As we heard last January, the outgoing U.S. president always leaves a note in the desk of the Oval Office for the president-elect containing some non-partisan advice on how to succeed in the new role. With the amount of gray hair seen in farm equipment dealerships these days (and yes, I’m always told to update my photo when making such comments), I was curious what today’s dealers want to impart on tomorrow’s leaders.
So I approached our Farm Equipment Dealership of the Year alums — Tim Young, Young’s Equipment; David Meyer, Titan Machinery; Bob Scott, Scott Supply; Jay Pickrel, Jamestown Implement; Doug Heritage, Miller Farm Equipment; Brian Carpenter, Champlain Valley Equipment and Jim Haar, Fred Haar Co. Asked for the advice they’ll give their successors, their maxims of what every dealer worth his salt should firmly follow are summarized below.
1. Cash is King. Income statements and profitability are important, but the balance sheet is your North Star. Know your capital needs and your bankers. Successful dealers personally control used equipment and accounts receivable. Profitability doesn’t matter if you run out of cash.
2. Keep Your Word. Keep every promise, even if it hurts your wallet.
3. Work at Your Supplier Marriage. Your ability to serve your customer hinges on support from your suppliers. Work at improving the relationship with your manufacturer. But remember it’s your business and not theirs.
4. Blaze a Trail. It’s the new trail that offers the challenges and rewards. Followers eventually end up just like everyone else. Entrepreneurs actively seek opportunity, embrace and manage risk, and meet their goals through tenacity and determination.
5. Listen to Your Customer. Know the business of those paying the bills, and work on farmers’ needs, not just peddling what you have to sell.
6. Hire the Best. Hire capable, hardworking people whose word is strong as oak. Your staff is the true face of the company. Truly great people consistently overcome obstacles and hand-deliver success.
7. Be Ready for Change. The world is changing, and only those “dialed in” will see it in time. Study trends and technologies, and make knowledge a priority. Again, intimately knowing your customers will alert you how to adapt to changing times.
8. Invest in Your Dealership. Invest in professional facilities, ample parts inventories, the best service technicians, longer store hours and whatever else the customer values most.
9. Find a Mentor. Use any and all expertise you can find — both inside and outside your store. This includes your staff as well as lawyers, accountants, consultants, the old-timers and especially other dealers. And be there to help others, too.
10. Make Money When You Buy. Pay close attention to your trades, terms and discounts. Be ready to act on attractive programs and pricing.
11. Spend Time with Your People. Know them, thank them and never ask them to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Treat them right and they’ll move mountains for you.
12. Treasure Your Culture. Your company culture is the standard-setter. Embrace what has gotten the company to this point. Teamwork defines every great business.
13. Share Financial Successes. Don’t cap compensation; instead feed the stallions. And don’t be concerned about the share of business you own; what matters is maximizing the enterprise’s value.
14. Still a People Business. While virtually everything else about the business is changing, it’ll always be about the art of the deal and doing what you can to make sure your farm customers succeed.
15. Dare to Dream. Free your mind to creatively chart a vision that will set you apart in the future. If you know where you want to go, the right path will reveal itself.
16. Be Passionate. You’ll spend more time “punched in” than with your family. Enjoy the challenges and your role with farmers and rural America. And if it ain’t fun, make a change.
To read dealers' first-hand responses on the cornerstones of success at their dealerships, click on the links below.