Rankin Equipment & Northstar Attachments
Pictured Above: Serving a customer base with a wide range of specialty crops, Clayton Camp, president of Kern Machinery, a 7-store John Deere dealership with locations in California and Idaho, is familiar with needing to work with his suppliers to find solutions for his customers. Him and David Rankin, president of Rankin Equipment and Northstar Attachments, took a break from meeting with customers during World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., to talk about how communication between dealers and suppliers is one of the most important parts of their partnership.
David Rankin: I know Kern has some very valuable partners in the equipment business. I went to your website, and you’ve got really an outstanding line up of products. I’m assuming that you’ve formed some good partnerships with your suppliers, so that helps you and your sales force to be able to meet the needs of today’s farmers and customers.
Clayton Camp: We like to meet with our suppliers and critique how the deal went. The demonstrations that were done if that company did some. It’s a partnership. It’s not an invested partnership, but it’s a two-way communicative partnership. We both want to get better. We both want to provide a solution. It takes a lot of folks. Good alliances. Folks that want to do the same thing we’re doing.
Rankin: It’s not rocket science. As you mentioned, it’s collaboration. When both sides can win, that’s when you know that it’s a good project. If your supplier can grow and it can help you fill a customer need, that’s the right kind of partnership.
Camp: With a good supplier, they have more expertise than we do because they cover so much more ground. They may have the same situation we have in a different area and may be able to translate the solution. Because they fixed or helped fix that one up there, that’s invaluable to us. That cuts off years off providing solutions. Because it’s a seasonal thing. You’ve got to try something and then you’ve got to see the result, which is usually yield. So that means a crop cycle; a crop year. So we try this tool, get the yield increase, hopefully, or cost savings, whatever the value proposition is there. And then it’s into the next year to continue to promote. So when somebody can say, “Oh I’ve done this in Australia,” or, “I did this up north,” that shortcuts that development process. And that’s what a good supplier helps us do.
“It isn't an, ‘us against them,’ deal. We're partners and we have to say, ‘It's an issue, how are we gonna tackle it?…”
– Clayton Camp
So we welcome input. We don’t have all the answers, by any means.
Rankin: Well, obviously it’s always a great opportunity for us, as a supplier to a dealer, to ask the question, “What can we do to be a better partner?” So I think as you talked about earlier, you have valued your relationship with your suppliers, that you work together as a partner. That is what we, as a company, always hoped to do with a dealer is that we can partner with that dealer to help him find solutions to his customer needs. And I think if we can do that, if we can listen to their needs, I am hopeful that will help us strengthen our relationship. What is the most important thing to you, that you find with your supplier?
Camp: Their word.
Rankin: Yeah. Communication.
Camp: Communication. Communication and strong character; honor their word. We will continually have issues as we go about our business life. So to know that you can sit down and have a conversation and we will work it out. It isn’t a, “us against them,” deal. We’re partners and we have to say, “It’s an issue, how are we gonna tackle it?”
Rankin: What I’ve found out in the 40 years that I’ve been in the industry is, the equipment we sell at some point is going to break; it’s going to have challenges. We’re going to have shortages of parts from outside vendors and there’ll be issues out of our control that will cause a strain in the relationship. The key is to communicate with each other and to look for solutions to try to improve that situation. If we have a failure in a product, we have to understand why it failed, and what design changes we need to make and share with our vendor or our company. And we need to do that as quickly as we can. To take care of the problem so we can all move ahead and work on more profitable things.
“That is what we, as a company, always hoped to do with a dealer is that we can partner with that dealer to help him find solutions to his customer needs…”
– David Rankin
Camp: I could learn from you on how to do better research on what we should be doing. What are the questions that you’ve developed that we could ask ourselves and our customers? How viable is this? I don’t feel we gather enough information sometimes. We’re pretty quick to go to a demonstration, and we probably should be laying a little bit more groundwork prior to that. Because when you ask a vendor or a supplier to demonstrate something, you’ve asked them to make a connection. Maybe you haven’t made a strong enough connection. I would look in the mirror on that and try to improve our process.
Rankin: I feel very fortunate that we’re in this great industry. There are a lot of great people. The potential as we look to the future and look at the population growth around the world, and the need to efficiently produce food will continue to expand. I think that bodes very well for the future of our businesses, as long as we can continue to improve the products that we’re offering, and work with our dealers and our customers to provide a high level of service, parts, and solve their ultimate problems.
Camp: I didn’t mention our major supplier, as a Deere dealer. Their process of R&D and what they do. Some of that process is hidden from us, where it would be more open with a local supplier. I think Deere has a good process. They put a lot of thought into it. They run the numbers and so forth. So there’s somethings to be learned from that, too. There are reasons why we don’t have some products. The major manufacturers have gotten out of a lot of products.
Rankin: Which give an opportunity to a shoreline manufacturer.