While compiling the report for the July issue of Ag Equipment Intelligence on the merger that will result in a new company to be called CNH Industrial, George Russell, who provided analysis for the story, sent along some excerpts from a book that he felt would give some context to the article. (A shortened version of the report appears in this issue of E-Watch.)
The book, "A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester Company" was written by Barbara Marsh and published in 1985 just before Tenneco purchased International Harvester's ag division and merged it with Case. It details the many issues that led to the downfall of International Harvester, which, 30 years ago, was a market leader in each of the segments - farm equipment, construction equipment and trucks - where the new CNH Industrial will now compete.
The excerpts he sent along included these: "There was stiff competition from archrival John Deere, bad relations with organized labor, and a pervasive, arrogant complacency within the company about its unsurpassable market dominance ... If we can learn from our mistakes, then the story of International Harvester is one of the great business lessons of all time."
The lesson all of us can take away from the demise of IH is, sooner or later, arrogance and complacency will sink you every time, and you don't have to be big to fail in a big way.
For me, this always brings to mind the well-worn Mark Twain adage, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Which brings us to something we're doing here at Farm Equipment that we'd like to share with you.
When Lessiter Publications acquired Farm Equipment in 2004 the magazine was very close to being put out to pasture. Since that time, we've worked hard to produce a good publication that meets many of the needs of farm equipment dealers across the U.S. and Canada. Over the years, we've received a fair amount of feedback - both pats and the back and kicks in the butt - for us to continue pushing ahead to improve the magazine and to avoid complacency at all costs.
For some time we've thought about how we could take a more structured approach to generating feedback and input on what's important to dealers and what's not. Toward that end, this month we've established an editorial advisory board comprised of six dealers who have agreed, without hesitation, to work with us. We've asked them to dialog with us to keep us on the right track and not let us "just sit there."
Each one of these dealers are active in the industry and leaders in their own right. Each represents one of Farm Equipment's past and present Dealerships of the Year or Best-in-Class Dealerships. They know us well enough to tell us what's on their mind. We've insisted that this not be an "honorary" or in name-only group, but that they communicate with us on a consistent basis. We're in the midst of setting up a system that will allow for easy-to-use two-way communications and that will be in place shortly.
All of the major equipment brands are covered on the board and we'll have a pretty good geographic cross-section of perspectives with our group of advisors. They include: Brian Carpenter, Champlain Valley Equipment, Middlebury, Vt.; Mark Foster, Birkey's Farm Store, Bloomington, Ill.; Tom Rosztoczy, Stotz Equipment, Avondale, Ariz.; Eric Schnelle, S&H Farm Supply, Lockwood, Mo.; Clint Schnoor, Agri-Service, Twin Falls, Idaho; and Tim Young, Young's Equipment, Regina, Saskatchewan. Each will serve a two-year term.
Our goal in working with our new editorial advisory board is a straightforward one - continue improving the content of Farm Equipment magazine. If you think about it, we're just taking another big step in doing what we're supposed to do: listening.