A. “The toughest decisions we are making right now are based around personnel. Our most important internal investment is our people. This is also the largest part of our expenses, so when sales/margin decrease, you have to ‘right size’ the business and adapt. We have been adjusting our personnel expense to match the market. These are tough decisions when it affects families, friends and the community. This is not the first, nor the last cycle ... it will all work out and we will still be here alongside our customers and communities.”
— Jeremy Ostrander, AgriVision, Pacific Junction, Iowa
A. “For a small outdoor power dealer, do we advertise more while raising our cost per unit or do we minimize advertising and accept the number of units sold in a small, mature market? In other words, can enough new, profitable sales be garnered to offset increased expense?”
— Steve Wells, Wells Equipment Sales, Litchfield, Mich.
A. “For me, it’s where do we find more help. We are busier than we have ever been. The downturn in the high horsepower and combine market hasn’t hurt us at all. Our parts counter has been busy this year, too. Three people are on the parts counter all day and busy. Sure, we have a few pieces that are drawing interest, but nothing that will break us. We don’t have 24 combines and 42 high horsepower tractors eating our lunch. Might have a dozen old hay balers, but they won’t add up to one combine. I guess we are just lucky.”
— Jeff Suchomski, Suchomski Equipment, Pinckneyville, Ill.
A. “Personnel is always the toughest issue, no matter when. The decision that may come to mind, other than that, is inventory related.”
— Chris Baxla, Baxla Tractor Sales, Seaman, Ohio
A. “My main concern is employees. We have a great staff, but we need more employees who are trained for the shop. We are lucky with our growth and are in constant need of fresh minds. We are fortunate that we are very diverse. We sell and repair equipment from 1 horsepower trimmers to 1,100 horsepower self-propelled forage harvesters. So, if somebody is mechanically inclined, we can easily find a place for them. Finding people who are ready to work and can think is critical. Diagnostics is the first step in repair and we are not just looking for parts changers. We are looking for the best available and we train quite extensively.”
— Art White, White’s Farm Supply Inc., Central New York
A. “Liquidating used inventory. Where do you go to dispose of it in today’s market?”
— Jim Sommer, Service Motor, Dale, Wis.
A. “With the economy in slow motion, it is hard to forecast the needs of farm and rural lifestyle customers. Lead times on new equipment seem to be longer and rural lifestyle customer purchases in spring and early summer make it hard to guess levels of inventory going into the fall.
“The dock strike in California backed up products that should have been available for spring. Now they are available for the summer, but the spring is lost. Products revolving around hay and grass will not be needed after mid-July. The West is having severe water issues, so is the East going to see a benefit?”
— Gene Saville, Lamb and Webster, Springfield, N.Y.
A. “Keeping my family of employees working and my inventory under control. Right now everything is on track and looking good.”
— Jeff Stammen, North Star Hardware & Implement, Rossburg, Ohio
A. “Maintaining profit margins at levels that make good business profits. OEMs are lowering margins to levels that are not where a good business should be — 10-12% does not make a healthy sales return.
“Internet competition and no tax on those purchases is a hardship for all dealers. Retailers with brick and mortar business models are disrupted by out-of-state retailers who take away the opportunity to retail the very same products at lower retail margins.
“Government involvement with taxes (federal, state, city, real estate, sales, prepaying, income, business and employee and fuel). Every time we turn a corner, the next notice hits the mailbox announcing new taxes. The fed has no money, the state has no money, the city has no money and it’s always the business owner who gets to take it out of their pocket and send more every year. ”
— David Wood, Smitty’s Lawn & Garden, Olathe, Kan.
A. “High-dollar used equipment.”
— Jim Orn, Mies Outland, Watkins, Minn.