To read the introduction to this "Greatest Mistake" series click here.

“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. It might be something incorrect that someone else in the dealership said to a customer, or as simple as not calling someone back. Either way, you must be willing to ‘own’ it — because your reputation is at stake.

“When one of our salesmen started selling over 30 years ago, he saw a truck driver use inappropriate language when delivering a piece of equipment. The salesman went out after he heard what went on and personally apologized to the customers — the father, sons and their wives. This may seem like something a salesman shouldn’t need to do. But, in this case, if the salesman hadn’t gone out and made that apology, it would’ve cost him over 100 unit sales to those two brothers. Today, they are some of our best customers both for buying and promoting us to others for the simple quote one brother used to describe us: ‘You own what you say and do.’

“While it may have only been 100 units in 30 years, the reality was far greater than that. By the time the salesman established himself in the area, he was selling not only to these customers but to all of their neighbors and everyone else they talked to. It stemmed from one apology for something he didn’t even say, yet took responsibility for.

“This same salesman, my dad, Mark, has become a mentor to many of his colleagues in the industry and has always pushed to make fair deals for himself, the customer and the company. He’s had to swallow his pride more than once to make sure his reputation stayed intact for the future.

“One of the favorite stories he likes to tell goes something along these lines: ‘Besides your name on your tombstone, the dash is the most important thing, not the dates. The dash represents the reputation and legacy you’ve established.’ You never want an end date to your business; make sure the reputation you leave is deep and strong enough that you won’t have an end date. Own your reputation.”

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.