This year’s Dealership of the Year program attracted nominees from across the U.S. and Canada, once again providing some tough competition.

After comparing all of the nominees, the judges made their decision and the 2019 Farm Equipment Dealerships of the Year are: Hiawatha Implement, a 2-store group based in Hiawatha, Kan., in the over $75 million in revenue category; and Ag World/Ag Authority, a 2-store group in Kinistino, Sask., in the under $75 million revenue category. 

The winners were chosen from a pool of over 100 North American dealers. Nominations were submitted by dealers, employees, customers, Dealership of the Year alumni and equipment suppliers. 

In addition, the judges also named Plains Ag, Messicks Farm Equipment, Wheatbelt Sales and Terry County Tractor as Farm Equipment’s Best-in-Class dealerships for the 2019 Dealership of the Year program. 

By the Numbers

Combined, these six dealers accounted for $496,385,807 in total revenue in 2018. Revenue per employee came in at nearly $728,000 for the group. Together, they also produced an average parts and service absorption rate of 82.1% for the year. The return on assets for these top dealers was 6.7%. 

As for the 2019 Dealerships of the Year, Hiawatha Implement produced a ROA of 7.44%. According to the judges, Hiawatha had “excellent market penetration with an average market share of 84% and their parts/service absorption was outstanding at 109.35%.” Ag World Equipment and Ag Authority reported a ROA of 7% and an absorption rate of 70%. 

The Tradition Continues

Farm Equipment’s Dealership of the Year program was established in 2005 “to elevate farm equipment dealerships that are leading in best practices, operations management and customer care.”

Dealership of the Year Judging Panel

The challenging task of choosing Farm Equipment’s annual Dealership of the Year falls on four highly experienced and qualified individuals who comprise the Dealership of the Year independent judging panel. Not only do these experts take on the responsibility of choosing the top dealers each year, they also advise and give guidance to Farm Equipment’s editors on criteria for the program.

READ ABOUT THE JUDGES

Since that time, 30 dealerships from the U.S. and Canada have been honored as the Dealership of the Year. They are joined by 44 dealers who have been recognized as Best-in-Class Dealerships. Together, these dealerships make up Farm Equipment’s Dealership of the Year alumni group and are instrumental in nominating their fellow dealers for recognition. 

This year’s judging panel included three new judges: Mark Foster, Gord Thompson and Stan Jackson. This year also marked the final year of judging for veteran judge Charlie Glass, who has been on the judging panel since 2005. 

“Farm Equipment’s first Dealer of the Year competition took place in 2005, and I had the honor to be selected as one of the inaugural judges for that selection process,” Glass says. 

The first judging panel was made up of Dr. Dave Downey, Purdue University, David Parker, Agri Business Group and Glass. “That first year was a great learning curve for all of us and we had a large number of qualified candidates to consider,” Glass says.  

That first year, the judges selected dealers for two categories, Single Store Dealer and Multi-Store Dealer and the winners were Fred Haar Co., Inc., Freeman, S.D. and Jamestown Implement Co., Jamestown, N.D. (see p. 19 for the full Dealership of the Year alumni group.)

Glass says the selection process has evolved over the 15 years of the program. “As the years have rolled on the judging effort has become more refined and the panel began to operate more efficiently in selecting the honorees each year. 

“The quality of the dealer candidates did not change a great deal because we are dealing with the best dealers in North America,” he says. 

“It was rapidly becoming obvious that there were two different groups of dealers operating within North America and by 2007 Rural Lifestyle Dealer magazine made its appearance. Shortly after that a distinct separation between production agriculture dealer and Rural Lifestyle dealers required two separate Dealer ship of the Year programs,” Glass says. 

Rural Lifestyle Dealer now recognizes its Dealership of the Year annually in its Fall issue. 

Throughout the years, Glass says the various elements used to judge the dealer candidates slowly emerged as various judges brought their thoughts to the competition. The combination of all these areas of comparison soon developed into a very comprehensive method of viewing each candidate, he explains. 

“During the 2010 judging period, the judges decided it would be a good idea to hold a conference call and discuss the top candidates and select an overall winner during that call. 

“Although each judge made their selection based on their individual approach prior to the call, each of us often arrived with the same top three candidates to consider. 

“There certainly was a difference in rankings at first, but after some discussion and explanation of how and why we selected each candidate, the Dealership of the Year became very obvious. Often those three candidates were only a few points apart. 

“This will be my fifteenth and final year as a Judge and it has been a pleasure to participate in selecting the Dealer of the Year.”

The judges agreed that this year’s nomination class offered tough competition. Even though the dealers chosen as the Dealership of the Year in each category “did clearly stand out, the total competition was very close with this group of high quality dealers under consideration this year,” Glass says. 

Words from Past Winners

“First, let me say that the experience of being Dealership of the Year has been very positive and rewarding. It challenged us, humbled us and gave us new determination to get even better. It also had a significant impact on how people viewed us through the hiring and recruiting process. It gave folks outside our industry a much better understanding of what we really do, including our financial partners. Finally it allowed us to share many ideas with our other dealer contacts as they reached out and asked questions relative to reading the article and viewing the videos. Bottom line, this was a big deal for the Van Wall Team!”  

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

“Being named Dealership of the Year brought a great sense of pride to the entire dealership and has only increased my appreciation for the team working at Salem Farm Supply and for the significance of good human capital at a dealership. Dealerships of the Year are built on good ideas and good people. I am grateful that Salem Farm Supply has both.” 

— Carol Lewis, General Manager,
Salem Farm Supply, Salem, N.Y. (2015 Dealership of the Year)

“The market has changed, equipment has changed, this business has changed — the world around us is changing. To have third-party affirmation that the work we’re doing every day, from the technicians to the parts workers to the salespeople, works, is great validation, but it’s also a great reminder that we still have a lot more to do. Being Dealership of the Year is a mark on the journey, not the destination. Today starts a new day where we can say to our team, ‘Good news, we’re on the right path with this. Here’s where we’re headed: let’s go even further, let’s go even faster, let’s make a bigger difference.”

— Mitch Frazier, CEO
Reynolds Farm Equipment, Atlanta Ind. (2018 Dealership of the Year)

“It was highly unusual for us to break off from a multi-store Deere operation. Winning Dealership of the Year further shows me, 14 years later, that I did the right thing. I am absolutely so grateful for the people I have around me who are action-oriented and really dig in. Whether you have 18 stores or just one, you always need to have a finger on the marketing to drive your business.”

— Arthur Lepp, Owner
Greenland Equipment, Carman, Man. (2018 Dealership of the Year)

“We feel very fortunate that we were able to reach this level. Winning Dealership of the Year adds more value to our dealership and helps our employees feel proud of the work that they do every day — they’re the ones that really make this thing go around.”

— John Miller, CEO
Valley Truck & Tractor, Yuba City, Calif. (2017 Dealership of the Year)

“To win Dealership of the Year as a single-location dealership in these big United States — I mean, you have to come to South Dakota, then to Madison, then to west Madison to find us — that’s really cool. Maybe we’re not the best at everything, but the way we do things here has been very successful, and this award is validation for us and for our trusted employees. We’ve worked hard our whole lives, and to be rewarded in this way is a very special honor.”

— Tom Bloom, Owner
Lake County International, Madison, S.D. (2013 Dealership of the Year)

“To even be nominated for Dealership of the Year means you’re doing something right. To find out that we won made us feel so good — our customers tell us we’re doing a good job, but hearing it from people on the other side was a very satisfying accomplishment. It’s truly a testament to what Kennedy Implement stands for. We were honored in 2012, but that meant that we’d been completing that level of work for many years leading up to it.”

— Mark Buchholz, Owner
Kennedy Implement, Philip, S.D. (2012 Dealership of the Year)

READ ABOUT HIAWATHA IMPLEMENT 

READ ABOUT AG WORLD EQUIPMENT & AG AUTHORITY 

DEALERSHIP OF THE YEAR ALUMNI GROUP

Nominate a dealer for The 2020 Dealership of the Year