Pursuing Excellence

A few years back, I was sitting in the office of Steve Koep, whose career has run parallel to the maturation of modern application equipment. Back in the day, he worked closely with Al McQuinn at Ag Chem Equipment, and today he is working for the company that purchased that revered organization, AGCO Corp.

Steve is one of my favorite interviews — painfully honest, quick with a jab, and full of insight. We were talking about consolidation and the maturation of the machinery market, and Steve said: “You know, Paul, there really isn’t any junk out there anymore. The companies that have survived to this point are making good products — that’s really table stakes in the agriculture equipment market.” To lead the pack, he said, you need to offer something more. At the time, he was referring to the need for equipment companies to provide responsive, top-shelf service.

But the point could be broadened to the entire agriculture market, where consolidation and maturity has served to weed out the weak players and, in most areas, has left behind the true survivors. We are at the point where the retailers that are left are running good businesses. They have honed their sales and marketing and service practices. They are partnering with manufacturers and customers. All this has become table stakes. The question is, what do retailers do to continue their ascendency to excellence, to separate themselves from the competition?

My perception is that it is happening in incremental steps at ag dealerships across the country. And it’s not just one thing — retailers are finding out what their customers want, what’s important to their communities, and delivering it with a full-on, top-down commitment.

Last month, I got to judge self-audit packets submitted by retailers vying for an Environmental Respect Award. As the packets were narrowed down to the very best of the best, the key difference-making aspect of winning organizations is the obvious top-down commitment to environmental stewardship. Their families, their communities, and the entire country are relying on that commitment to environmental safety and security.

And as I think back to the past year or so, I can recall numerous conversations with retail managers who have been working hard to find that difference — making a program, product, or business approach to put their organization above the rest. One retailer was generating profitability by offering programs featuring biopesticides. Another was installing a robust logistics program to improve in-season efficiency and coordination, leading to better customer service. And each was driven from the top of the organization on down through the ranks.

A progressive western retailer was telling me last month about its new foray into precision agriculture. New software and a dramatic new approach to field management meant a winter and spring of training, talking to growers, mapping fields, and setting the stage for the first season. It has been a top-down effort, filtered down and driven by leadership through each level of the organization. A full-on commitment.

But that’s the difference that leadership and commitment make. And it’s what every retailer needs if it hopes to stay in the game for the long haul.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Young Corn Plants
Eric SfiligojLaunching New Seed Traits: Wait on China . . . Or Else!
June 26, 2017
In life, no one likes the waiting game. In agriculture, however, playing the waiting game is very important – especially Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Speaks on Dicamba Issues in Arkansas
June 26, 2017
Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, issued the following statement following the Arkansas State Plant Board’s proposal to ban dicamba, Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Wheat Growers
UncategorizedWheat Growers Names Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice Presiden…
June 12, 2017
Wheat Growers has hired Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice President of Agronomy. Linbo joins Wheat Growers after having served 10 Read More