We’re doing our part to support the travel industry. In addition to other travel (including overseas) for this issue, the annual Dealership of the Year program (DOY) took Dave Kanicki and Michael Ellis to Michigan and Chad Elmore and me to Western Canada.

While conducting interviews with managers at the award-winning dealers, the four of us spent lots of time looking in their “rear-view mirror.” To identify the factors contributing to their operational performance, we inquire about their defining moments in history, the hard lessons learned and the origins of their guiding principles. But after 7 years of similar “interrogations,” we’ve seen that the DOY recipients most want to talk about the future, not the past. A common thread of each of the DOY alums is a focused, rallying vision that propels action, and challenges their staff not to waste a single hour in pursuit of those greater heights.

When we inquired about precision ag and telematics in our 2 days with Saskatchewan’s JayDee AgTech (see p. 20), we learned of a bold new vision. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, you’ll want to watch how it unfolds for them.

At the same time as John Deere is unleashing its FarmSight and JDLink technologies, JayDee is setting up a Precision Ag Services Dept. that will change how Western Canada looks at its dealers. Over the next 3 years, JayDee is adding 15 full-time precision ag specialists to its payroll.

“This is the biggest change our dealership will ever see in the relationships with customers,” says JayDee CEO/Partner Duane Smith. Unlike where most dealers are today, JayDee isn’t adding staff to keep up with “value-added” (free) customer assistance; the days of “swallowing hard” on rising payroll, training, capital and technology investments are coming to an end. Instead, JayDee envisions a new model for “knowledge services” — mapping, variable-rate, water management and agronomic consulting. And farmers will pay for this support in novel ways, including package options and per-acre payments.

How are they doing it? Smith’s team determined the quickest route was joining with Agri-Trend, an Alberta-based independent consulting company (in which a consortium of JayDee and several other John Deere dealers purchased a 20% stake). Partnering allowed the immediate leveraging of expertise in processes, software, vision and proof of data.

The initial deliverable, says Agri-Trend CEO Robert Saik, is to make it easier for the farmer to do things like adopt variable rate application, merge layers of yield maps with soil zones and use GPS to drain a field. Other services will be available too, including grain marketing and carbon-credit management consulting.

While there’s a lot of moving parts, JayDee is prepared for perhaps the biggest challenges: training staff for a new paradigm and managing the customer transition.

“It’s a game-changer,” says Boyd Hofmann, JayDee’s general sales manager and partner. “It’ll set us apart from competitors, and put us in closer partnership with the farmer, who will rely on and integrate us more into his operation.” JayDee also sees a path to new customers that require help on the precision ag side. Take care of them, JayDee believes, and they’ll give green equipment a look for their next purchase.

This is a development worth watching, as many believe precision ag is the equipment dealer’s “next frontier.” We agree, which is why last year we added “Precision Farming Specialists” to qualify to receive Farm Equipment per audited circulation rules.