Turnover is a recurring challenge for some farm equipment dealers seeking stability in their precision farming business. New hires may look to quickly transition into more lucrative roles within a dealership, such as equipment sales, while experienced specialists may depart for less stressful positions with manufacturers.
Colby Reichling, store manager at R-Equipment in Sycamore, Ill., understands the frustration that can come with developing a precision department as well as anyone. Three years ago, the 3-store New Holland dealership group hired a full-time precision farming specialist to sell and service Trimble and New Holland’s Precision Land Management products.
But the hire ended up not being a good fit and for the last year, Reichling has been restructuring the dealership’s precision operations, without a full-time specialist.
“We found that it was hard to justify the cost of a dedicated precision person because it was hard for that individual to be selling when they are spending most of their time servicing and installing other precision equipment,” he says.
“So we implemented a system where 8 of our service technicians throughout our locations handle precision service.”
Reichling says their service technicians are trained on precision technology the same way a specialist would be and having more than one capable employee to service and support hardware gives the dealership flexibility to solve problems in an efficient manner.
It’s also made billing out precision service easier because customers were already used to being charged for mechanical repairs by their service techs. R-Equipment provides one year of free precision service on all new purchases, then charges the shop rate of $88 per hour for future repairs or maintenance.
“Because we’re not relying on one person to handle our entire precision operation, we can service customers a lot faster and this is adding to our bottom line,” Reichling says. “This is improving customer satisfaction with our precision business.”
But not having a dedicated precision specialist can restrict sales growth. Reichling says that the dealership’s entire sales team shares the responsibility of selling hardware, though it’s not necessarily done as proactively as he’d like.
“We do struggle with upselling precision equipment because we don’t have someone exclusively selling those products,” Reichling says. “When we had a precision specialist, he would be responsible for seeking out business, where now we’re relying more on customers coming to us.”
While he hasn’t ruled out hiring another precision specialist in the future, Reichling says he’s going to continue developing the dealership’s current precision business model. As a smaller dealership group relatively new to precision, he admits that it’s difficult to compete with larger, more established dealers in the area.
But for other dealerships in a similar situation, Reichling doesn’t recommend abandoning precision altogether if they don’t have a specialist.
“We know that specialists are hard to come by and it’s a competitive market for talent,” he says. “People leave and that’s the nature of the business, but our advice is don’t rely on one person to run your entire precision department.
“By spreading the responsibility around to parts, sales and service, there is a lot more accountability and reliability in the system, and it’s been working for us.”