As I begin my term as chairman of the North America Equipment Dealers Association, the question that comes to my mind is, “What do our dealer-members really need from us?” After all, our motto and driving purpose is, “Helping Dealers Succeed.”
As I come into office, I realize that we are very fortunate to have had a truly robust agricultural environment the last few years. Even having just come off a truly difficult year that saw many of us faced with historic drought conditions, the overall health of the agriculture industry is truly envied by many. This is evident alone in the sheer number of high school kids choosing to enter into agricultural programs at universities, colleges and trade schools.
Many economists are projecting that the world population will grow by more than a third by the year 2050. In addition, the majority of this population growth will occur in developing countries where disposable higher income is leading to an increased demand for higher protein-based food. I am sure that we have all heard that in order to feed this growing population we will have to double our agricultural outputs by 2050, and there are a limited number of acres available to put in production.
So where is this needed growth going to come from? The only answer that I can see is growing more per acre by increasing yield production and by limiting risk factors such as drought, disease and insect infestation.
As I look around, I believe that our suppliers and other major agricultural companies are prepared for this immense challenge, but the question I ask myself is, “Are we, the dealers, ready?” Our customers are already demanding us to be on the cutting edge of new technologies, and I fully expect that this will continue to increase in the coming years. I believe that the dealers that recognize this need are poised to help their customers meet this great challenge.
In order to do this, we all need to be open-minded to the areas that this may lead us to. For example, I am amazed that some dealers are bringing agronomists on staff to help their customers make planning decisions. And those that are not employing such specialists are often partnering with a local agronomy company to provide this service to their customers. I am sure that when my father started in this business he would never have expected that need from an equipment dealer.
This brings me back to my original question of, “What do our members need from NAEDA?” I believe we need to be a resource to help our dealers understand these changing needs. Along with our dealer-members, we need to be able to think outside the box, and we will have to get out of our comfort zone. We need to make sure our dealers have access to the people and resources they need to make these strategic changes.
The easy thing for any organization to do is remain at the status quo. Change for any organization is never fun, but we have to be able to drive ourselves to take on new challenges and provide new solutions. If we don’t, our dealer-members will find other resources for these answers.
The dealers of the future are going to be those that can produce the results their customers are expecting. Dealers will need to be extremely strategic, creative and flexible in the future, and they will demand that same approach from the dealer association.
There is not a better time for all of us to start this growth than right now. As I have stated before, times are great right now, but great times can also lead any organization to sit back and not challenge itself to be better. We are now faced with that choice: Do we become complacent and satisfied, or do we become better?
I believe we as a dealer group must begin the journey now, so we can be prepared if this market does not remain as strong in the coming years. As dealers, we must start working today on what it will take to provide new and increased value to our customers. As an association, we have this same choice. And as I stated before, dealers will expect an association partner that will be able to grow with them.
As I look at the challenges that lie ahead for our dealers and our association, I realize that these challenges provide opportunities for us to truly become better than we are today. This task will not be easy, but if we can accomplish it together, the rewards will be incredible.
To our success!