadow the risk in a high-tech product introduction. As it turned out, the product had numerous quality issues. It took us years to repair the damage to some of our best customer’s faith in our product offerings.”
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.