Chad Reed loves two things: farming and selling. And if things work out he’ll spend the rest of his life doing both.
“I started farming and feeding cattle with my grandfather when I was a kid and my passion for agriculture has continued to grow. He and my dad used John Deere equipment and I’ve always believed it’s the best.”
Reed’s been selling Deere equipment for 20 years and had been part owner and store manager for Jefferson County Equipment in Fairfield, Iowa, before the merger in November 2011. Now, he’s a minority shareholder in the new Precision Equipment dealer network.
While he’ll continue as the location manager for the Fairfield store of the new group for the foreseeable future, his ultimate goal is to become the sales manager for the entire organization.
“I want to be a great sales manager, mentoring other salespeople within our company. I want to be able to show them why selling is a relationship business. I want everyone to succeed and to help the company become one of the best John Deere dealerships in the country.”
Reed is a living example of what the leadership of the new dealership believes will help the dealer group succeed: passion and experience.
Helping with the Transition
One of the reasons Reed will continue as location manager for the Fairfield store is because of the relationships he’s nurtured in his 20 years there. At this point, he believes his value to the new company is helping with the transition.
“I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve gotten a little bit of static from a few customers concerned about me leaving.
“I firmly believe it’s all about relationships. And it’s not only customer relationships, but the relationships with the people that work here. Several of them have been here longer than me and do a great job. I feel they deserve some consideration,” Reed says.
For a lot of reasons, he sees the merger with Elder Implement as the best thing to happen to his store and the other two — Farmers Implement and Mowers and More — that were owned by he, Ron Farrier and Carl Wulf.
“We weren’t very structured in our approach to sales. The new organization will bring more structure to our operations and it’ll give us the opportunity to move equipment around to where it’s needed,” says Reed.
For example, he says, if the three stores had 12 used combines to move, that was a lot. Now, the eight stores might have 60 used combines to sell, but they also have 20 salespeople to move them — only three combines for each salesperson. “Heck,” says Reed, “I’d have no problem moving three combines.”
He adds that with the bigger organization, he now has a larger inventory of new equipment to choose from, as well.
He also points out that the Elder Implement stores utilized the newest Deere tools and systems and these weren’t being used at the other three stores. “Within the first few weeks after the merger, they were in here installing a new business information system,” Reed says. “It’s all positive and I’m enthused about the whole thing.”
A More Structured Approach
Reed also admits that the more structured approach required by the new organization will take some getting used to. For example, he says, “We don’t do a very good job of following up after equipment is delivered or when a customer should be contacted about service work.
“We’ve done it in the past, but it gets away from us. I’d be the first to admit that we hadn’t done a good job of following up with customers,” Reed says. “We get busy and go on to the next deal, the next job and forget about getting back to the customer.”
This is all changing with the new Deere business system. “It makes you dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” says Reed. “It’s bringing more process and more structure to everything we do. We’re already producing better, more thorough quotes. It’s making us a better dealership. The way I look at it, the new organization is going to make us bigger, faster, stronger.”
Up until the merger, Reed says, planning wasn’t a big part of his routine. “We were pretty much operating off the cuff. That’s already changing. I’m seeing definite improvement in how we plan and now we have others in the group that will work with us on our planning and forecasts.”
Maybe the biggest advantage the larger organization brings to smaller stores like the Fairfield location is being able to attract more talent.
“In the past, we’ve lost some opportunities to get younger, talented guys. The younger generations today want to see something big, fast and growing. They didn’t see that opportunity here.
“But now, it’s going to be great for younger people to look to us and not need to move away to have a great job,” says Reed. “With our new company, we offer them the opportunity to grow.”
Paying It Forward
Reed thinks back to his early days at the dealership and realizes how his talents were nurtured and his ambitions cultivated all along his career path. Now, he wants to do for others what his former boss — who became his business partner — did for him. Mentoring salespeople will be Reed’s way of “paying it forward” while continuing to feed his passion for equipment sales.
In high school, Reed spent half of the day working on a farm and the other half at school. Someone picked up on his talent with a wrench and suggested to the owner of Jefferson County Equipment, John Hammes, to consider hiring Reed. And he did.
He started as an intern with the dealership while attending Kirkwood Community College. “I went from working in the shop my first few months as an intern, but when Mr. Hammes needed a salesman, he gave me a shot at it and took the time to train me.”
That was in 1992. Since then, Reed has worked his way through the organization as a salesman, to sales manager to store manager to co-owner. “In 2000, I mentioned to Mr. Hammes that I might want to do something else,” he says. “He said, ‘Why don’t you buy into the store?’ So I bought a small share in 2000 and some more in 2004.”
What he appreciated most about Hammes is that he continuously challenged Reed to “Make sure customers always left the store more satisfied than when they came in.”
Reed fondly remembers the days when Hammes would take extra time to “coach” him.
“There were days when my boss would chew me out about certain deals that I had made. He would say, ‘I’m not here to chew on your ear. I’m here to teach you how to be better.’
“There were days when everybody was gone, the doors were locked and we would be heading out to our trucks, and we would end up standing there for an hour and talk about what I could do better,” says Reed.
“That’s the kind of value I want to instill in our salespeople.”
When he eventually makes the move to general sales manager, he says it’ll be strange not being around the customers he’s worked with during the past 20 years.
But regardless of where he ends up, it’ll be important to him to continue working with people. “It’s the favorite part of my job,” he says. “I love being around our customers and I look forward to the opportunity to mentor our sales staff. When I transition to the sales manager’s job, it’ll give me the opportunity to be around more people.”
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