“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

— Lewis Carroll

Mike and Frank Lessiter
An 81-hour, father-son road trip to Iowa & Nebraska (complete with visit to Univ. of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium) sparks reflections on succession planning and its impact in the farm equipment business.

Last Thursday, I hit the road with my dad, Frank (Lessiter Publications Founder) for a few days to celebrate his 73rd birthday. And at least for a portion of our trip (no thanks to the lost GPS signal, nor the old man’s navigation skills), the quote above applied to us. But I digress...

On our sojourn to Lincoln, Neb., for the Nebraska-Wisconsin football game Saturday night, we stopped and visited several farmers (even did some combining) and farm equipment manufacturers. (With the heat of harvest on, we opted to hit up our dealer friends another time.)

While my Badgers couldn’t hold on in Lincoln, we had a great time together during our 1,439 miles. And this windshield time allowed plenty of observations and reflections on our visits.

In three of our visits, including Fehl Farms (a 4,000-acre corn/bean operation in Iowa) and Nebraska-based manufacturers Duo-Lift Mfg. and Thurston Mfg, we saw striking examples of succession planning at work. In all three of these instances, these family businesses are flourishing AND making significant capital investments as they poise themselves for greater growth. And again in all three cases, parents and sons were following a well-thought-out plan (progressive in responsibilities) that is preparing the next generation to one day take the wheel. Not all of the sons knew they’d end up where they did, but each was exposed to all aspects of the operation throughout their youth, and certainly knew what they were signing up for.


There’s nothing coincidental about any of the three operations’ success, nor their ability to confidently and boldly move forward for the future.  Each mapped out a succession plan long ago, and they’re WORKING that plan. And, in our opinion, that succession plan is a competitive advantage they can take to the bank. But as seemingly universally accepted as succession is, a lot of operations just aren’t there yet.

Succession planning in your world keeps getting more complicated with the ever-growing size and financial stake of today’s dealerships. That’s why we’re anchoring our first-ever DEALERSHIP MINDS SUMMIT (co-located with Ag Connect in Kansas City on Jan. 30) with a special “Dealer-to-Dealer” session in which 5 dealer-principals will examine various options, and lessons learned, for navigating the succession-planning waters.

On our drive back to Wisconsin, Dad and I talked about succession of our company (founded 1981). The process started in earnest in 2008; 5 years after I joined the company and took a full year before a pair of consultants figured out how to make it work for all parties. Particularly when it comes to expansion and reinvestment, we concluded that the presence of such a roadmap has removed some of the paralysis that keeps businesses sitting on their hands as opportunity passes them by.

If you’re still refining your succession model, we hope the upcoming DEALERSHIP MINDS event in January can help. Seats for this dealer-only event are limited, so register now (early-registration price of just $79) if you plan to attend. Call Sue Ramstack at 866-839-8455 today!