Editor’s Note: Jordan Kite, Equipment Asset Manager for new and used equipment for Agri-Service, is in his third week of working from home because of COVID-19. Typically in his role, Kite regularly travels among Agri-Service’s 9 locations. Now, he’s relegated to his home office (which he jokes doubles as his bedroom.) While nearly everyone who works out of the corporate office in Twin Falls, Idaho, is now working remotely the store locations are open. Kite kept a journal of how his day went on April 7, 2020.
7:00 a.m. After waking up and grabbing a quick protein shake for breakfast, Kite gets set up in his home office. He starts the day off by reviewing the sales orders from the previous day, the deals they won and the deals they lost.
9:00 a.m. Kite jumps on the first of many web conference calls of the day. He jokes that the day was nearly death by conference call. This first meeting — held weekly — was with the branch managers from each location and the executive team. “We discussed the coronavirus protocols and what we need to continue to do to make sure we’re doing our part on that as far as sterilizing everything and employees wearing gloves,” he explains.
The group also discussed the services they are offering customers during this unprecedented time to ensure they are taking care of all their needs. “If customers want separation, great. If they want to come into the store, how do we handle that. We were reviewing all that. We've already had a plan in place for about almost a month now, but just reviewing it and making sure everything's going well,” he says.
While most of the staff from the corporate office are now working from home, the store locations have remained open to customers. At the store level, Kite says the level of staffing is at the discretion of store manager. Some are rotating parts staff schedules, but at stores that are fully staffed, they’re making sure they have plenty of distance between employees. They’ve encouraged employees to wear masks if they want to and the parts employees wear plastic gloves.
“We’re trying to keep mechanics out in the field as much as possible and we’re not allowing them to mingle and be in common areas like we normally do.
For the sales team, staff are encouraged to use the recommended 6 feet of distancing when talking with customers and they all have hand sanitizer. Agri-Service was already set up with DocuSign for sales and financing, which limits the amount of required face-to-face interaction.
“We've encouraged that, but we've left it up to them as far as how much contact with customers they're going to have face to face. They're still working in the stores, but we've told them to do every eight of 10 on the phone,” Kite says. “If they are going out, we've asked that they discuss it with our parts department so that the customers do not have to come into our location and as they go out in their area, that they can deliver some of the parts, just to prevent their customer from having to come into our stores.
“Unfortunately, or however you want to look at it, this is one of our busiest times. So, it’s provided quite a challenge to make sure that we get all the customers’ equipment ready and still follow the guidelines,” Kite says.
During this meeting the team also discusses the sales orders, the wins, the losses and whether they saw anything changing in buying cycles as a result of COVID-19. “Right now, we feel that large ag is still doing quite well. Compact equipment, we haven’t seen the decline yet there either,” he says.
Agri-Service’s fiscal year ended March 31, so they also reviewed their financials for the year and for the month, and also looked and their parts and service numbers for the month.
He says March was a good month for Agri-Service, especially on the used equipment side of the business. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick on the used side of the business in the last couple of weeks. Personally, I think a lot of that has to do with some of our big growers who would buy new, they're sitting on their hands a bit because of potato contracts and different things that they're not sure how that's going to go. But guys who are smaller, they're ready to rotate out of equipment and need equipment so they're coming in and buying it.”
10:30 a.m. Kite immediately jumps into another meeting. The sales and operations meeting with AGCO includes Agri-Service’s president, Kevin Vivian, vice presidents, Kite and the dealership’s account manager from AGCO. During the meeting they discussed lead times on new equipment and what affects COVID-19 was having on getting things from some of the international plants, particularly Fendt tractors coming from Germany.
“They have a plant in South America, one in China and then a couple in the U.S. also. Right now, we’re not seeing that effect, which was a positive, especially on the Fendt side. That’s been really hot in our business right now. So it was good to see that was not going to be delayed. They are making changes as far as sterilization and are doing things to make sure that they kept the past dates they had already set,” Kite says.
He adds that the only delays they’ve seen with equipment shipments have been coming into the port. “Everything's getting on the water at the right time. It's just a matter of getting us cleared to then pick it up from the ports has been just a little bit delayed a couple of weeks on some things.”
From what AGCO has told Agri-Service, Kite says priority is being given to units ordered for retail. “If it’s a question between a stock unit and one for retail, the retail going to go before the stock unit,” he says. “We’ve been able to continue to get everything and AGCO said we will get what we’ve asked for, so that’s good.”
All of the hay equipment comes from the Heston, Kan., plant, and application equipment and some of the Massey tractors are coming from the Jackson, Minn., plant. So far, there has been no issue getting equipment from those plants, Kite says.
1:00 p.m. After lunch with his family, since he’s working from home, Kite gears up for another video conference call. This time he’s joined by Agri-Service’s sales operations manager and the AGCO account manager were on the call. “We took a deep dive into our forecasting on the new equipment side. We looked at what we had forecasted and the things that were selling way more than we had forecast and the things that were selling under what we forecast. Then we talked about what adjustments we needed to make as far as our next order writing period, which will occur between now and the middle of May,” he says.
The group also reviewed Agri-Service’s aged new equipment to determine a plan of attack as far as any additional discounts or programs they wanted to add to help get those units moving.
3:00 p.m. Kite gets his first break from meetings and takes the free hour he has to go through some evaluations for trades that had come in. “I got those numbers back to the salespeople and then followed up on a few deals that we had been working on that the salespeople still had in pending status just to see how they were coming along,” he says.
“Before this all happened, I would travel between the locations and meet with branch managers and evaluate the used equipment in person. Then evaluate the units with them, decide what we need to do in the shop. We’d decide if we thought we should run it through the shop, sell it as is, drop the price, different stuff like that. I would do that weekly, basically visit the stores. And so now it's the biggest challenge for me is I don't get to see it in person. I don't get to get out. It's more phone calls to handle that type of stuff now,” says Kite.
“I miss getting out and putting my hands on the iron. It's definitely different when you I’m at home and not with people I work with every day in the office and being able to just walk in and have a discussion.”
Kite pays close attention to the auction market, and uses this time to check on some of the auction items that were going to be closing on AuctionTime and Big Iron this week. “I’m looking to see where those values are. I also touched base with my local auction rep just to see how things are going on that side,” he says.
Kite says the auction sites seem to be getting traffic and customers were bidding. The online auctions are seeing action, but all the in person auctions in the area have either been canceled or postponed.
4:00 p.m. Time for another video conference, this time with the Tertilling Co. controller, Mike Magette, to discuss their budget on used equipment, including their margins and reserve account. The Tertilling Co. owns Agri-Service.
“Basically looking at what equipment on the used side we'll have to write down to sell. We budget for that and so we were checking to see where our budget is vs. what we were using and forecasting out as far as how that was going to attract. We go through if we were going to be ahead of schedule behind the schedule kind of discussed and went through that stuff with him.”
5:00 p.m. Kite jumps on a call with one of the store managers and a salesperson to work on a MUD deal they’d been working on for a while to verify all the trade-ins, new pricing discounts and making sure they were prepared to present it the next morning.
5:30 p.m. Kite leaves the “office” to have dinner and then played football with his kids.