Director of Operations,
CEO and President,
Pictured Above: When it comes to bottom-line investments, Anne Salemo (right) of 100% female-owned Charter Software equates an effective business system to a valuable employee. Mike Prengler (left) of HBS Systems believes the value of a business system can exceed a service truck.
Mike Prengler: If you step back and look at dealerships, growers and OEMs as a whole, there is an ecosystem of what the dealer can do for the grower, what the OEMs can do to support both of those, and how we as a business system can facilitate that relationship and keep everything moving information-wise. Machines now are moving so quickly technology-wise and their data can help dealerships. When it comes to going out and buying something, at some point you might go somewhere else and pick up a piece of equipment. But if you’ve got that relationship as a dealership with your growers and keeping that ecosystem connected, it will probably stave off some of those third parties from a support aspect.
Anne Salemo: Definitely, because you’re right in regards to equipment being extremely complex.
Prengler: That’s what I see the next big thing being: machines communicating back to the dealerships. These machines have a tremendous amount of data coming across them that’s valuable to a lot of different entities. Getting that data, sorting it and routing it to where it needs to go can really help a dealership.
Salemo: And with new machine standards, I think the development will go much faster with a lot more functionality. I agree that portraying value of having this information to customers and growers will be crucial. To know that you’re running hot on a tractor but a tech is on the way sure sounds a lot better than waiting until the machine is down.
“I think a lot of dealerships look at business sysems as an evil necessity…”
– Mike Prengler
I think another challenge on the precision side is getting farmers to pay for this recurring service. They just want to pay as you go. My dad’s old motto was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Connectivity and the internet of things are a paradigm shift for them. They already pay recurring expenses with cell phones and cable, so this is just one more payment that they need to be looking at.
Prengler: Ultimately, customers need to have an open mind. It’s ok to change. Sure there will be disruptions as changes are made, but it’s ok to look around and see what’s going on in the marketplace. We’ve had a big disruption in the marketplace and caused people to look into other systems. Whether or not they pull the trigger and buy it, it has at least opened their eyes to what’s out there. That’s the biggest thing.
Salemo: From a 50,000-foot view, what should managers be doing differently with business management systems that aren’t being done now?
Prengler: Probably the biggest thing is taking advantage of CRM productions and understanding your customer and being able to look at data. Another is business intelligence reporting and understanding what your dealership’s actually doing. For every owner, the numbers on your desk everyday are the most important things for getting the pulse of your business.
Salemo: I agree. Another issue is keeping customers engaged and having them stay up to date watching the videos that we’ve created. When you look at how many people actually viewed them, it was very minimal. I don’t know if it’s because they’re so inundated by communications from other vendors, but they should embrace that technology and understand how it’s going to change, and change is good.
Prengler: This industry is moving. It is ramped up and moving at a very fast pace right now. It’s playing catch up, and I think in 5 years from now you’ll see…
Prengler: ...Connectivity. You’ll see a ton of connected devices, lots of triggers, and that ecosystem where the dealership to the grower to the OEMs, will start to look like one channel of communication. There’s one thing driving information all the way around the ecosystem. Any delay and it’s going to be a free flow of information.
“To know that you’re running hot on a tractor but a tech is on the way sure sounds a lot better than waiting until the machine is down…”
– Anne Salemo
Salemo: I think the business management system is probably the most powerful tool you’ve got in the dealership, assuming they’re up to date. People say, “Business systems are so expensive.” Well, you’ve got to look at your business system as an employee who interfaces with everybody out in the dealership, in the field or shop. We expect a lot out of our employees, and if your business system is your employee, then you’ve got to expect a lot out of it.
Prengler: I think a lot of dealerships look at business systems as an evil necessity.
Salemo: Like a fixed expense.
Prengler: Exactly. They’ll invest $100,000 in a service truck because they say, “That’s going to put a service tech on the road and that’s going to go make me money,” but they have to understand that that business system, utilized correctly, is just as important and can make more money for them than that service truck can. To your point, it has to be looked at as an employee. If you look at the month-to-month numbers on it, it’s actually a pretty inexpensive employee for what it’s doing for your dealership.
Salemo: It’s a money-maker, not a fixed expense. People say, “Well, Anne, you sound like a salesperson.” But no, it’s just because I know that 39% of our customers grew in the last 12 months using business systems.