If your business causes you to toss and turn on occasion, you’re no different than the Birkey’s Farm Store managers.
Here are their biggest causes of insomnia:
“For the most part I sleep like a baby. With 350 employees, I probably wake up at night mostly because of people issues. Maybe it’s someone who is leaving the business or a customer that had a bad experience with us.
"I enjoy the back office side of the business and its challenges. But it doesn’t tend to keep me up at night. Like they say, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff — it’s all small stuff.”
— Ron Birkey, President & CEO
“Right now, it’s the need to add a parts and service sales manager. We’ve gotten a little stale in our marketing approach to parts and service and we need an individual to drive it. We tell our parts people to sell parts and our service people to fill the shops up by giving them one-size-fits-all general programs and special promotions. If those don’t fill the shop up or don’t drive up parts sales, it falls back on the each store to get something going.”
— Mark Foster, Ag Division Manager
“I worry how the used equipment sitting in my lot is impacting my store’s performance and its bottom line profitability. I’ve signed off on this used inventory so it’s my responsibility to get it sold.
“Knowing there’s an unhappy customer also will keep me up at night. However, I’m unlikely to go to bed without first addressing this problem.
“I don’t want to lose any customer. If I have an unhappy customer, I’ll hit that problem right between the eyes. I’ll go right out there myself and do what we need to do to put the problem to bed. Letting it fester won’t make it any better.”
— Mike Carley, Store Manager, Gibson City, Ill.
“When a grower spends a lot of money to strip-till and he’s having issues, the time crunch is difficult, especially in the spring. They need things fixed right now and sometimes it can take a while to fix these concerns. The rule of thumb in electronics that it takes 5 hours to find a problem and 5 minutes to fix it.
“When it takes a long time to find a very simple problem, it can be very stressful and you’re responsible for getting him back running. Sometimes a middle of the night phone call from a strip-tiller is why I wake up. When a farmer can’t run and he’s down, that’s stressful.”
— Darin Kennelly, Precision Farming Specialist
“Having too much used inventory in a cyclical business is something to worry about. I’ve seen it 2-3 times since I’ve been here — we’ve ridden a fairly good market, had a good selling cycle and then the bottom dropped out. Then you’re sitting on a lot of used inventory and must find a way to get out from under it. When the business takes a downturn, we’ve found the cycle to work ourselves out of the stress caused by that extra used inventory is typically 24 months.”
— Mike Hedge, CFO & Treasurer
“The one thing we don’t want is to see a customer leave and not have his needed part or not know when he’ll get it. The truth is we don’t have all the parts; nobody does — not even Case IH.
“I can stay awake trying to figure out a way to keep the farmer going — even getting desperate and taking parts off new equipment to keep a guy going during harvest or planting. We can’t be the reason that’s keeping him from being productive.”
— Todd Lippens, Parts Manager, Polo, Ill., store
“One of the main things that always surfaces at night is trying to find that place where everyone is happy or at least understands the situation. Many times people only see a situation as it affects them and not the bigger picture.
“I want everyone to be happy, but if you make one person happy, you’ll probably make another employee mad. So I sometimes wake up and think about finding better ways to communicate more often and more effectively.”
— Jaime Smith, Human Relations Manager
“There are a lot of balls in the air to juggle in marketing. Thinking about everything that needs to get done is the biggest concern. Feeling like I’ve forgotten something or missed something on my list is a terrible feeling.
“I try to get our staff to send me as much information as they can, gather the information you want to cover and chicken-scratch out a rough layout. The worst is when someone calls and says they need a half-page ad in the paper. Sometimes they don’t know the ad dimensions, the ad size or whether they want to promote parts, service, new equipment or used machinery. If it’s in a reasonable time frame, I’ll do what I can to get it done. But if someone calls at 3 p.m. and says they need an ad by 8 a.m., that may keep me awake.”
— Quint Campbell, Marketing Manager
“If I see a drastic reduction in margins or something else, I want to be figuring out and resolving the problem. But as we grow, I can’t have the same level of involvement as in the past. It’s frustrating because you want to see the stores do well, but I need to be patient — it all takes time. What I can do is monitor the situation, bring it to the store’s attention and be there to help them.
“Our business is so wholegoods driven and a lot of times the parts and service departments don’t get enough attention from their store manager. Knowing there are problems when I can’t get to them quick enough or give them enough time can keep me awake.”
— Phil Fayhee, Parts & Service Operations Manager
“You need to realize that you can’t take it with you. Too many people ignore the need to maintain a life outside of work. I make it a point to pursue activities with my wife, two daughters and five grandkids or work on yard projects.
“I encourage my service technicians to live by the same principle. You can’t live it 24 hours a day or you’ll burn out. This doesn’t mean I don’t resolve work issues outside of the office, but I try to limit them. There are problems I’m thinking about how to fix, but I try not to lay awake at night worrying about them.”
— Craig Greenwood, Service Manager, Hoopeston, Ill.