Q. “If you were starting a dealership today, what investment would be most critical to your success?”

A. “I believe it still holds true that the most important investment an equipment dealer can make is in quality personnel. One element that has changed over time is that customers demand more immediacy, now that technology enables instant communication. The team that a dealership assembles must be responsive and possess a high sense of urgency.”

— Bruce Novak, Martin Implement Sales, Orland Park, Ill.

A. “Always stress the importance of the ‘three Ps’ in the implement business: People. Product. Place (location). The most important is people.”

— Drew Williamson, Doughty & Williamson, Ltd., Jarvis, Ont.

A. “This is an easy question to answer in my opinion. You must have solid people, not only in management positions, but in every position. The staff must be able to be customer-focused and be able to think for themselves. I'm all about processes, but for top results, staff must be able to understand different situations and make proper decisions. You can have the best location and products, but without the right staff, you will not succeed.”

— Aaron Boggs, Finch Services, Inc., Westminster, Md.

A. “I would say technology and technological advances would be the biggest investment. That is where the industry is going, and being on top of that would be most important. Equipment is equipment, but the placement of computers in the equipment, along with GPS and guidance systems, is the way the industry has moved.”

— Josh Ormsbee, Quality Truck and Equipment, Bloomington, Ill.

A. “I would say lot and location.”

— Don Koshatka, Koshatka Farm Equipment, Protivin, Iowa

A. “I believe I would concentrate on repairs only and never get too big. The suppliers are starting to feel the squeeze from the internet and are trying to pass it on to us. They understand, but don’t want to admit that this is a weather-driven business.

My advice would be to do good repair work. The box stores are getting most of the sales now and we don’t have the money to compete with them and the internet. So, do a good job, charge what you have to and make a living. Another reason to stay small is that it’s very hard to find good mechanics and this I feel is a major concern for the industry.

— Charles Saul, Saul’s Lawnmower Center, Woodstown, N.J.

A. “Good employees – find them, train them and keep them.”

— John Groff, Gateway Tractor, Inc., Upper Marlboro, Md.

A. “We have been with compact tractors since the early ‘80s and farm machinery since the early ‘50s, so we have watched them evolve for years. One thing that has made a difference is the quality of the dealership from the beginning.

The smaller tractor market hasn't really grown, but the people who buy the tractors have changed. In the ‘50s, a big farm tractor was 50 horsepower. Today's largest customer base for the 50 horsepower is a consumer, not someone earning a living with it. In the ‘50s, the front door handle might not be wiped several times a day to get the grease from the last customer’s working hands, but today you had better do it.

The two greatest things are street appeal, which is newer for old dealers, and the employees you hire, which has not changed. They can make you or break you. One gets them in the door and the other keeps them coming back.”

— Art White, White’s Farm Supply, Inc., Waterville, N.Y.

A. “Investing in the people resources necessary to manage and grow the business.”

— Rex Riggs, Tri Green Tractor, LLC, Swayzee, Ind.

A. “In one word: ‘people.’ The priority would be finding people that are committed and dedicated to our customers and our business. If you are selling cosmetics, groceries or farm equipment, the most challenging task is hiring, training and retaining great people. Training and money can do a lot, but it cannot change people’s intestinal fortitude to get out of bed and do their very best, day after day.”

— Jeff White, White’s Farm Supply, Canastota, N.Y.

A. “Customer service, whole good inventory, parts, service & warranty.”

— David Kynaston, Matkin TAE Supply, Poc, Ind.

A. “In my opinion, it would be location. High visibility with access along a major highway along with an eye for possible real estate and sales tax issues for a location are critical.”

— Douglas Nord, Nord Outdoor Power, Bloomington, Ill.

A. “Location, location!!!!!”

— John Bratton, Baxla Tractor Sales, Seaman, Ohio

A. “Skilled man power.”

— Ken Svendsen, Green Tractors, Inc., Omemee, Ont.

A. “People. They always were and still are. Particularly people that are positive, self-motivated, take pride in their work and take action without direction.”

— Jon Eis, Eis Implement, Inc., Two Rivers, Wis.

A. “Location, location, location.”

— Don Van Houweling, Van Wall Equipment, Perry, Iowa

A. “Cash, adequate capitalization, not borrowed money from the bank. Membership in a Peer (20) group, an active one, not a golf and social one. Spousal and family support for what it takes to be successful. Engaged employees. An engaged, understanding and supportive full line manufacturer.”

— Todd Hopkins, Garden City Farm Equipment, Garden City, Kan.

A. “The farm equipment dealer’s business model has changed dramatically over the past 44 years. In 1974, the major players had independent dealers in small towns all across the country. Most were single-store operations but there were a few multi-store operations at that time. Nowadays the multi-store operations are the norm and the small town single store operations are a thing of the past.

The main reason for this phenomenon is the huge amount of capital it takes to operate a farm machinery dealership today.  When I started in whole-goods sales, a new, New Holland TR 70 combine sold for around $35,000.00. Today, a new combine would sell for at least ten times that amount!

To answer the question, if I were starting a dealership today, a good education, with emphasis on economics and business management would be the most important investment I could make. In my mind, the bigger question would be, if I had the capital needed to purchase or start a farm equipment dealership, would I do it?”

— Mike McCrate, Tulsa New Holland, Inc., Tulsa, Okla.

A. “Relationships with lenders is the bottom line. Great employees, great products and with all things needed to have a successful dealership, you have to have a lender relationship that understands the cyclical side of this business.”

— Richard Miller, Tri Green Equipment, LLC, Lebanon, Tenn.

A. “Hiring great people.”

— Steve Harry, Harry’s Implement, Inc., Ferney S.D.

A. “Larger piece of land. Larger showroom. More shade outside. More parking.”

— Allen Berry, ACM Tractor Sales, San Marcos, Texas