Opinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail

Opinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail

Dan Bellanger and Rick Welder

Dan Bellanger (left), with Rick Welder, at one of the many industry events Dan has attended over 50-year career in agriculture.

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Some of you I’m sure have encountered our recently retired salesman extraordinaire, Dan Bellanger. He worked in the industry for a number of years before coming to our parent company, and quickly became one of the most prolific members of our sales force.

There were many great things about Dan that made him a joy to work with, aside from generating revenue. His observations on life and work were entertaining, enlightening, and occasionally puzzling.

One time when we were returning to the office from lunch, we passed the local Catholic church where two unfortunate 50-somethings were sitting under a tent in sweltering summer heat next to a shiny new car and a sign reading, “Church Raffle Drawing! Win This Car!”

Dan glanced over at the tent and the couple sitting there with their tickets and their cash box and their white-covered card table and quipped, “you know, you can’t earn salvation selling raffle tickets.”

Full disclosure: I’m Catholic, and I’ve sold as many raffle tickets and slathered mustard on as many bad concession stand hot dogs as any God-fearing Catholic. And I know Dan meant no offense. But while he spoke of salvation, it got me to thinking about how easy it is to get stuck in a certain routine — to be satisfied with the norm and not look beyond your current reality.

Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian

Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian.

This story came to mind while I was moderating the judging event for the DuPont Environmental Respect Award (ERA) program in early April. Along with representatives from Du­Pont, CropLife® magazine and national associations, we invite at least one retailer to join the judging ranks.

This year, we brought in Greg Musson of Gar Tootelian, a California retailer who’s both well-respected and uniquely honored. Gar Tootelian took home the North American Region award from the ERA program in 2015, and last year was named Retailer of the Year by the Agricultural Retailers Association.

Greg did a tremendous job as a judge, but one comment he shared stuck with me. “This was really a great experience,” said Musson. “I picked up at least six things we’re not doing that I think we could implement at our location.”

There’s a guy who’s not stuck on one paradigm — he’s looking for continuous improvement ideas wherever he can find them.
One of the dangers of working in a profession where every day, customers, suppliers and the demands of retailing are throwing haymakers at us, is that we do what we need to do just to stay above water. We gravitate toward the familiar path we think will deliver business “salvation.”

But the “way we always do business” may not be ensuring that we are building a sustainable business for the long haul.
Take time to think about the business. Write things down you think need to change. Engage your managers, peers and employees in generating new ideas, and implementing the needed change.

The busiest days of the spring soon will be behind us. Use the time to discuss and implement change that leads to meaningful improvement of your operation.