With and eye toward the future, an Indiana equipment dealer opened a separate store to focus on and grow precision farming technology sales.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

In the world of primetime television, when a character’s popularity outgrows the constraints of a 30 or 60 minute timeframe, networks tend to capitalize by spinning-off a new show.

This same philosophy applies to farm equipment dealerships that are seeing rapid growth in their precision farming business and creating separate stores to give customers a specialized location for their technology needs.

Not every TV spin-off succeeds and viewers are a fickle bunch. But as precision farming continues to emerge as a larger piece of the profit puzzle for dealerships, some are banking on continued growth with independent stores.

In 2011, New Holland Rochester, in Rochester, Ind., opened Ag Technologies to be the precision farming sales and service hub for all four of the equipment dealership’s New Holland locations in the state.

Lanty “Spud” Armstrong became the manager at Ag Technologies after working for nearly seven years as the precision farming specialist at New Holland Rochester. For him, the move to a new store improved efficiency and gave the precision side room to grow.

“Keeping track of the precision inventory has been a lot easier, because our parts used to be buried in with the other stuff,” Armstrong says. “Keeping track of sales and what stocking inventory we have has been a lot easier too, because we have our own separate store.”

That wasn’t the case during Armstrong’s time as a precision specialist working out of the equipment dealership. He did everything from precision sales to installations and troubleshooting.

Armstrong initially managed the diverse workload because the dealership was only selling about $60,000 in precision equipment per year — mostly yield monitors on combines. In its first year, Ag Technologies recorded nearly $600,000 in precision product sales — triple the amount sold during the last year the operation was inside New Holland Rochester.

“We’ll always get new sales, but I don’t have to cold call to get new business, because customers know where to come for precision now,” Armstrong says. “You can put more of a dollar benefit on sales and that’s been nice.

With a six-person staff and its own shop space, Ag Technologies has the manpower to service customers faster, which promotes long-term business. Prior to the move, Armstrong says it was often hard to find space to properly service a customer’s precision equipment.

“We have space to work on things in-season and off-season,” he says. “In the past, we might be tight on a combine or tractor and not have a chance to get to a precision problem right away. So having the space and the people to get jobs done quicker is a big boost for the customer.”

While spinning-off the precision farming portion of the New Holland dealerships in Indiana has worked well, Armstrong recommends that dealers consider their location and competition before making the move.

For multi-store operations, being centrally located won’t limit accessibility for customers and having trained, knowledgeable employees in place will help distinguish the business as a leader in precision technology.

Time will tell as to how many farm equipment dealerships spin-off their precision operations into separate stores, but with technology, Armstrong says customers are increasingly looking for specialized service.

“Everyone realizes on the precision side there is so much to know that you can’t focus on 10 different things. Focus on one or two,” Armstrong says. “If you have a customer representative that comes out here and doesn’t know a lot about certain products, they are frustrated because they just want someone who can fix it and get it right. That’s my focus.”