Returning from the second Precision Farming Dealer Summit last week in St. Louis, I am slowly sifting through a notebook of takeaways accumulated during formal sessions, roundtable discussions and hallway conversations.
Several discussions centered around employee retention and one of the dealer-to-dealer panels succinctly shared successes and shortcomings for holding precision specialists accountable for their mistakes, while also rewarding their achievements.
It’s a balancing act for sure, and while loyalty is a valued virtue within the ag industry, the career of a precision specialist can be nomadic. Just within the last week, I heard from 2 specialists letting me know they’d changed jobs after establishing themselves for several years with a dealership.
I didn’t sense any animosity or regret in their transition to a new precision role with a different company. I’d like to think that’s more the norm than the exception, but there are no doubt situations where breakups are less than amicable.
During the Summit, one owner of a precision dealership in the Midwest shared a story about 2 of the company’s most experienced precision specialists departing to start their own business. About half of the dealership’s precision business followed the exiting specialists and put a substantial dent in annual revenue.
The owner says he could have enforced non-compete agreements, but reconsidered.
“In our area, we didn’t have anyone else with those working precision relationships with some of our other competitors or other dealers, so the worst thing I could have done for our customers, would have been to enforce those agreements,” the owner says.
The short-term impact of losing the specialists wasn’t worth putting the customer in the middle. The decision may very well strengthen long-term relationships and retention of customers while the dealership rebuilds its precision team.