As a writer, I’ve always admired those who could say a whole lot in very few words. Unfortunately, I have not been blessed with that ability. For example, when Paul the disciple could see that his work as the first Christian missionary was coming to an end, he summarized his life’s work in a letter to his protégé Timothy by briefly saying:
“… the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7)
I’ll never come anywhere close to accomplishing what Paul did in his lifetime, but as my retirement is rapidly approaching, I kind of feel the same way.
When I joined Lessiter Media 15-plus years ago as an editor for Farm Equipment and Ag Equipment Intelligence (then called Ag Industry Watch), I believed a big part of my job was to be an advocate for farm equipment dealers. Several years ago, a shortline manufacturer told us he thought the magazine did a good job representing the best interests of our readers. He said, “If you don’t speak up for dealers, who will?” Hopefully, we somehow make a difference in this way.
But more importantly, our stated mission is to help farm equipment dealers improve their operations and to be more profitable. Over the past few years, we’ve been told Farm Equipment, in some measure, has contributed to improving our industry.
The real beauty of it is that we didn’t do it by telling dealers what we knew. We did it through compiling and disseminating the words, thoughts and ideas of successful dealers who were willing to share their expertise with their industry colleagues. Our formula is a simple formula: be a vehicle that allows dealers to talk to other dealers. As a result, it is really our readers who are making the industry better.
It’s been a great ride for me this past decade and a half. Mike Lessiter has been driving this train with a lot of guidance from his father Frank. Along the way we were able to develop some valuable cargo, like Rural Lifestyle Dealer and Precision Farming Dealer.
We were also able to grow Ag Equipment Intelligence from a publication with less than 100 subscribers 15 years ago, into the leading business newsletter focused entirely on the farm equipment industry. In addition, with the participation and support of ag machinery dealers, we introduced the annual Dealer Business Outlook & Trends report in 2005 and the monthly Dealer Sentiments & Business Conditions Update in 2011. With the Big Dealer report, which we rolled out in 2011, tracks the rapid consolidation of dealerships in the U.S. and Canada, we have been able to keep the industry informed of mergers and acquisitions taking place.
Partnerships have been a part of our strategy to serve our readers. George Russell of the Machinery Advisors Consortium, who works with us on the Big Dealer report brought the idea to us in 2009 and continues to play an integral role in maintaining and updating it. Cleveland Research has also been an outstanding partner. They, too, brought the idea of doing a monthly survey to us and has provided ongoing support to keep it vital and informative.
Analysts from several investment banks have also partnered with us over the years. Over these years we’ve worked with some of the most influential banks in North America. Some have come and gone in the past 15 years, but currently we have solid working relationships with RW Baird, Stifel, Raymond James and recently Colliers International Securities. I’ve come to know others, like the analysts from Citigroup, Jefferies and Desjardins, looking for underlying trends to help them better understand what’s happening in the industry to keep their investors informed.
Over the years, Ag Equipment Intelligence has established relationships with writers/reporters in Europe and South America, who regularly contribute to the newsletter. They include Peter Hill, who works out of England, and Luis Vieira in Argentina.
Behind the growth of our dealer publications and Ag Equipment Intelligence has been Frank Lessiter, who along with his wife Pam, founded Lessiter Media in 1981. The spark that ignited the company’s expansion during the past 15 year has been Mike Lessiter. I’ve always said that I could be a good lieutenant if I’m reporting to a good captain. Mike has been more than just a “good captain” during my stint with the company. I will be forever grateful to the Lessiters, including Mike’s sisters, who have made me part of their families.
But now it’s time to move ahead and have new eyes and new ways of assessing industry needs to continue leading the way and building on the foundation that has been laid during the past decade and a half. Many, if not most, of you know Kim Schmidt from her work with Farm Equipment and on our twice monthly On the Record broadcast. She has been named executive editor of Ag Equipment Intelligence. She will be supported by Ben Thorpe and Jack Zemlicka.
I do want to thank all of the farm equipment dealers and manufacturers who have urged us on and supported our efforts through the years. I believe you will show her the same encouragement that you have shown me. You are in good hands.
The industry and Lessiter Media have come a long way but still have a long way to go in tackling the many issues and challenges confronting the business of ag equipment. That’s what Winston Churchill said following a big victory in World War II and knowing that many battles were still ahead before the war would be over.
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
See, I told you brevity was not my strong suit.