In this episode, I talk with Kelly and Mike Estes, brothers and part of the third-generation ownership of BTI, a 6-store John Deere dealership based in Bucklin, Kan. Kelly serves as CEO and Mike is vice president.
I’ve been fortunate to visit BTI previously to see how they rebuilt after a tornado on May 4, 2007 destroyed its Greensburg location and much of the town. During this visit, the Estes brothers look back at their long history, sharing how they believe the dealership has succeeded over its last 75 years in business. They cover a lot of topics, including acquisitions, how to make the big decisions, developing next generation leaders and the importance of loyalty.
The dealership was founded by their grandfather Ralph Estes in 1944, who purchased the dealership from another owner.
[Ralph Estes] ended up purchasing it with another person. He didn't have the money, so they each borrowed $5000 to purchase BTI and start up BTI. And then he got scared, the partner got scared about six months into it and decided he needed to sell it out. Grandad bought it back, the $5000, and paid him, bought him out because he was scared because of the war. They were on rations and all kinds of problems, and it didn't look any end in sight I suppose at the time.
Mike and Kelly Estes also share more details about the tornado and how the rebuilding of the dealership and the city captured national attention. They also talk about what the future looks like for BTI and discuss the impact of the rural lifestyle market on this traditional ag dealership.