The market share realities and logistical hurdles a single-store mainline farm equipment dealership must clear to compete in an era of consolidation are real.
But for more than 70 years, Eis Implement, a John Deere dealership in Two Rivers, Wis., has thrived on its product diversity, customer service and progressive business philosophy.
These attributes extend to the dealership’s 2-person precision farming team, led by Eric Hagenow, who joined Eis in 2014 after working as precision salesperson and a service technician at two other dealerships. The well-rounded professional experience has served him well, as Eric if often called on to troubleshoot both mechanical and technological problems for customers.
Having met Eric at the 2019 Precision Farming Dealer Summit, I was looking forward to the opportunity to ride along with him for our 11th installment of the Day in the Cab series. Throughout our nearly 11-hour day, we spent time cultivating new customer relationships, as well as strengthening existing ones with a series of on-farm visits and nearly two dozen phone conversations.
Having a reliable precision partner and constant communication eases daily service demands. Eric Hagenow (r) will rendezvous with fellow precision specialist Phil Davister to swap components and prioritize customer visits.
4:45 a.m. I’m up a little before the sun to make the 2-hour drive to meet Eric. It’s crisp, damp morning, consistent with what many farmers — especially in the Midwest — endured this spring.
7:15 a.m. It’s rare that Eric will start his day at the dealership during busy seasons, so I arrive at his home in Kiel, Wis., where he is on the phone with Phil Davister, Eis Implement’s other precision specialist. The two are loosely planning the day ahead, and Eric notes they often take a “divide and conquer” approach to efficiently cover their service area. “Spring dictates when my days start this time of year,” Eric says. “Phil takes a lot of the data-related jobs. He really excels in that area, whereas I’m much more of a wiring and hardware guy. It’s a tag team effort that allows us to sell, service and support everything we do.”
7:32 a.m. Eric grabs a couple of bottles of water and we hop into his 2015 Chevy Silverado. It’s logged nearly 145,000 miles, but the interior is decidedly tidy, with a tackle box in the back seat stocked with small parts and commonly used connectors.
“I’ll try and help customers out with a solution, even if there’s no immediate revenue for the dealership, because next time they need some equipment, they might think of us…”
7:42 a.m. En route to our first service visit of the day, Eric engages in a flurry of morning calls, trying to broker the sale of 16 used John Deere XP planter row units between two customers. “There’s no glory in it for me, or immediate revenue for the dealership, but by trying to help them out, next time they need some equipment, they might think of us.”
8:32 a.m. We arrive at Bob Schneider’s farm in Chilton, Wis., to troubleshoot a rate control system Eric had installed in 2018 on Bob’s 12-row planter, with John Deere MaxEmerge row units mounted on an A-M-E toolbar. “At the end of the year, he was having trouble with the application rate of a second product. I came out and made some adjustments, but I want to make sure things are running properly,” Eric says. Bob is a newer customer, and Eric wants to earn his repeat business with consistent, quality customer service.
9:07 a.m. Bob arrives and Eric updates him on the progress. They two agree to field test the system. Bob dumps a small amount of corn seed into each hopper on the planter and also adds a bit of water to the 2 liquid tanks. Eric and I hop into the cab of Bob’s 8320R tractor and wind around the back of the farm. Bob also operates a short-track racing venue, Gravity Park USA, on the premises and we navigate through the parking lot to an open field, heavily populated with dandelions.
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Take a closer look at a day in the life on the job with Eric Hagenow, precision farming specialist with Eis Implement, through exclusive videos filmed during Precision Farming Dealer’s Day in the Cab. Visit www.PrecisionFarmingDealer.com/ditc.
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10:17 a.m. Eric makes several passes through the field, testing the rate control system, along with the Precision Planting DeltaForce down pressure on each of the row units. At 5 mph and an application rate of 10 gallons per acre, the system is slow to kick in. “It should be instant, so it needs a little more tuning to get it where I’m comfortable,” Eric says. He also notices the down pressure system isn’t responding to apply enough pressure for seed depth. “The 3-point hitch is actually moving up about a foot when we engage the system and that’s affecting the down pressure depth,” he says.
10:54 a.m. With the rate controller and down pressure systems nearly passing Eric’s performance tests, a seed disc on one of the outside row units breaks. Confident he can get a replacement in short order, Eric tells Bob he’ll fix it and make a few more field passes to make sure everything is in working order. Before we depart, Eric and Bob talk a little racing, as there will be an event at the track this evening. “It can be good to get on a personal level with customers and having those conversations can help take their mind off things,” Eric says.
11:27 a.m. We’re back on the road for a quick rendezvous with Phil just outside of Manitowoc, Wis. This is a common occurrence as the two keep in constant contact most days and when practical, will coordinate a brief meeting to exchange parts. “Phil and I have our area split and he goes to the store every day. The hardest thing for me is driving from my house to the store to pick something up,” Eric says. “It’s more efficient to plan ahead and meet Phil, or in some cases, we could have parts directly shipped to the customer so they are waiting there when we arrive.”
- Having experience with multiple brands of technology and farm equipment allows for quicker on-farm problem-solving and builds confidence with customers.
- Constant communication with precision or dealership employees during the day helps prioritize customer needs, especially during peak seasons.
- Take the time with new and prospective customers to show them how you can improve their efficiency. Earn their business, don’t just take it.
Today, we’re picking up the replacement seed disc and shank for Bob Schneider and a flow meter and fittings for a visit this afternoon. Eric and Phil converse about their mornings and prioritize their objectives for the remainder of the day. It’s clear they have a good rapport based off their frequent communication. “Phil is definitely my right hand man,” Eric says.
12:17 p.m. Our next stop is at Ken Rach’s farm outside of Chilton, Wis., to solve a lingering problem with his Micro-Trak rate controller for pop-up fertilizer application on his Kinze 3200 planter. “Basically, he wasn’t getting a flow reading so I took the flow meter off, took it apart, put it back on and it worked,” Eric says. “A day later, Ken called to say the rate was applying about a gallon- to 1.5-gallon per acre heavy, so I decided to just change out the flow meter.”
“We do a lot hardware demos because once it’s in a farmer’s cab, if everything is working well, he’s not likely to want to give it back…””
We find the planter out front of Ken’s equipment shed and Eric gets to work replacing the flow meter. Fortunately, the job goes as planned and after a re-calibration of the system in the cab of Ken’s Case IH 225 Magnum — along with a little small talk with Ken — we’re on our way.
12:48 p.m. After dropping off the replacement seed disc at Bob Schneider’s we stop at a local Subway for lunch. I have a chipotle steak wrap and Eric has an Italian BMT sub. It’s been a productive day to this point, and Eric jokingly says, “sometimes you can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, until you get that next call.”
1:21 p.m. After a quick stop to gas up, we’re heading to Dave Schleicher’s farm near Sheboygan Falls, Wis. Dave is another relatively new customer who happened to be the father of a precision ag instructor that Eric worked with at Lakeshore Technical College. “We like to be involved with the local colleges and sometimes we’ve found there can be benefits on the back end,” Eric says.
2:02 p.m. We arrive at Dave’s to complete the setup of his 8-row White planter and Ag Leader InCommand 1200 display, along with fine-tuning the liquid fertilizer application through an ISOBUS connection to the Deere GreenStar system on his 7490 Massey Ferguson tractor. “We will need to wire into the 1200 display cable to get the down force to be displayed on the monitor,” Eric says.
3:03 p.m. The job is progressing, despite a handful of brief phone calls that put Eric’s multi-tasking skills to the test. Dave stops out to check the status of the project. Eric takes the time to walk him through what he’s done to this point, and what he has left to do to connect the receiver and test the down force. This includes a thorough demonstration of how to thread together the liquid application connections on the planter row units, which Dave appreciates.
3:47 p.m. We wrap up a successful visit, with Eric making the GPS receiver connection into the 1200 display, which included a few setting changes. “We saw a green satellite on the Ag Leader display, so I’m confident everything should be good to go,” he says. The one item Dave needs is a convenience outlet plug for the cab, but Eric plans to have his wife bring it out the next morning on her way to work. “I’ll do that quite a bit and have my wife bring parts out, and I’ll tell customers just to go out to the car and get them, which is fine,” jokes Eric.
When working with customers, especially newer ones, Eric Hagenow wants to make sure he thoroughly explains and informs them during service visits. This helps build customer confidence.
4:02 p.m. On our way to the next stop we check in with Phil to see how his afternoon is going. At this point in the day, Eric routinely touches base to see if there are any high priority visits remaining. Aside from a few minor bumps, Phil is on schedule with the day and they briefly discuss what’s on tap for the following week.
“All things considered, it’s been a pretty tame day,” Eric notes.
4:21 p.m. We pull into Maple Creek Dairy to visit Dan Fischer, who is having issues with his Trimble EZ-Pilot steering system. Eric had visited the customer in late 2018 for an unrelated problem and was asked to calibrate the steering system. “It’s not a system I sold him, but I offered to take a look at it and if we aren’t able to fix it, there could be an opportunity to demo a new system,” Eric says. He says Eis has had success leveraging precision demonstrations — everything from receivers and rate controllers to RTK activations and unlocks — to convert prospective customers into loyal ones. “We’ve found that once it’s in a farmer’s cab, if everything is working well, he’s not likely to want to give it back,” Eric says.
With 20 years as a service technician, Eric Hagenow considers himself a “hardware and wiring guy” when it comes to precision farming prowess. He joined Eis Implement as a precision specialist in 2014.
4:37 p.m. We find Dan pulling his 12-row Kinze 3200 planter with a Deere 8120 tractor toward the edge of a field where we meet him. We take a walk around the planter and Eric and Dan hop into the tractor cab to make a few passes in the field and troubleshoot the steering issues. Eric runs through a series of checks, adjusting screen dimensions and making calibration adjustments until the system is sufficiently accurate. “After our first pass, it was absolutely terrible, so we stopped and re-measured everything and it was better,” Eric says. “He’s only using a WAAS signal, so he understands it’s not going to be perfect. I explained that in the future, he may want to steer his combine and trade this system in for something that he can transfer for harvest and I think that got his attention.”
5:37 p.m. We wrap up with Dan and make our way back to Eric’s home. “The phone was quiet the later part of the day, so that’s good,” he says. I thank Eric for an educational and eventful visit and conclude another day in the cab.