The 2022 recipient of Precision Farming Dealer’s 10th annual Most Valuable Dealership is Jenner Precision in Fairbury, Ill.
In total, 10 dealerships, including large and small farm equipment dealership groups with precision departments and independent precision operations were nominated by their farm customers, precision equipment suppliers and their own employees.
Evaluated criteria included precision farming sales growth and diversity, along with how each nominee is generating revenue from hardware, software and precision service. Less quantifiable elements that define the best precision farming dealership, such as employee training, performance standards, innovation, sustainability and community involvement were also considered.
Jenner Precision is part of Jenner Ag, a Case IH dealership with 3 locations — precision (Fairbury, Ill.), agriculture (Taylorsville, Ill.) and application (Harristown, Ill.). The Fairbury location is largely an aftermarket business and sells Ag Leader, Precision Planting, Yetter, Raven, SureFire Ag, AgXcel, Ag Focus, Headsight and Harvest International equipment and technologies.
Founded: Jenner Precision – 2009, Jenner Ag – 1961
Precision Lines Carried: Ag Leader, Precision Planting, Raven, Surefire Ag, AgXcel, Ag Focus and Headsight
Equipment Brands Carried: Yetter and Harvest International
Year-Over-Year Precision Revenue Growth: 2020 – 83%, 2019 – 77%, 2018 – 77%
Bryan Fehr, manager of Jenner Precision, has been working out of Fairbury since 2004, when he started as a contractor assembling toolbars. He began selling precision ag products for the company in 2010.
Today, Jenner Precision has 9 employees, including 3 precision field service technicians whose full-time responsibility is to support customers year-round.
In addition, the precision techs have two more tiers of higher-lever support via Jenner’s U-Maxx and U-Maxx+ teams, which consist of specially trained service technicians from the other two industry segments. The U-Maxx team was created in 2013 and encompasses technicians with the highest levels of training across multiple platforms and equipment types. The U-Maxx+ team was established in 2021 to raise the bar on total service support.
In July 2021, Jenner was one of two dealers in Illinois selected to offer OMNiDRIVE demos from Raven Applied Technology. Fehr shared some of what they learned from that experience during the 2022 Precision Farming Dealer Summit held Jan. 3-4 in Louisville. Look for coverage in the March issue of Farm Equipment.
Of the current staff at Jenner Precision, 2 have been there for 8 years (sales), 2 for 7 years (service) and another for 4 years (sales). That stability in staff has been key to the dealership’s success in recent years. Three of the team’s veteran employees — Fehr, Nate Kelson, sales, and Andrei Hildenbrand, precision support specialist — joined Precision Farming Dealer to provide a deeper dive into what makes the operation a success.
Jenner Ag’s BRIDGE 4 RISE objectives and values is written on the wall of Jenner Precision’s conference room as a constant reminder of the group’s 6 objectives — Bond, Recruit wins, Involve knowledge, Drive to align, Give gratitude, Endorse Value — and 4 core values — Reduce, Improve, Simplify and Environment.
Precision Farming Dealer: How would you describe what your core precision mission is, as it relates to customers, employees and revenue growth? How does that all come together?
Fehr: We call our objectives and core values “BRIDGE 4 RISE.” That stands for Bond, Recruit wins, Involve knowledge, Drive to align, Give gratitude, Endorse value, and the 4 core values are Reduce, Improve, Simplify and Environment.
We’re trying to help our customers reduce their risk, and simplify and improve the way they do business. Then one of the things we are concerned about is the environment. Can we get customers to spray or shut off, so they’re not over-spraying? And we want to build the bond, whether that’s with an internal customer or an external customer.
Then, we want to recruit wins. When we have a big win, we want to talk about it. We want to keep them going and involved knowledge is asking other people. Everybody works together as one, and we have one goal of where we want to get.
And then ‘gives gratitude’ means telling people, ‘Thanks.’ The biggest thing there is, say if we send out RTK fees, I’ll send them in a text and I’ll put in there, ‘Thank you for your business. We really appreciate it.’ That goes a long way, because customers appreciate that and that’s the same way internally. And then endorse value means believe in and show our value.
Check Out the 2022 MVD Video Series Online!
Visit www.PrecisionFarmingDealer.com to watch exclusive interviews with members of the Jenner Precision team. Filmed at the dealership’s location in Fairbury, Ill., these videos capture the innovative strategies and proven practices utilized by the 2022 Most Valuable Dealership.
The 2022 MVD video series is sponsored by Reichhardt Electronic Innovations.
PFD: You’ve had some pretty steady, good growth over the last 13 years in your precision sales. What’s been the key to that growth and success?
Fehr: I’m here 8 years, Nate’s here 8 years, Andrei and Weston have both been here 7, and then A.J.’s working on year 4. And so that’s what I would say most of it is — we’ve been here. The customers are trusting that Nate’s not just here to sell them a bill of goods. Nate’s going to stick around. Andrei and Weston, they know what they’re doing. So getting trust from the customer is the biggest thing.
And one of the other things we did in 2015 is split from having a salesman/service tech to having a sales team and a service team. A customer now, instead of calling Andrei to buy something and have Andrei install it, has two points of contact. They have multiple points of contacts they can talk to.
That’s helped break it up, because in the spring you have Nate, who’s getting in cabs or AJ getting in cabs. They’re trying to help do some of the troubleshooting to relieve some pressure from these guys [precision techs] that need to behands on. They’re also making sure the product is working like it’s supposed to. In the summer we try to do some installations, but we also give these guys time off, because they’re not having to turn around and sell as soon as they get done working all these hours in the spring and the fall.
Nate Kelson: We try to keep installs throughout winter and summer, in the off seasons. In the fall, then it’s a long season. But once they’re up, it’s a much less stressful season for us. Because once the farmer’s up and going, then he’s just going back and forth.
That gives the salesman a chance to get into the vehicles and visit with him about what they’re looking at coming into the year. The guy’s just driving in his field anyway. It’s not like quite like planting. We get that opportunity to get out and work with these guys, continue to ride with them.
Whereas with Andrei and Weston, it’s really manageable in the fall because they’re just trying to keep them going with the yield monitoring and such.
But then the spring is super stressful for them. Like Bryan said, we’re just trying to follow up what we sold you. Did it work? And there’s little things that pop up that we can just jump in the cab to address, and the customer feels like somebody cares, somebody’s there. But it’s not high level, it doesn’t take a lot of training to do.
“Customers can tell when an employee has bought into a company. They know I believe in the company I work for and in the service techs who support it…” – Bryan Fehr, Manager, Jenner Precision
That’s the stuff the salesman can take care of during that time and take some of the load off the precision tech’s back because they were buried in spring.
Fehr: In the spring, the salespeople try to follow up and make sure the product’s working like it’s supposed to and give the techs a break from having to explain every little nook and cranny of the system.
Kelson: We play The Great Game of Business [an open-book management program]. We know what needs to be sold and what needs to be serviced. And we predict ahead of time. We know when spring falls off, I’m going to have installs to do. He’s looking, the salesmen are predicting. We’re not even going to get product until the very end of June, beginning of July. So, he knows he’s got this window ... And same with us. There’s total trust in the company. If the company’s failing, we know about it immediately.
We don’t worry about our jobs. There are no rumors, there’s not insecurity there because we know exactly what the company is making. We act like owners.
PFD: Can you explain how The Great Game of Business translates to the precision side of Jenner Ag’s business and how this location is managed?
Fehr: It gives us the opportunity to predict what we’re going to sell, and it holds people accountable. For instance, this morning our meeting started at 8:00 a.m., and we were down here until 9:30. We do our service huddle, where we discuss everything that has to be installed. The service team knows what needs to be installed, and they share where they’re at on it. And then the sales team also knows where they’re at on that stuff getting done too. We have that meeting every Tuesday for a half an hour, and then we have a huddle for an hour with a certain group. And then we go over what the numbers are. We knew Nov. 1 how we were going to end the year.
Jenner Ag always says they would like to do a physical throughout the year instead of an end of the year autopsy. So basically every month, we know if we’re losing or making money.
I’m a prime example. I can see what’s coming down the pipeline because of what’s getting forecasted. And I told the owner, by the third quarter, we’ll make our number. And we did.
Kelson: If a person does not like accountability, they usually don’t stick around real long.
The numbers are there, and we’re all busy during different times of the year. Last night I was in my office till bedtime, but that is not normal. The precision techs will go until 3:00 a.m. during the spring.
Everybody’s got their times, and we all know that. As a team, we know when they’re in their busy time. We need to just be available. And if I call Weston later than at 8:00 p.m. during these winter months, he knows I’m still under quotient, and he answers my call.
Because as a team, we know where the critical moments are. We know in the spring to do whatever we can do to help the precision techs keep the customer running, because we’re very limited on our time window there. It is a team effort.
Fehr: That’s why these guys are in this interview with me because it takes a team to do what we’re doing. And it takes a team who’s been here and is committed.
That’s what gets you going, is when you have 3 sales guys that can sell the stuff. And then we’ve got Weston and Andrei that are veteran service techs who have been here and pretty well seasoned about anything that can go wrong. And now we’ve got Milan Leman coming in. We’ll get him up to speed, and we will have a stellar team going into 2022.
PFD: What do you think has changed that in the last 3 years?
Fehr: Customers can tell when an employee has bought into a company. They know I believe in the company I work for. I believe in the service techs who support it. And they can pick up on that.
And the other thing is some of our first farm meetings we started having. The people from our Harristown location would come to the farm meetings, and they said, ‘Who are all these people? We’ve never seen any of these people at our farm meetings before.’ And it’s because we got creative on prospecting, and there were people coming in.
More Award Winning Practices Online
[Video] Jenner Precision Shares What They’ve Learned Selling Raven Autonomy
The dealership has found that showing the customer first-hand how the technology works and the efficiencies gained with it makes the customer realize the benefits of having autonomous equipment.
Growing the Business Through Financial Literacy
Jenner Ag plays the Great Game of Business and practices open book management to move the business forward, while also providing its employees with a financial education.
There were a couple little meetings where I would say two-thirds or three-fourths of the people in that room had never done business with Jenner before. It’s just creative prospecting. And I’m not saying we’ve sold these guys something, but they’re showing up.
We’re willing to try new things, and COVID’s put a little bit of a crunch on that. I don’t just jump into a combine randomly, like I used to, and I’m hoping we get past that where we can. We’re just trying to get creative on the prospecting side.
That helps growth. It is good to have a relationship with the same customers. But if you want growth, you’ve got to pull a few more in. The technology world’s nice, because it always expands. But sometimes there’s a year where I’m just not going to sell this guy something, because he’s pretty well set up for the year.
Andrei Hildenbrand: I think a lot of the cold calling has for the most part gone down to a minimum. Just because you don’t sell somebody something doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them. If you know that customer really well, he’s going to say, ‘Hey, call my guy. I’ve known him for the last 6 years. He knows what he is doing.’
So there’s your new sale. You don’t have to go out there and knock on the door and say, ‘Hi, I’m Andrei with Jenner Precision.’ You just go over there to said customer. And the customer’s like, ‘I’m just going to have this guy call you, because I talked to him and he’s got some Ag Leader stuff here. I just gave your number.’
Fehr: We’re getting more and more of that. We have a customer up north who we’ve built a very good relationship with. And he told this guy, who bought something from another precision dealer, ‘You should have called Jenner Precision. Their service guy shows up with stuff on his truck.’
And that was a guy who we were at a crossroads with. He could have gone one way, and he decided he wanted to stay with us.
We’ve got an awesome relationship with him now. He sends customers our way quite a bit. Now we’re not perfect, we have some customers who probably think we could do better, but we try every day to do the best we can.
I always tell Nate and AJ and the service team, we’re partners, and that’s the way we need to look at it. We’re going to mess up. They’re going to mess up. We’ve got to do what’s right. And if we were on the other side, how would we feel?
PFD: What do your service packages look like?
Hildenbrand: We have a basic and an advanced plan. The basic covers phone support and some extended hours, into Saturday and 8:00 p.m. type of stuff. Where most businesses are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. or 8 a.m.-5 p.m., we’re trying to be more available after 5 p.m., because a lot of dealers aren’t doing that, not unless you pay them a lot of money or know them personally. Then the advanced plan gives you all of that plus a service inspection.
But you also get the same hours, the phone support, you get discounts on hourly-service labor, discount on parts, things like that, that help when we’re not running promotional discounts. They get better. So, you’re our service-first customer.
Fehr: If a customer spends above a set amount, he gets free support for the year on that product. What Andrei’s talking about is when we have a guy who buys something, and we’re supporting it past 2 years, then we’d like them to be on a maintenance plan, so we can continue to give them support.
PFD: How are you convincing the customers that the service plan is beneficial to them?
Kelson: Precision Planting says if you’re sitting on the end rows for an hour, it costs you $3,300. It’s very expensive for farmers to sit during a good weather window.
If they can hit the field and feel confident in that equipment, and they can get a good start going, they’re going to pay the money if they have somebody coming out withwith a complete checklist and helping ensure that happens. There’s a lot of difference between that, and somebody who’s just pulling off gauge wheels, checking things out, spacing stuff.
As a salesman, I keep my hands out of it, a lot of times and I say, ‘These are the people who will take care of you, and I put a ton of trust in them.’
The customer reads that too, that, ‘I know this person will take care of you, and you need to let them on your farm and let them work with you.’ That makes it worth it to pay them a service plan. It’s a team effort.