As a regular columnist, or writer at any level, you can’t help but wonder if you’re hitting the mark with your readers. I’ve heard from and spoke with enough dealers since I started writing this column for Farm Equipment in early 2009 to believe that the topic areas in this column are generally on the mark. So it was nice to find out that one of my columns from last year ranked as the second most highly read stories on www.farm-equipment.com in 2012.
It was the “Upgrade Your Fleet Management Technology” column from last September. Thanks. It’s good to know that the topic was of high interest to Farm Equipment readers.
This also caused us to go back and review the topics we covered during the past four years. The following listing also responds to dealers who have asked for previously published articles. Our original columns appeared under the banner of “Planning for Profits” that focused on ways that progressive farm equipment dealers can improve their bottom lines. In early 2012, the editorial focus changed to how dealers can use technology to improve profits. All of these articles are available on either the Farm Equipment website or that of Currie Management Consultants.
For review purposes, the articles are grouped by several high-level topics (Strategy, Benchmarking, People, Technology, etc.) but in some cases there is overlap. For example, the article from October/November 2010 issue addresses both hard data (benchmarking) and soft skills (people).
Strategy & Growth
- Opportunities & Challenges of Expansion (April/May 2009) — Covers the advantages of scale for customer service, investment in training and facilities, and attracting skilled managers. Includes the risks of stretched management and real reduction in costs.
- How Top Performing Dealers Prepare for a Down Cycle (June 2009) — Covers various options including reducing costs, increasing gross profits or a combination. Also presents ideas for benchmarking productivity.
- How to Determine the Value of Your Store (July/August 2009) — Covers base economic value vs. “blue sky.” Including how to value intangibles, discounts for lack of marketability, what measure and methods to use.
- Consolidation: A Year of Changes (April/May 2010) — Updates changes in large dealer operations and pace of consolidation by brand and introduces regular updates that appear in the Industry News section of Farm Equipment called “Dealers on the Move.”
Benchmarks & Budgeting
- Benchmarking the Best: How Top Dealers Compare Their Performance (February 2010) — Covers why and how to set and use benchmarks, especially for expense control.
- Beyond Budgeting: How the Most Successful Dealers Forecast (July/August 2010) — Shows how to consider all revenue sources and influences, knowing your customers and setting sales targets, planning for profits, which means setting expense targets.
- Why Use a Financial Model? How it is Different Than Budgeting (July/August 2011) — Using a financial model to adjust to the reality of changes in market, and benchmarks for margins and expenses in all departments.
People & Organization
- Expanding Successfully: It’s All About Talent (June 2010) — The biggest driver of success in a growing dealership is being able to leverage good people, and how the dealer-principal’s role will change with growth in size and number of locations.
- Strong Store Managers or Centralized Structure? (February 2011) — Skills needed to run a large single location or a branch, impact of centralized functions in a multi-location dealer, span of control.
- Are You the Employer of Choice or the Employer of Last Resort (March 2011) — Covers the major factors for attracting and keeping good employees: motivating around your vision, expecting the best, measuring, communicating and recognizing — the right way.
- Training in a Modern Dealership (January 2012) “Part I: How to Measure Effectiveness;” (February 2012) “Part II: How to Drive an Effective Process” — Covers how to measure training as an investment (i.e. ROT = Return on Training), conducting a needs analysis and setting objectives for training, as well as evaluating learning, changes in behavior and business results.
- Using Technology to Sell Technology — Profitably (March 2012) — First in the “Technology for Profits” series. Shows bottom line benefits of selling technology and the three P’s of productivity, profitability and personal connections.
- Smart Uses for Smart Phones in a Dealership (April/May 2012) — Covers using phones in service for achieving better application rates; in parts for improved manager productivity and higher levels of customer satisfaction; and in sales for increased close rate and higher gross margins.
- Using your Business Software Most Profitably (June 2012) — How to utilize your business software in all departments for faster and more efficient communication, in service to reduce work in process, and in parts for faster inventory turns and improved fill rates.
- Building an Interconnected, Knowledge-Based Dealership (July/August 2012) — As farmers leverage precision farming, profitable dealerships are using knowledge-based products and services, and interconnecting applications among their communications devices (phones, computers, tablets, etc.)
- Upgrade Your Fleet Management Technology (September 2012) — Provides real life examples and software for better asset management, security and employee productivity.
- Simple Technologies to Increase Staff Efficiency (October/November 2012) — Shows significant productivity improvements from the use of dual-monitors and hands-free headsets.
- Make Your DBS (Dealer Business System) More Productive (January 2013) — Examines why DBSs are under utilized, and how to improve productivity with no additional investment.
- Why Add or Drop Product Lines (September 2009) — Answers questions about when to add product lines: margins, diversification, penetrate accounts; or to drop lines: focus on poor total returns, redundant products. Also covers best practices with additional product lines.
- Equipment Rental Programs: Are they Worth It? (March 2010) — Examines why farm equipment dealers should establish a rental department, including the risk and rewards.
- Territory Management vs. Account Management (June 2011) — Takes a look at how to segment prospects by volume, manage sales people, analyze and organize your sales department.
- The Link Between Sales and Absorption: To Sell More, Service More! (October 2011) — Demonstrates how high performing dealerships have strong process and sell service. Discusses three characteristics of high performing dealers: 1. strong consistent sales management; 2. accountability for customers/prospects; and 3. balanced sales mix represented by strong absorption.
Parts & Service
- Using Service Scorecards to Improve Absorption (October/November 2009) — Gives examples of five-point scorecard for technicians and service managers.
- Parts & Service: Where the Profits Are (February 2010) — Provides productivity benchmarks for five critical variables: revenue growth, financial performance, employee productivity, asset turns and customer satisfaction.
- Hard Data Plus Soft Skills = Improved Absorption (October/November 2010) — Examines the hard and soft skills needed in each of three drivers of better absorption — revenue, gross margin and expenses.
- Benchmarking Service Personnel Costs (March 2011) — Examines the ratio of technicians to overhead staff, overhead and staff costs, correcting high overhead costs.