One of the benefits of covering an industry like farm equipment is learning from some great business minds. That, and tapping into free consulting in the name of business journalism. I do file away your wisdom from our interviews, and several of you even taken my calls when I’m looking to calibrate our thinking over here. While our industries are different, many of the people challenges are the same, and I will take a sound and trusted lens-adjustment from any corner.

First, I’m very proud of the people at our place, every one of whom you’d be happy to have as a guest for dinner. And I think our work-in-progress culture is largely lining up with what we aspire for it to be. But like every living and breathing business, we have things to fix.

Our weekly management meeting took a turn last Monday when several managers shared observations about what we hope are only the “early signs” of complacency or indifference. We spoke candidly and named names. And that discussion also included a look at how we as a group were communicating (or not) in a way that was permitting the presence of “it doesn’t matter” or “there’s always tomorrow.”

We, and our managers, have work ahead. And since a lot of you have been in this very place, I’m asking for your advice as the address to our troops is prepped.

Our next step, I think, is to get direct and find ways to more deeply connect the dots for some staff on the meaning of their work. Namely, what a good effort means to the customer, to the business, to their teammates — to themselves personally — when they decide to be “more than average.” And what the cost is to all those same parties are when it’s not.

For those of you bracing for another anti-millennial rant, let me say that complacency-issues are blind to age. Plus, I noticed it with folks of all ages when I entered the workforce nearly 30 years ago. But what is different about today is that the presence of the “old-schoolers” are dwindling with retirements and the types of jobs being created. So now there’s fewer places for the clock-punchers to hide, as well as perhaps fewer bodies who would call things out.

So, on those “challenging days,” and after I hush the pessimist voice, the optimist in me says maturity may catch up and that we need to teach a generation “why” they should find pride in their work, and all the rewards that accompany extra-mile effort.

I’m talking about routine things here, and problems and opportunities alike. Finishing that project or work order, finalizing the quote before it’s “code-red,” making that extra phone call or visit, or taking (or calling for) a meeting. What if everyone could see the dollar-value of even a single extra effort over the lifetime of that customer? And conversely, how much is being risked by not stepping up.

Or have those days just passed us by? I hope not.

“Indifference, apathy, complacency — whatever you call it — is a slow-death toxin ... the notion of being ‘good enough’ can quietly infiltrate your organization before the eye detects it.”

A couple of years ago, our strategic planning facilitator asked everyone on our management team to cite our worst job ever, and it was difficult for most of us (average age 54 if I don’t count the curve-breaker in my dad) to answer. I’ll say I’ve been fortunate enough to never have had a job that didn’t matter, or one I that didn’t learn something meaningful about myself. There’s always something that “moves the ball” forward, despite how big or small the effort. Sometimes the dividend is seen within days or weeks, but often longer. But to borrow from the good book (and something I learned from Dad), the purpose of working hard is always profitable.

Indifference, apathy, complacency — whatever you call it — is a slow-death toxin. The outwardly unacceptable behavior tends to get dealt with quickly. But the notion of being “good enough” can quietly infiltrate your organization before the eye detects it.

We need to reach those in which we see potential but maybe not yet the desire. Or those who think they have it but don’t know what commitment yet means. So now I ask ... 3 questions for you:

1. What did you say to successfully awaken someone who hasn’t yet shown a fire burning within?

2. What are your best tips to get an “average” performer to be “good?” And how you got the “good” to get to “excellent?”

3. What example do you cite most within your walls as a shining example of extra effort at its best?

I’ve got a few stories in my file from Dealership of the Year and Dealership Minds visits but need your help in collecting some more.

I’ll make you a deal. Send me your replies to these questions, and we’ll deliver back to you a package compiled from your farm equipment peers that you can use to get your teams to stand up and take notice when that kick to the denim is needed ....

Thanks in advance. Please email me at