This page contains exclusively online insights from interviews with Mark Foster.

Birkey’s Farm Stores believes that rewarding performance should go beyond the sales department and should also go beyond being just another way to get paid. At least that’s the way Mark Foster, Ag Division manager sees it.

He says the dealer group has utilized various programs to “incentivize” its employees, including parts, service and other employees throughout the business.

The company has some wide-ranging programs of “general incentives” that the store managers and salespeople work toward throughout the year. But Foster says that he’s continuously “tinkering” with more specialized programs for specific purposes.

For example, rapid changes in farm technology often leads to excess inventory of earlier generation models of equipment. Foster points to lightbars and other precision ag equipment as a case in point. Parts people are often incentivized to push these products.

“I believe in incentives. I believe they work. But some incentives are just another way to get paid and some incentives are a way to motivate individuals. I lean toward plans that modify behavior and drive individuals to focus on what we need them to achieve,” Foster explains.

Market share, used equipment turnover and improving absorption rates are all part of Birkey’s store managers’ package, for example.

Another way he believes incentives can be effective is to reward volume with a “stair-step” approach.

In a case where the dealership has an abundance of used combines, instead of giving a big reward for selling one of the targeted units, they’ll get twice that for selling a second unit and so forth.  It makes it worthwhile to keep moving forward rather than stopping after they get so far.

As Foster puts it, “It motivates them to get better; to maintain the areas that they’re doing well in and improve the areas where they may not be focused.”