Editor’s Note: For this Dealer Day in the Life installment, Farm Equipment caught up with Ty Rankin, General Manager of Texas’ Lone Star Ag, a 2-store operation in Friona and Dalhart, Texas. Rankin, a pilot, had just touched down after flying out to take care of a customer in Oklahoma. He reviewed his daily journal, which took place on Thursday, April 18. “My wife said she already knew it, but I guess I didn’t know how much time I actually spent on the phone until you asked me to write it down.”
Ty Rankin is the GM at Lone Star Ag (previously known as Parmer County Implement), a 2-store operation carrying Kubota, Claas, MacDon, JCB and Oxbo. Lone Star Ag is specialized in its product offering and doesn’t deal with planters and sprayers like dealers in other parts of the country. Its business is very much harvest related. “All of our equipment, with the exception of Kubota, focuses on silage.”
While the dairies and feed yards aren’t buying equipment in the current downcycle, the custom cutter world goes on and is keeping he and his staff high stepping, he says. “Everyone’s got to be smarter, but the cows have got to eat. The custom operators’ new equipment purchases will eventually slow down too, but right now Rankin says the dealership has got its hands full with delivering and starting up the units that were presold last fall and winter.
6:00 a.m. — The alarm rings. Up and out of the house by 6:30.
7:00 a.m. — Rankin takes his first phone call of the day, a little bit later than usual for this time of year.
7:45 a.m. — On a dairy operation in Hart, Texas, to meet with a custom cutter who take care of the dairy. The morning focuses on starting up some new MacDon swathers, which includes teaching new operators how to do daily maintenance on the machines and start running them. Two of the operators had never operated a MacDon before. “We went over settings, controls, daily maintenance -- in walkaround type training -- and then got them going in the field to go over float settings and other tweaks, just making sure they understand everything. Within a few hours, they were all set to do it themselves.”
11:30 a.m. — Back in the truck for the hour drive from Hart to Friona. Stopped in Demmit at a taco truck for lunch. The lack of open restaurants creates additional hassles for a traveling rep. “You don’t always know where you’re going to be.” As usual, Rankin ate on the run. Multitasking is a necessary part of the day and not only am I driving and eating, but I’m also on the phone helping with GPS problems on a tractor I delivered earlier in the week.” But while on the way to the store, the plan changed, and he instead turned to drive toward Muleshoe to start another new Claas silage chopper and conduct operator training.
2 p.m. — Now back again on his way to the office in Friona. Rankin spends the entire drive on the phone with customers. “Mostly it’s simple things,” he says, noting that calls tend come from newer customers. “They’ve often been off that equipment for 6 months and forget those details; they need a refresher course on how to do this or that. Things like a merger is plugging, mower that’s leaving streaks.” In a week or two, those calls will start to taper off after operators have been running a bit and “have in the brain in the game,” either because the dealership has helped them through that trouble or they’ve remembered on their own once they started things up.
2:30 p.m. — Back at the store. Rankin says stores feel pretty much like business as usual, except for shop doors locked and caution tape around the parts counter to encourage distancing between employees and visitors. The regular traffic patterns in the stores isn’t so much that Lone Star has needed to keep people from entering. There’s been some concern about parts availability in some brands, he says, but nothing too major. “The big difference in normal business operations is that they aren’t making calls to dairies or feedlots unless we’re asked.” Rankin checks his emails. He’s eager to find finance documents for some deals in play, checked with a trucking company to schedule delivery. He heads to the shop to see when some other new equipment would be ready for delivery.
3:30 p.m. — Out in the shop, Rankin needs an hour to pre-set and calibrate a new tractor and triple mowers. The shop did the PDI on it, but Rankin knows that there’s some additional tweaks and fine-tuning that can be done there in the shop that this customer will want to see done. “Just some additional work to get nearly things done to make it easier before getting out in the field,” he says.
4:30 p.m. — Computer dings, reminding Rankin see if the finance documents arrived. They did, and Rankin prints them out so he can present them at the following day’s appointment.
5 p.m. — Rankin hooks up his gooseneck trailer to retrieve a JCB telehandler that evening that needs repair. “If the customer is between my house and shop, I’ll grab it and save freight for the customer and provide that service.” As he drives out to the customer, he’s on the phone the whole way again with customers and co-workers.
6 p.m. — Arrives at the customer and loads the JCB, which Rankin will take back to Friona shop tomorrow. After loading, spent a few minutes visiting with the customer before heading to what would be the last stop of the day.
6:50 p.m. — Earlier, a new prospect called to inquire about a new machine, so Rankin arranged to meet him in the shop at his place near Canyon on his way home. Rankin learned what he was looking for and making recommendations.
8:00 p.m. — Home in time for dinner and beer.