The July/August Farm Equipment (on its way to you now) has evolved into an “industry best” compilation. While it’s long been the vehicle for the Farm Equipment Dealership of the Year (DOY) coverage, it has also evolved to include dealers’ rankings of manufacturers (EDA’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations survey). You’ll find analyses of both in this edition.
Reflecting on the DOY Alumni Group, and the manufacturer rankings, it’s clear that best in industry achievements don’t happen by accident. Rather, they get into the conversation of “best” through a refusal to be mediocre, or “good enough to get by.” One can argue a company can’t get there unless it first engages in honest self-reflection, with a well-polished mirror.
Just days after speaking with manufacturers about their EDA rankings, the words “creative destruction” rang out at me during a Freakonomics Radio podcast. You can listen to Charles Koch, the polarizing leader of Koch Industries, in an interesting 2-part interview that was released on June 21 here. (Don’t be scared off by the sensational title, “Why Hate the Koch Brothers?”)
Koch invites personnel to challenge the status quo, to voice the opposing position, to blow up silos and do whatever it takes to keep a product or division from becoming obsolete. “If you make the company money,” he says, “you earn decision rights.”
I may not be precisely applying Koch’s term or the adjacent “deconstructive criticism,” but indulge me here for another 373 words. Spend some time with this issue and you’ll find evidence of companies that not only stopped to fix what wasn’t broken, but created something culturally that invites the apple cart to be turned over.
Koch would say your people need the freedom to stand up to executives, without career-limiting (or ending) repercussions. I believe he’s right, and also that hubris can be the most dangerous virus a successful company can encounter.
Good companies employ some mechanism to represent a conscience and the customers’ voice — and expose the mistakes that can cripple an enterprise. No, we’re not always in the mood to hear it, and yes, we all suffer from some ear canal blockage from time to time. But at the end of our careers (assuming that self-reflection remains a prerequisite to earn a leadership position), we’ll all be grateful for those who called out the landmines before we stepped.
Note to the 37 Lessiter Media employees in our Brookfield, Wis., offices ... now you don’t need to make a career out of being a pariah or demagogue, of course, and there’s a good and bad way to go about it. If you’re unsure about which camp you’re in, feel free to start in Frank’s office. Seriously, it’s liberating to handle complaints by asking the same “alarm-sounders” what they intend to do to fix the problem.
When you line up the DOY Alumni Group (which we’ll do at next month’s Dealership Minds Summit, you’ll see companies that embraced bold, and at times, unpopular change. For the manufacturers, I think you generally see companies scored by what they emphasize. Scoring at the top in dealers’ surveys isn’t every OEM’s goal.
Companies are driven by different things, and different “stakeholders.” Some don’t want to be judged on any criteria other than what’s discussed in the board room.
If you serve in a “lieutenant” role at your company, remember you’re going to see the battlefield better and quicker than the general. You own the responsibility of bringing issues up the chain of command and, when they aren’t listening, to argue for a problem to make the priority list.
From what I’ve been hearing lately, this is a characteristic that is disappearing. Someone still needs to tell the emperor when he’s naked...
P.S. Click here to listen to Farm Equipment’s first-ever podcast, and to subscribe to the all-new series we’re launching later this month. Stay tuned!