With their father John Swystun starting their legacy with the founding of Central Supply Ltd. in 1966, brothers Terry and Gerald Swystun grew up in the business they serve today. Their strong work ethic was instilled by their father as they worked in every position in the business from a young age. This entailed mopping the floors, cutting grass, detailing vehicles on Saturdays before noon; then travelling to the family farm to pick rocks, topped off by stopping in at a customer’s to close a deal on the way home.
When their father retired and closed Central Supply in 1999, Terry and Gerald saw the opportunity to open their own store by taking over the AGCO franchise in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, along with Rick Risdale (Moose Implements) and naming it Full Line Ag.
Carrying the full umbrella offerings of AGCO, including Massey Ferguson, Challenger, Rogator, Gleaner, Sunflower, Amity, as well as the Versatile brand, Salford/Valmar, Farm King and Convey-All, they soon expanded with a location in Swift Current in 2006. In 2011, Terry and Gerald purchased Risdale’s shares in the business and expanded once again in 2018 with the purchase of Cam-Don Motors in Perdue. To further invest in their customers, they built a completely new facility in Swift Current (2016), as well as added a new shop and showroom to the Saskatoon location (2019).
The Morris family of products is carried in Saskatoon and Perdue, while their Swift Current location offers the SeedMaster line. The Perdue location also deals with automotive repairs and service, which bodes well with the local community.
Full Line Ag also took on the Fendt line of equipment in 2018, giving the dealership one the world’s most advanced tractor lines to keep agricultural growers moving forward with technology. With over 70 employees, and servicing customers from the U.S. border to Prince Albert in the north, and to the Alberta border in the west, Full Line Ag also carries the full line of the MacDon brand of haying/harvesting equipment.
Business built on family
With deep family roots, the Swystun brothers strongly believe their employees are part of their family — the Full Line Ag family. This is evident as 35% of their employees have 10-15 years’ tenure, are highly dedicated and treat their work like a family business. “I continually refer to it as the Full Line Ag family,” said Gerald Swystun. “This dedication to customers has earned our dealership AGCO’s largest Canadian volume dealer in 2019, and the “Circle of Excellence” Dealer Award (North America) 12 times. We are very proud of this prestigious honour, considering that so many dealerships are now publicly owned and have 6-12 plus locations.”
As Swystun explained, Full Line Ag is one of a few dealerships remaining that is dealer principal operated. “We run multistore facilities with a family touch. Employees and/or customers can come in to speak with either one of us just to say hello or speak of a concern that they may have.”
Training is another area that is important to the Full Line Ag family. The Swystun brothers encourage all departments to explore training in which employees may be interested, whether it is technical or personal development. “Every year we send our technicians to factory training for the most up-to-date service on the newest product releases with all our manufacturers. Training for our sales and parts teams is also made available. Travel includes multi-province, USA and Europe. In the last few years, we have been shifting towards more online schooling,” said Swystun.
“Hands on training is always most beneficial to staff, but that comes at a very high cost to the dealership when tallying up travel, time away, selling time, training time and related expenses. We’re seeing a slow movement toward “anytime” online training as well as live webinars and Zoom meetings. We really like how WEDA offers a great deal of online training and webinars. WEDA’s Dealer Institute workshops, webinars and virtual educational programs have an immense value to my employees and the dealership. It is a very time efficient management tool.”
Business as usual?
With the global pandemic taking hold in early March, dealerships had to quickly shift their daily business practices.
“I think we are as close to ’business as usual’ that we will get in the next 12 months,” said Swystun. “At the time of the lockdown, we carried our regular hours but were closed to the public with porch/curb side pickup for parts. This way, Full Line Ag was their safe place as was their actual home. We never had one complaint from customers and in most cases, they were happy to be in/out in a minute. We shifted to online and phone orders and promotion of our mobile access to parts books was increased. With this format, our parts people can be literally on the same page talking over the phone about what part our customer requires.
By moving this way, we have seen far less lineups at the counter because their part is in the hold bin waiting under their name and the invoice is already made up, or even paid, so that another family member or neighbour can pick up. It also made the transition to closing our doors much easier for our customers as the communication over the phone, text, or email had already increased prior to COVID.”
Swystun said that between AGCO’s main warehouse in Batavia, Illinois, and their stocking warehouse in Regina, Saskatchewan, AGCO is still recording a 98%+ fill rate on orders. “From farther away (overseas), we did see a ripple effect from the two-month dent of no factory production. With agriculture deemed an essential service, our suppliers, like AGCO, are used to ‘hot shotting’ parts across the border on a daily basis, so we didn’t feel there was any major interruption of parts availability for customers.”
The Full Line Ag family has adapted to many procedures and protocols that are now becoming second nature. Daily wipe downs of public areas and hand sanitizers at entrance ways are now the norm. When it comes to equipment, all cabs are locked with private viewings only and cabs wiped down again afterward. Swystun acknowledged that not all staff is the same, reacts the same, or has the same circumstances on the home front. “We still need our personal lives. My Full Line Ag family has done a tremendous job in stepping up and working through this in a safe manner.”
He continued, “Naturally, once the onset of harvest arrives, it is complete ER type triage with all hands on deck. That bulge is the same every year. For this year, it is quite hard to pick/catch up from the anxiety lull that first hit worldwide at the start of COVID-19.”
Value of WEDA Membership
Full Line Ag has been a member of WEDA since its inception in 1999, with their father being a member of the association with the predecessor days of Central Supply that started in 1966. “We go a long way back to when John Schmeiser was placed as vice president of the association. Similarly, I see John and his team as family of friends. It is a long-term relationship that has worked well for all dealerships. John’s long-term team knows just what to do and how to get it done, and the icing on the cake is how they put on the annual convention and training sessions.”
Swystun continued, “Government lobbying, manufacturer relations, legal assistance, education, educational scholarships, fundraising, business supplies, dealership surveys, agricultural dealer public awareness/recruitment, employee recruitment… the list goes on, and all for the benefit of our dealerships and their survival.”
“We reached out to WEDA for guidance and assistance to sift through and interpret our ag business responsibilities at the beginning of COVID-19. There were many rumours, many untruths, many levels of government policies, rules, and regulations to be sorted through. John and his team were fantastic at getting to the root of what was available to dealers. We send a big thank you to WEDA.”
Keys to success
Swystun concluded, “We would like to thank our Full Line ag family of employees for stepping up and placing so much effort this year in combatting the COVID-19 ordeal over and above the seasonal bulge of the busy season. We are very proud of all our staff.
We also consider WEDA like a close friend and ally. We see tremendous value in being a WEDA member as they too have many long-term hard-working people who make WEDA strong. WEDA is very important and a necessity for dealers to continue in business.”
Article written by Joanne Olson
Joanne Olson is managing editor of publications for the Western Equipment Dealers Association and manages the Canadian office in Calgary, Alberta. She has been with the association for 21 years. She may be reached by writing to email@example.com.