Dealerships have a responsibility when hiring new precision employees to put them on a path toward advancement and growth, which will benefit both the employee and company.
During the 2020 Precision Farming Dealer Summit in St. Louis, in January, a panel of precision executives, managing different sized organizations with diverse ag tech objectives, discussed what it takes to manage a precision business and how they lead their employees to success. The panel included:
Kevin Hemmelgarn, Store Manager, Apple Farm Service, Botkins, Ohio
Tom Rosztoczy, President/CEO, Stotz Equipment, Avondale, Ariz.
Rob Schmidt, Chief Operating Officer, TruAcre Technology, Muscatine, Iowa
Moderated by George Russell, co-founder of the Machinery Advisers Consortium, the discussion covered putting employees on a path to success, positioning a precision business for growth and effective management strategies to increase productivity.
George Russell: Do precision farming personnel have a career path within the dealership, and do you want that as leaders? Do you see that as an opportunity to develop the salespeople of the future?
Kevin Hemmelgarn: We don’t have a structured path, which we need to work on. What we’ve always topped out at was the top-tier precision technician is the pathway when you come in. Now that’s not to say that you couldn’t shift over to a sales role if that’s what you want, but within our precision department, they are salespeople. Our lead technicians are the guys going out and seeing the customers, talking them into new services and selling the product support that we’ve got. So, we haven’t structured a promotional role for the precision line.
Tom Rosztoczy: It was one of the things that actually got me the most excited about precision technology. As a company, we historically did not hire fresh college graduates because we didn’t know where to put them in the company, we couldn’t figure out how to pay enough to attract them and at the same time give them something they were capable of doing. Precision opened that door for us. So, we are thrilled as a company with the opportunity to bring in a lot of bright, talented young people into our company in the precision department and then have them move up as their capabilities make it possible. We’ve got salespeople, service managers and store managers that all started as precision folks.
Rob Schmidt: We started a career path a few months ago. Our service techs have 3 levels they can go to. We provide them some salary ranges so they can see what they can go to, and we have the requirements inside of that. We haven’t built it for sales yet, because they’re more commission generated. We’re also trying to build out the territory manager roles, things like that, that we’re adding as we grow to give everybody the opportunity for other potential growth. As we add agronomic consulting, we’re definitely looking at giving them the opportunity to move outside of that.
Because there are some of those people who are really good on wrenches and technology, there’s some that are good with that but also good with agronomy and they’re good at going out, digging in the ground, looking at seed and helping advise on that and are really excited about that. So, depending on how they’re wired, that consulting role is a little different, consulting on technology vs. consulting on the agronomic side and challenging guys on why they aren’t using strip-till or why are they chiseling or why are they doing no-till. Really challenging guys does take a little different personality. So, as we start to see people who can fit that, we’re going to have those roles, too.