Art White has been in the dealership business most of his 64 years, working for his dad before taking over the operation, White’s Farm Supply, with his brothers in the early 1980s. The dealership was founded by their father, Willard, in 1946.
He’s managed his way through many challenges over the years and his philosophy for problem solving is based on what he learned from his Rotary Club, where he’s been a member for more than 30 years.
“It can be quite perplexing when we are hit with problems and sometimes the issue can really be small, but the potential return could be big for the company. I try to take the problem apart and look at what would happen with the different potential solutions,” White says. He breaks down a problem situation this way:
- Is it the truth? Has everyone involved shared truthful information?
- What solution will be fair to all?
- Will the solution build goodwill and friendships?
- Is the solution beneficial to all?
“There are different answers to every question and it makes it worse when you have multiple right answers. Whatever you do, don’t make it bigger than what it is,” White says.
White says the biggest challenge his dealership is facing today is finding the right employees and he is hiring based on qualities other than farm-related experience. “Our new service manager was a commercial rep for Lowe’s. He has no background with farm machinery or lawn mowers, but he has good customer service skills. He’s nice to our customers and gets the message across,” White says.
He says the service department offers the biggest opportunities for growth. “Service should be a profit center for any dealership. If you aren’t making money there, you’re in trouble,” White says.
His "golden rule" is to match labor and parts dollar for dollar. “It’s a good goal for good technicians. When you get into more complicated machines, that’s much hard to get done,” he says.
White says excavators is one product category that has sold especially well this year, with contractors being the primary buyers. “By the end of February, we sold as many excavators as all of last year. By May 1, we sold as many of one model as we did all of last year,” he says.
The dealership carries Case IH, New Holland, Kubota, Krone, Gehl, Ferris, Cub Cadet, Stihl and other lines, so has faced demands for purity. They’re standing firm on what they carry. “Every manufacturer is pushing for brand purity. We aren’t too brand pure. That’s the plus side of an old dealership. We do cherry pick equipment to make sure our customers get the best value for their dollar,” White says.
What else has contributed to White Farm Supply’s success? Answering the phone. “We never let it go beyond 3 rings. One person can’t do this alone and a good team is the best start, but it takes time to develop,” White says.
What’s the view from your dealership on hiring, brand purity and service? I’m also interested in hearing the golden rules your dealership follows. White shared some interesting thoughts, not the least of which is to not make a problem bigger than it is. That’s hard to do in this competitive industry, but worthy of striving for.