Almost 8 years ago, as we were test-driving a singular themed concept for the 2nd Dealership Minds Summit — The Next Generation — the editors of Farm Equipment interviewed 8 up- and-coming dealership leaders who were being groomed to run the business.
One of those interviews was with Eric Reuterskiold, who was the operations manager for 3-store (Wisconsin and Illinois) Johnson Tractor at the time.
At the end of 2021, the Case IH dealership announced that Leo Johnson, after 43 years in the business, was retiring and named Reuterskiold as the new president and CEO of the now 5-store dealership. Eric Johnson, Leo’s brother, continues to serve as vice president and director
Back in our 2014 interview, Reuterskiold had told me, “Leo and Eric plan to continue in the business for another 5-7 years, give or take 3. They both have kids that have shown some interest in the business, but neither would be ready for a leadership role for another 10 years, if they decide to pursue a career here.
“The current plan is for me to take over more of Leo’s daily tasks as CEO and help move the business to the next generation. The unknown is if their kids will pursue dealership careers or if they will make a life outside of the dealership. If they don’t, it will be my job to continue to keep Johnson Tractor a high-value, successful business that continues on.”
Here we are 8 years later, and the plan went just like he said. Leo’s son, Patrick Johnson, and Eric’s daughter, Kathryn Hesebeck (who accompanied her dad to our advisory board dinner at the 2015 Dealership Minds Summit), have both since joined the business as well.
Back when we talked in 2014, Reuterskiold encouraged other developing leaders to ask their boss or the owner what the succession plan was, and if they had a place in it. He also encouraged owners to make sure they let their key people know if they are part of the plan. Open communication should flow both ways, he said.
“If you want them around, you should communicate that to them. Find out if they need ownership to stay or if they are happy not being an owner. Either way, tell them your plan. All people want to know what their future holds,” he said.
You can read all about Reuterskiold’s experience and advice at www.Farm-Equipment.com/JohnsonTractorNextGen.
That special report on succession planning was early on in my time here at Lessiter Media. While Johnson Tractor certainly isn’t the first dealership to follow through on their succession plan, this is the first time in my 10 years here that I can point to a specific interview and article shared publicly and see that the plan came to exact fruition. That takes the identification and anointment of the successor, communication and follow-through.
Congratulations to Johnson Tractor — and Leo and Eric — for their planning and development of the leaders their growing dealership needs to move into the next generation. And a special thank you to Leo who has been a “tell it to us straight” sounding board for our editors (almost since the first edition of Farm Equipment under our company’s ownership 2004) and a valued member of our Dealer Advisory Board.
Enjoy your retirement, your planning — and executing the plan — makes the time for travel and relaxing possible.