Following up with our Dealership of the Year nominations last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of dozen dealers. The good news is that nearly every dealer I talked with is busy. The bad news is nearly every one of those dealers is too busy.

While we have nearly 90 nominations, which is in the usual range for the past seven years since we started the program, this time around we’ve had fewer dealers take it to the next step. That is, they’ve provided all of the information needed to present to our judging panel.  At this writing, we have about a dozen dealerships that the judges will consider for the two top spots in the 2011 Dealership of the Year awards program.

What’s interesting this year is the number of dealers who we spoke with that said they’re “just too busy” to take the time to fill out the forms. A couple of them are building new dealerships and want to wait until next year to put their best foot forward. Several others, mostly in dairy regions, said that 2010 wasn’t the “greatest year” they’ve ever had, but 2011 is turning out to be an outstanding one. One New York dealer said that the first quarter of this year is already better than all of 2010.

The good news is that the dealerships that are participating this year are outstanding. I don’t envy our judges this year at all. I’m glad it’s them and not me who has to choose.

Looking at these nominations reinforces what we’ve seen during the past several years. That is farm equipment dealers are getting better at running their businesses. And it’s not just the large, multi-store dealers who can be held up as good examples of excellent business people. Those dealers with one, two or three stores are demonstrating that they’re every bit as savvy and sophisticated in their day-to-day operations and seeing the big picture as are the largest dealers.

Some might say that being successful in business is easy when business is as good as it has been in agriculture the past several years. But I don’t believe that’s the case here. If you were to study the dealers participating in this year’s Dealership of the Year program, few are doing anything that you’ll find in the Harvard Business Review.

What they are doing is focusing on best business practices and on people — customers and employees. That’s as good a formula for success that's ever been devised.