The last column concerning 'Musical Chairs' at the top in the industry evidently hit a few raw nerves due to the feedback received. Directives from any top echelon sometimes leave a universal negative feeling, no matter who is affected.

Dealers, we don't like change. I didn’t like being told what to do by my parents, my first boss, my wife, my pastor, my accountant, my mother-in-law or our suppliers, but it is like my old ag teacher's favorite saying, “Boys it is just like the white stuff in chicken poop — it is part of it.”

Dealers don’t like to be told of operational mandates from the suppliers who dictate items that are sometimes for the dealer's own good and even sometimes questionable if they are or not. The feedback received was, we dealers are always being told what we need to do by those who have never run a dealership or in some cases from those who got fired or went broke in business.

In the old days, top management came up from the ranks and rose to the top, bringing all the tribal knowledge with them; not necessarily so today. The internet reveals many glass houses.  Equipment dealerships are not like pantyhose — one size fits all — either (my mother-in-law told me this is not true — a conversation that was most awkward).  We are each different and we are closer to the old days operations as everything starts with customer interaction and doing one deal at a time. Change usually takes pain, money, and is slow. Anyway, dealer/manufacturer relationships should be symbiotic. It is an age-old fight that has existed as long as there have been franchises. 

Life and business are always full of challenging issues. For example, this year farmers have a phenomenon with soft red winter wheat. The rain caused lush growth, the wheat went down, lodged flat on the ground, over populations of deer bedded on the down wheat and speaking of poop, used the bathroom there as well. The combine picked up the wheat and the poop, and the probe at the grainery picked deer waste up in the sample. The semi load was rejected. The price -— due to dockage and test weight — has been reported at less than $1/bushel!  Many crop insurances will not pay as the yield was there. Now that is a customer issue.

Furthermore, we had a customer who just came in and told us of his sweet corn crop that, every year, is his 'spending money'. The deer ate 25% of the crop, the birds damaged 25%, and today's inspection revealed racoon damage to the rest. Customers have issues, dealers have issues, and so do our suppliers. There are a lot of raw nerves exposed everywhere just waiting to be grated.

We can’t change a lot of life’s challenges like these. Dealing with low prices, crop losses, a dip in the economy (Google 'lay-offs' in the farm manufacturing industry), high interest rates, and yes, those suppliers that are always wanting a bigger piece of the pie. Being told what to do can be downright depressing and stressful. Welcome to our world and its free enterprise system. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. 

So, what is one to do? Do you remember that old serenity prayer? “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What is the key to wisdom? Judgment, understanding information, discernment, experience, communication and all the common sense we can corral is needed to make decisions wisely. Swallowing those things we can't change is my biggest issue, i.e. keeping my mouth shut and not being an old, know it all smart arse. 

The courage to change things is what our industry needs most. We as dealers need to be more informed and articulate in communicating our concerns on issues that really matter. Manufacturers need to be better listeners and cooperators with dealers. They need to feel the pain of the dealer in tough times. They need to quit 'spinning' tough decisions and tell us the truth about the hurts of manufacturing through better transparency. We are all in this together and will work through the 'issues'. These are a few ways to cover the raw nerves that exist in relationships. Good leadership makes the bad medicine go down easier for all. 

Until next time, wishing you all to be in control of the issues, be profitable and try to smile a bit more each day.  

Told from the perspective of an in-the-trenches owner/operator — Tim Brannon of B&G Equipment, Paris, Tenn. —  Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways shares knowledge, experiences and tips/lessons with fellow rural equipment dealerships throughout North America. Covering all aspects required of an equipment dealership general manager, Brannon will inform, entertain and provide a teachable moment for current — and future — leaders within equipment dealerships.



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