In typical years, the first quarter is a busy time for our staff, with a lot of time spent out of the office at industry events, meetings and visits with dealers. It’s hard to believe that with the exception of a few regional visits to dealers it’s been a year since we’ve done any extensive travel.

The last trip I took was in February of 2020 for the United Equipment Dealers Assn.’s annual meeting and the National Farm Machinery Show in Lousiville. At that time, there was talk of this virus that was spreading, but it wasn’t widespread in the U.S. at that point and didn’t seem like something that would have significant impact on most of us. Funny how things changed in just a few weeks.  

We all quickly adapted to and perhaps even embraced the video conference call (our entire 2020 Dealership of the Year interview last summer was done via Zoom). I don’t know about you, but I’m eager to get back out there in the world to meet with people in person. As vaccination distribution picks up across the country, it’s encouraging to know that we can begin returning to some in-person interaction. 

Our staff has started to test the waters, and it’s been energizing. In March, Ben Thorpe hit the road for John Deere’s media event in Iowa, stopping at Ziegler Ag Equipment and Kunau Implement along the way. When he returned to the office, he had a renewed energy and plenty of story ideas. You’ll see some of the fruits of that trip on in the coming weeks. 

Some of our team will also being making the trip to Kansas City for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn.’s spring Supply Summit & Showcase. 

Looking ahead to what the spring and summer have in store, within the next few days I’ll be sending letters out to the dealers who have been nominated for the 2021 Dealership of the Year program (be sure to keep your eye out for the email). This is always a fun process and an exciting trip to plan, but I feel like it will be even more so this year after not traveling for so long. 

Perhaps most exciting though is our plan to return to an in-person Dealership Minds Summit this August (see the just released program on p. 26) after a virtual event in 2020. This year’s meeting will focus around the theme “Developing Your Homegrown Talent,” and will bring together dealers of all brands from across North America to share their best practices in developing their next generation of managers and leaders. 

We hear time and again that the ability to share ideas and network with industry peers from across the country is what sets the Summit apart from other events. We’re headed back to Omaha on Aug. 3-4 for this year’s meeting. We’re working with the hotel to make sure we can have the event safely, so it may look a little different this year but will have the same high impact learning environment. 

We’re excited to have the chance to sit down in the same room with all of you again. I hope to see you in Omaha. 

Beyond the Dealership of the Year and Dealership Minds Summit, our editorial team is making plans now for other dealer and farmer visits we can make this spring and summer. Our ability to sit down with dealers and talk about your business helps us do our jobs better and helps us serve you better. 

In the words of Willie Nelson, “I just can’t wait to get on the road again.”