Josh Arnall, Finance & Insurance Manager
Years with Organization: 6
Role: “As the finance & insurance manager, I try to help create financial solutions for customers, while balancing the relationships with financial institutions and manufacturers…. I end up being a problem solver, when I think I’d rather be more of a problem preventer.”
Josh Arnall is a numbers guy who likes planning and solving problems. As the finance and insurance manager for H&R Agri-Power, his day-to-day is full of managing the numbers and solving problems, but his planning usually is sacrificed to what he calls “the tyranny of the urgent.”
Arnall’s primary focus is on wholegoods retail finance, but he also handles financing for parts and service transactions. H&R Agri-Power also sells physical damage insurance and extended warranty products, which he oversees. (See “Adding Efficiency with Warranty Dashboard” below.) He manages financing for all 17 locations and the majority of his interactions are with the wholegoods sales team, and he views that group of 54 salespeople as his customers.
In most cases, Arnall doesn’t have a lot of customer interaction, unless there are problems. “I end up taking care of problems because if you’re doing a lot of business, you’re going to encounter issues,” he says.
Selling Financial Solutions
As much as anything else the dealership sells, Arnall says, they are selling financial solutions to their customer base. To an extent, equipment has become a commodity and the equipment on the lot isn’t what sets H&R Agri-Power apart from the competition, he says. “Money is a commodity ... so, what’s going to distinguish us from the competition? We like to try to think outside the box to provide solutions — whether it’s something like cashflow management or balance sheet management — that can help customers stay in business or improve their business.
“Hopefully that will give us an edge,” Arnall says. “A lot of what I do is centered around trying to come up with a financial solution that might allow customers to buy some equipment, or buy parts and service, too.”
“I try to communicate to the financial institutions and the OEMs, don’t forget that this person we’re talking about, this customer, is the reason you have a job. It’s the reason I have a job. We can’t lose sight of that because if they go out of business, we all may end up having to find something else to do every day…”
An example of a somewhat common challenge in the current environment is having customers low on cashflow. “If some of our customers run out of money, that’s a major problem. How do we work out a situation where they can keep buying equipment and still have cashflow?” he says. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers for that. But I can tell you that, in this environment we’re in today, the customers are probably pretty savvy even if they’ve experienced some financial difficulties. They’ve made it through upswings and downturns.”
Back in 2013, when farm income was up and farmers had cash to spend, Arnall says it didn’t matter what the payment schedule was throughout the year. “Everybody had plenty of cash and our salespeople were just trying to get a ‘yes’ and not thinking about anything else,” he says. Today — and for the last 3 years — that’s no longer the case. Now, Arnall needs to be able to structure the financing so a customer’s payment is due when they’ve got cashflow.
Part of Arnall’s job is working with the sales team on the right questions to ask customers. “Identifying customer’s objectives and building solutions around that is critical. Not doing so can create problems. For example, if a customer gets behind on payments because they’re not due when they have income, that starts showing up on a credit bureau or with the lender. We’ll have a hard time getting a deal done the next time around, or the rate’s going to be really high. We need to work through these situations every day, so we can keep selling farm equipment. Our customers don’t have to have exactly what we’re selling them every year.”
What Arnall means by that is, farmers need to buy seed and fertilizer every year and they need agronomic inputs and chemicals for their crop management. But, they don’t necessarily need new equipment each year. And so, he spends his time working on the financial solutions that will preserve H&R Agri-Power’s customer base and ensure the dealership can continue to do business the way it wants to.
“And every once in a while I try to communicate to the financial institutions and the OEMs ‘hey, don’t forget that this person that we’re talking about, this customer is the reason you have a job. It’s the reason I have a job. We can’t lose sight of that because if they go out of business we all end up finding something else to do every day,’” he says.
When it comes to selling equipment, Arnall’s goal is for financing to not be a reason the dealership didn’t get a deal. He estimates that H&R’s customers finance about 75% of their transactions. And, it’s not just wholegoods that are being financed. He says the percentage is probably higher for parts and service transactions that are financed for at least 30 days.
Adding Efficiency with Warranty Dashboard
In today’s world, improving efficiency is one way to get a leg up on the competition. Creating a simple way to view customer information regarding warranty is one way Josh Arnall, finance & insurance manager for H&R Agri-Power, is planning to add another layer of efficiency to the dealership. The warranty dashboard allows anyone in the dealerships — sales, service, parts, management, etc. — to see whether a customer has a base warranty or extended warranty, expiration dates and insurance coverage levels, he explains. And it’s all there with just a couple clicks of the mouse.
“Today, we’ve got a lot of that information, but it’s piecemeal. It takes 10 clicks to get here for this company, but then you have to go somewhere else for another company. I don’t know what other dealers have, but none of the systems talk. You’ve got to go multiple places to get the information … it’s just not efficient,” he says.
While the dashboard will make finding the information easier for the dealership’s employees, more importantly it will improve customer experience. For instance, if a service manager has 3 customers waiting he can go to the dashboard and with one click tell him that he has premiere warranty or extended warranty and what will be covered.
“He can say, ‘These 3 things are going to be covered’. He wants to go ahead and do that for the customer instead of having to put it on the back burner and it never getting done,” Arnall says. “Little things like that will go a long way for us. That’s something that we’re working on that I’m excited about. It doesn’t seem like much, but I can tell you sometime a service job gets billed to a customer that would have been covered under some sort of warranty, and maybe the customer even forgets that they have warranty. “
In addition to the warranty dashboard, Arnall says adding insurance and warranty quotes into the wholegoods quote tool is something he’s looking into, which would help with tracking and customer follow up.
“Whether it’s the infamous inhouse account, which we are trying to minimize on a monthly basis, or if it’s an OEM card holder type revolving account, the customer is financing. Because of cashflow, the financing is pretty critical to what we have to do on a daily basis. Even if customers have the cash to write a check for a tractor or service work, they may choose to put that cash to work somewhere else,” he says.
Looking Out for the Customer
Arnall says in recent years H&R Agri-Power has shifted to a healthier portfolio, moving away from leasing. “There’s still some leasing out there, but we’re back to old fashioned trading, which offers a little more flexibility in my opinion. It relieves a little pressure in the market at some level,” he says.
Deal by deal, he focuses his energy on coming up with a financing structure that will work for each individual customer and paying attention to the details. “The devil’s in the details, the old adage says. If we’re focusing on the details, we’re going to do better than hopefully we would otherwise. If we’re not focused on the details, we can lose our focus altogether. If we place the emphasis on the customer, at the end of the day it’s going to better for us. That’s really how H&R Agri-Power began, how we’ve grown, and it’s the only way we’ll succeed going forward.”
Brought to you by Laforge.
He adds that you need to look more long-term; it’s not just about getting the sale. Arnall spends a fair amount of his time interacting with collection departments from different institutions. And while that’s not H&R Agri-Power’s responsibility, he says, it behooves them if their customer is having trouble with a payment schedule.
Collection departments will reach out to Arnall requesting his help. “I’m going to try to facilitate contact with that customer and encourage communication with the lender. We don’t want a credit issue to become a black eye for the customer. We want to keep doing business with them, so it behooves us to try to help that customer get through the issues they’re having,” he says.
Data at Your Fingertips
Arnall is a habitual note taker, with electronic notes on just about every interaction he has. That’s data that could be beneficial to the sales team. Between customer notes and the finance portfolios for all the major institutions H&R Agri-Power works with, Arnall has long-term plans to create a dashboard that could be used as a prospecting tool.
“If we’ve got a customer who’s interest waiver on his combine ends June 15, we need to have that at our fingertips. And we’ve got it, it’s just not as easily accessible today,” he says. “Some of our sales force who use that regularly will call a customer and say, ‘I noticed your interest free period ends this coming June. Why don’t we trade combines right before wheat harvest?’”
At least initially, Arnall will have to manage all the data in the background, but to him that’s not a problem if he can give the salespeople and store managers the information they need. “Whatever I’ve got to do in the background is fine as long as the end result is more efficiency so that we can sell more equipment,” he says.