Taking Care of Business
From the equipment it sells and services to in-house technology training and systems, Carrico Implement is technology-focused. The fourth-generation family-owned dealership serves customers in a 14-county area of northern and central Kansas.
Carrico Implement sells and services a full line of John Deere agricultural equipment. In addition to John Deere construction equipment, the dealership offers several shortlines to serve a wide range of customer needs.
Brad Ellenz, director of operations at Carrico Implement, says one of the most significant advances in technology was when John Deere introduced JDLink telematics to agricultural machinery. There has been an evolution in telematics over the last two decades.
“And steady advances in cellular technology have created a number of different ways to use telematics,” Ellenz said. “It started with being able to see a machine’s location, remotely view codes, and push software to a machine. Then we were able to remotely view the customer’s in-cab displays and wirelessly send data to and from the machine. Now all of that information transmits at a much faster pace.”
The technology enables Carrico Implement to provide proactive customer support. Ellenz provided an example.
“One of our customers had a combine that showed steadily dropping engine oil pressure, but it wasn’t drastic enough to set the oil-pressure code,” he explained. “Our connected tools caught the steady decline in pressure and alerted us there might be an issue. The customer was just completing fall harvest, so we had him bring in the machine for an inspection. That’s when we found an internal component that was just beginning to fail. We were able to repair the issue out of season. We also potentially avoided a major failure that may have occurred the following harvest had we not caught it early.”
Advances in internet technology also have enabled the dealership to offer an additional customer service feature on its website. The Carrico Customer Portal enables customers to order parts or services from any one of its three stores. The portal also keeps track of the customer’s online order history.
Internal use of technology
To keep pace with new technologies introduced by John Deere and the shortline manufacturers that Carrico Implement represents, the Kansas dealership added a virtual conference system. The system enables managers and sales teams from the dealership’s three stores to meet virtually. Carrico Implement added the system before the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become increasingly valuable during pandemic lockdowns, Ellenz said.
The dealership also provides its team virtual and in-person training.
“With technology being so integrated into equipment now and new technology coming at a faster pace, we’ve focused on mainstreaming product knowledge throughout our entire organization,” he said.
That helps the Carrico team better understand how to support products. The dealership’s precision-agriculture team provides training on and demonstrations of new technology products.
In addition to in-house training and technical training offered by John Deere, Carrico Implement provides employees training in soft skills. For example, it has used some of the training programs offered by the Western Equipment Dealers Association’s Dealer Institute.
Keeping the legacy in motion
Key to Carrico Implement’s success are its employees, Ellenz said. And when the dealership has job openings, it likes to promote from within, he said.
“We have a number of employees with more than 30 years of service, and one recently retired after 45 years with the company,” he said. “That’s a testament to the generations before us. Our goal is to carry that legacy for generations to come.”
Ellenz represents the fourth-generation of his family to own and operate Carrico Implement. He said the dealership encourages open communication between employees and their supervisors and the leadership team.
The company also has instituted a performance-based pay model. Employees receive incentives on top of their base pay. That has helped drive positive results and employee retention, he said. Carrico Implement also offers employees healthcare plans and a 401(k) matching program.
Listening to your employees
Employee feedback also has contributed to the company’s success, Ellenz said. “Many of our processes to improve customer experience have been implemented from employees who see opportunities for improvement,” he said.
Feedback from technicians, for example, recently helped to improve the work environment. Carrico Implement recently installed a new air-conditioning system at its Beloit, Kansas, shop so that technicians could be comfortable year-round.
“With resounding positive feedback from our technicians, we went ahead and started the process to have the systems installed at our other two locations,” he said.
With employees nearing retirement, the dealership also must look to the next generation. Representatives from the dealership frequently visit high schools to speak with students, especially those belonging to FFA. They also offer free-ride scholarships to the John Deere Ag Tech program, which includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, and tools.
- Established: 1955
- Locations: Beloit, Ellsworth and Hays, Kansas
- Owners: Dan Ellenz, Karen Pestinger and Craig Ellenz – third generation – and Garrett Ellenz and Brad Ellenz – fourth generation
- Employees: About 100 employees at the three locations
- Major lines: John Deere, T-L Irrigation, Landoll, Sunflower, J&M, Great Plains, Hutchinson/Mayrath, Haybuster, and Shelbourne
- Customer Base: production agriculture, livestock producers, custom harvesters, construction/landscaping, property owners
Keys to success:
- Innovation – Understanding customers’ needs and finding solutions that create value for our customers, no matter the resource.
- Exceptional customer support – Parts inventory, technical expertise, remote support.
- Employee feedback – Many of our processes to improve customer experience have been implemented from employees that see opportunities for improvement.
Article Written By Lynn Grooms
Lynn Grooms is an agricultural journalist living in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.