Anniversaries have a way of nudging us to reflect. A natural byproduct of chronicling Farm Equipment’s 55th year was the examination of courageous dealers who bet on themselves and their team’s ability to serve the North American farmer. Farming, after all, can’t thrive without those who keep them farming — and doing so profitably.
So it’s with great pleasure to announce the inaugural class of 11 in Farm Equipment’s Dealer Hall of Fame (HOF). The class includes a mix of the living and deceased, the current and the retired. And one whose business was a failure, but honored here for his efforts in helping his contemporaries survive.
All areas of the ag industry were invited to nominate deserving leaders. Several dealers even advanced the nominations of their competition. And a “from the grave” letter from the legendary editor Bill Fogarty started a search about a man called “The Turk.”
Starting on p. 20, you’ll learn about HOFers deemed ahead of their time, who saw the promise of large multi-store groups when their own major-lines did not, who found niches in being entirely different from their competition, and 3 dealers who ventured into public ownership (and 2 who retreated from it).
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly…” –Robert F. Kennedy
I regret that I didn’t meet two of them before their passing, but I’m proud to have personally visited 4 of their operations and met colleagues among the staff of all. Nearly all those encounters were productive, but not without the occasional dust-up that happens in our business.
I’ve also gotten to know several on a more personal side, breaking bread, on hunting trips (Titan’s David Meyer and Peter Christianson were testing my manhood in the cattail sloughs, by the way), seen them operate “behind the curtain” and joined them in celebrations of key milestones. (As for personal stories, ask me sometime about a “feat of strength” witnessed in a barroom with employees and fellow dealers.)
Another HOF-er has become a business confidant who readily takes my calls. He always asks questions that help me arrive at what I’m doing wrong. Much of my executive reading list came from him.
All have earned my respect as ethical, successful businessmen. And I believe you’ll agree they’re worthy of yours as well.
Not A 'Rah Rah' Type of Honor
Not all of the HOF dealers went out on the top, personally or professionally. The legacy of some became understood with the passage of time.
As important as these 11 men were, they were the product of the era in which they were born. In hindsight, nearly every important decision impacted their success, or failure, yet still required their seizing of luck as it came.
As historians like to debate, perhaps today’s leaders couldn’t have succeeded in the industry’s earlier days. And the reverse is also true. Even knowing what we know today, success wouldn’t have been compulsory if we exchanged the executives of then and now.
Neither is this award a popularity contest. There was a time when dealers used the word “enemies” and occasionally gathered for uncomfortable sit downs with rivals that must have resembled that of the “five families.” One source explained to me that one of the inaugural selections, while a shrewd businessman and adored by customers, was outwardly disliked by most of his dealer brethren.
As you read the HOF articles that follow, consider that no leading company ever succeeds without leaders. And today’s industry of fewer but larger entities means the industry of 2024 and beyond will require more from leadership than any time in history.
A special thanks to all the suppliers who helped us make history this month. This 2024 edition of Farm Equipment set a modern-era record for advertising participation in a February edition.
Nominate a Future Farm Equipment Dealer Hall of Famer
Submit a nomination for the next class! The Farm Equipment Dealer Hall of Fame recognizes the achievements of individuals who excelled in farm equipment dealer retail sales & service.