As much as the word “operations” identifies with numbers and benchmark ratios, there’s no way to isolate performance from people. This point was decidedly clear at the recently held Precision Farming Dealer Summit in Louisville, especially in dealer roundtable exchanges.

And as I sit this morning absorbing all the risk factors in the news — NAFTA, commodity pricing, immigration and the government shutdown — I want to add a few notes to the “Dealership Operations” edition as it leaves our offices.

Yes, there’s plenty in this business to bring on insomnia if we allow it. But in business (and in life), we are reminded that things won’t always go as planned. When we can accept that, we also discover that the real value we deliver to our customer is in our response, not in the contingency plans we often toil over.

So as leaders, we should be investing our companies’ attention, energy and resources on “the knowns.” In our most recent “How We Did It” podcast ( you’ll hear Gregg Sauder, founder of 360 Yield Center, put it this way. “We can complain about commodity prices, but we can’t change the Chicago Board of Trade,” he says. “What we can change is how we manage our businesses.” Listen in on several near-disasters and how his businesses emerged stronger as a result of testing his team.

I think he’d agree with the point I’m trying to make. There’s one place where an ROI is almost assured, no matter what happens on the periphery. It’s in your talent pool.

We need the right people, with the right values, skills, attitude and work ethic. We need to align them with the company’s purpose and mission. And finally, we must get them committed to learning and growing to move the enterprise to greater heights. Spotting this possibility, even if just for a fleeting moment, delivers confidence that there’s no challenge that a well-prepped unit can’t overcome. 

Easier said than done, I know. But there are models all around us. I’m fortunate enough to see many through our Dealership of the Year Alumni Group, which I’ve often said is like getting free business consulting. 

I noted in an editorial last spring that our company was going to implement a “talent pool” concept we were borrowing from Stotz Equipment, and I promised you a status report. Our management committee committed ourselves to doing something different in order to get a different result. I’m happy to report that the team has responded to this important need. If retaining and developing talent keeps you up at night, I hope you’ll take a look. You can find the explanation of Stotz’s concept, and our own “case study” at

Speaking of focusing on and investing in that which we can control, click here for the latest “knowledge mission” we’re embarking on with equipment dealers. This time we’ll focus on “Intelligence-Driven Marketing.” A day after we announced the event last month, a dealer CEO pointed out that the smartest minds in our industry are the ones who contribute the most at these gatherings. “They recognize a good idea when they see it and are able to see how to fit it into their organizations,” he wrote. “And then they’re able to go home, actually execute on the idea and turn it into reality.” 

We hope you’ll choose to join us in Iowa to examine solutions to an area of “known need” in our industry.


February 2018 Issue Contents