Early on in my days on the Farm Equipment staff, the editorial and art departments were huddled around a board of potential covers for the magazine. None of them were really ringing with the editors. The details of what happened next are a little fuzzy, but are now office lore. Our designer Jeff Lazewski said, “I was trying ...” and trailed off with an explanation of the concept he was going for. Without missing a beat (and mostly in jest), I quipped, “Well, try harder,” and left the room. There’s always a little bit of truth in sarcasm, and usually the first attempt isn’t good enough. We should all be trying harder. 

Now years later, at least once a week I remind myself to try harder. A little bit of extra effort on my part goes a long way. My extra effort brings better content, information and resources to you, our dealer audience. It helps move our company forward. And it helps me grow personally and professionally, too. I have a Post-It note on the cabinet over my desk that says, “Try Harder!! WOW feature in every issue of Farm Equipment.” I have a print with the words Try Harder (still waiting to be framed and hung) as another reminder. What was a passing comment years ago has become words I live by — both at work and at home.

One of Marquette University’s (my alma mater) slogan is “Be the Difference.” The desktop of my computer has a picture of a giant sign on the side of one of the campus buildings that says “Be the reason. Be the solution. Be the difference.” It’s another simple reminder to me every day that I need to make sure my actions are making a difference. It can be easy to forget something as simple as trying harder in the day-to-day grind of business, but it should always be front of mind.

A few weeks ago, Mike Lessiter wrote about rooting out complacency and asked for your advice on how you’ve dealt with the issue at your dealerships. A number of you have shared some great advice so far, and I’d encourage you to go back and share your thoughts if you haven’t already. His words were just one more reminder that we’ve always got to be working at moving the ball forward — trying harder. 

Shawn Skaggs, president and CEO of Livingston Machinery, writes a blog, “Business in a Hurry.” In one posts he writes about how as the ag economy swung into downturn the company was also facing some other challenges. One of the biggest factors in turning things around was going to be getting employees engaged and focused on goals that would help the dealership thrive.

He writes, “I am not saying that our people weren't engaged before, but many of them didn't understand all the ways that what they did everyday could affect our cashflow and profitability. The one thing I knew for sure was that I could not turn this thing around on my own and our management team couldn't do it alone either. It would take every single person in the business working toward common goals to make it happen.”

Livingston Machinery introduced a new system — involving both competition and accountability — that would get everyone focused on the common goals and more engaged in producing results. They called the system their Scoreboard, and it provides engagement, accountability, transparency and education. And it worked. They dealership saw a huge turnaround in just 12 months, including in the company’s 12-month cashflow the best in the history of the business. You can read more about what they did in Skaggs blog.

I think we often forget how our individual role in a business (be that farm equipment dealership or publishing company) impacts the customers we serve. Everyone — from owner down to part-time summer help — needs to remember that our customers need us and regardless of our job title, we’re here to serve them. It’s only when they succeed that we succeed.

P.S. — Keep an eye out for a guest blog from Shawn Skaggs about business operations on Farm-Equipment.com.