Photo above: Today’s larger equipment requires more service space. Technicians at KanEquip’s Wamego store work on machinery in this new service shop. (Dealership photos provided by Beth Ernst, marketing advertising manager, KanEquip.)
KanEquip is “Kan-Do” dealership
With the help of a 268-line project plan, a project manager and team members responsible for making sure tasks were done … and done in time … KanEquip made its recent acquisition of Straub International as seamless as possible. With the acquisition of Straub, KanEquip added five more stores to its existing nine-store network.
The acquisition expanded KanEquip’s Case IH footprint in central Kansas. KanEquip now has six locations that sell Case IH exclusively. Six of the dealership’s stores represent New Holland brand equipment exclusively, and two locations sell and support both brands.
The five newly acquired locations will continue to sell and service equipment from Mahindra, CrustBuster, Great Plains and Land Pride. The Salina, Kansas, store will continue to sell and service Polaris recreational vehicles.
Craig Goff, general manager of KanEquip, credited the smooth transition to several factors. One was hiring a project manager several months in advance of the sale’s expected closing. The dealership tapped into the expertise of Stan Muckenthaler, who had been director of sales for KanEquip before retiring in 2014. Having been an employee, Muckenthaler understood KanEquip’s processes and people.
“Stan made sure we were in front of the challenges and helped us stay on task,” Goff said. “He established timelines and factored in additional time for tasks to be accomplished.”
Hiring a project manager enabled KanEquip’s existing store and department managers to continue focusing on their areas while the owners of the two companies negotiated a deal. Staffing at KanEquip’s nine stores was at capacity and the company’s owners wanted employees to focus on income-generating activities, Goff said.
Muckenthaler communicated with KanEquip’s management from January through March from his Houston residence. In April he began working from the company’s field-support office in Wamego, Kansas, and traveled to the Straub stores. His work is expected to be completed by the end of June.
At the Wamego field-support office, Muckenthaler met with a team of functional managers who were responsible for their various areas – wholegoods, service, parts, warranty, human resources, marketing, information technology and accounting. The managers were responsible for clarifying the scope of the tasks, estimated durations, and determining when tasks needed to be completed. From mid-April to the time of the sale closing on May 6, execution of these task activities ramped up.
Staffing and training
There are plans to recruit an additional regional manager so that the new stores receive the right amount of attention, Goff said. KanEquip also recently added to its staff. The dealership’s accounting department has added four new positions, and the warranty department has added a part-time position along with additional positions across the field-support office.
Starting three weeks before the new store’s opened at KanEquip locations, a structured training program began. First, video training for the new business system was distributed. Second, the business-system vendor had structured webinar training for each functional group. And third, each functional group had in-person training geared specifically for their respective needs.
“From mid-April through early June, we experienced only 10 percent of the ‘surprises’ that I had expected,” Muckenthaler said. “That told me a lot about the quality of the plan and the excellent execution of all those involved.”
Engaging with new customers
One of the many tasks in the plan was to redirect Straub customers to KanEquip’s website and social media channels. KanEquip sent letters about the ownership change, including quotes from Larry Straub, to Straub’s customers and vendors. A press release was issued within 24 hours of the agreement being reached.
As early as February, KanEquip reviewed its human resources manual as well as Straub’s manual.
“We made improvements to KanEquip’s policies as a result of having reviewed the one from Straub,” Muckenthaler said.
Goff said, “I compliment Straub for its commitment to making the transition smooth for both its employees and customers. Straub gave us significant access to their employees several weeks before the close date for the purpose of procedural review as well as training.”
Also helpful in the transition was that Straub – like KanEquip – was a multi-store dealership and was accustomed to the associated challenges and management of such a large and complex business, Goff said.
Updating and changing the computer network was a critical factor to the transition. The computer hardware at Straub was nearing the end of its life cycle and KanEquip took the opportunity to purchase all new hardware – 150 computers and network devices.
KanEquip’s information-technology manager and his team were charged with configuring/installing all devices. They also installed software and copied profiles to the new computers.
Two full-time employees and three temporary specialists installed new computers, printers and firewalls for the network the weekend prior to the first day of business of the newly expanded business. Logins, email and all devices were ready for employees at each location Monday morning.
Customers, community and employees
KanEquip contracted with companies to change all the building signage and rebrand the vehicles at the five new locations. Grant Meinhardt, public sales manager for KanEquip, ensured all the locations were properly branded KanEquip for opening day.
“We felt it was important to get the KanEquip brand switched over; we didn’t want to do it too early or too late,” Meinhardt said. “We also ordered uniforms in advance for employees to wear the first day of operations.”
On the first day and the next couple of days of the newly expanded business, KanEquip sent a minimum of four employees from each department at its existing stores to the newly acquired stores. They helped with the transition and answered questions. The weather also helped for a smooth transition; it had rained the entire week prior to the grand opening. The fields weren’t optimal for work so business volume wasn’t overwhelming and employees could learn at a more manageable pace, Goff said.
“The most important thing we did was to make sure the Straub employees knew we’d be committed to them. We spent as much time as necessary with them. Our main focus is customers, community and employees,” Goff said reflecting on the transition.
KanEquip shared with customers what was happening and anything that might have changed.
“We shared our history, goals and values,” Goff said. “And we’ve started doing personal visits with many of the former Straub customers.”
Established:1999 (merger of Meinhardt Farm Equipment and Ford County Equipment)
Locations: 14 locations; 13 in Kansas and 1 in Nebraska (Kansas locations: Dodge City, Ellsworth, Garden City, Great Bend, Herington, Marysville, Ottawa, Pratt, Salina, South Hutchinson, Topeka, Wamego and Wichita. Nebraska location: Syracuse)
Owners: 11 owners active in business
Founder and majority shareholder: Jim Meinhardt
General Manager: Craig Goff
Employees: 250 full-time employees
Major lines: New Holland, Case IH
Keys to Success:
- Reinvesting in the company and the employees, even in difficult economic times.
- Knowing our values and staying true to them – integrity, financial strength, quality in every department and teamwork.
- Providing the most up to date technology.
- Being active in a Spader 20 Group.
- Belonging to and strongly supporting dealer associations.
- Blending our family culture with a corporate culture.
Article written by Lynn Grooms
LYNN GROOMS is an agricultural journalist living in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.