As we prepared the special report that appeared in the June issue of Farm Equipment on what steps dealers who have acquired another dealership take immediately after finalizing the deal, I found it interesting how dealers seemed to be split on who they should address first, customers or employees?

As one of the sections of the report pointed out, in most cases the selling dealers said it was the employees who should receive the initial attention. When it was the acquiring dealer who was responding, they tended to put the customers first.

Some may say that which group receives initial attention would depend on the specific situation. It would be hard to argue with those who insist that both groups of stakeholders need to be addressed simultaneously, if possible.

When it comes right down to it, I believe the employees must get first attention. There is nothing positive about an employee telling a customer he or she doesn’t know what’s going on at the business where they work. It would seem to send a message to the customer that:

  • They’re not trusted or important enough to know what’s going on; or
  • They’re disengaged, don’t care, resent the employer or are too afraid to talk about it.

There’s nothing positive, whatsoever, when a customer repeats a rumor they’ve heard or has to explain to someone working at a business what’s going on at their place of employment.

Ultimately, it will be the employees who convey and carry the dealership’s message to its customers and community — good, bad or indifferent. And if it’s indifferent, it’s bad.

I came to believe a long time ago that there’s nothing worse for an employee than not knowing where they stand with their boss or their company. If they need to guess what the boss is thinking, it’s seldom positive. They either resent it and their bad attitude shows up in their performance, which means with the customer. Or, they’re afraid and aim their efforts at trying to please the boss when they should be trying to please the customer and doing what’s in the best interest of the entire company.

Of course you need to get to your key customers as quickly as possible, but your words of assurance go only so far. Confident employees behind the counter, in the shop and calling on customers will convey the real message of what your dealership is all about and where its heading.

As the opening line of the special report points out, “One could argue that nearly every dealer in North America will be on one side or the other of an acquisition in the years ahead.” You need to give some thought to how you’re going to handle it.