After executing more than 60 acquisitions in 42 years, RDO Equipment (Farm Equipment’s 2010 Dealership of the Year) follows a carefully thought-out integration plan for new stores, which Keith Kreps, vice president agriculture, says is “close to a science.”

“We don’t believe you can acquire a dozen stores a year and effectively manage them all. We are content with 2-3 acquisitions per year.”

Here’s a list of what a dealership acquired by RDO can expect from its new parent.

  1. Immediate Visit from the Leadership Team — A leadership team (and whenever possible, Ron Offutt, chairman, and Christi Offutt, CEO) go in immediately upon the consummation of a deal so people can get to know them and have their fears calmed. There’s always uncertainty, and the pair answer all questions, including how compensation is affected and that RDO honors the workers’ years of service. Some issues are trivial, but they get them out of the away early on.
  2. Peer Team Deployed — Even before a public acquisition announcement is made, RDO places a team of employees into the store so employees can watch them in action. This exposes the store to RDO’s culture and they see how well our team works with each other. This step also calms the newly acquired store personnel, who are dealing with a great deal of change.
  3. Staff Retention — “There’s a huge psychological issue for some when you start doing business under a different banner,” says Kreps. He adds that the ag divisions have retained 95% of the staff in the last 5-6 acquisitions, with each store doing significantly more volume than before.
  4. Immediate Investment — RDO generally sends a statement about its commitment to employees and customers by making an immediate investment in the facility or service trucks. “We send the message to the community that it’s an important location, and that we acquired it for a reason — to build the business,” says Kreps. For example, following the Ada, Minn., acquisition, RDO doubled the value of the building (raising it to today’s standards), increased parts inventory within 60 days and upgraded service trucks.
  5. Listening, Patience — RDO believes it’s important to listen and not force-feed change. The long-term employees bring a lot of benefit and value, and RDO has discovered some different “best practices” that can serve a particular market well. The transfer of the culture can be handled subtly as long as all live by the core values and do what they say.
  6. Increased Business — Kreps adds that the store almost always sees an immediate spike in used equipment sales after an acquisition, simply because of the access to used inventory. That is generally followed by an increase in new wholegoods because of the ability to take on more trades and distribute them throughout the company, he says.