Taking Care of Business – Dealer Profile
A HOTBED OF ACTIVITY is how Chris Wackman describes the area of Texas in which he owns nine equipment locations.
The president of Washington County Tractor and an entrepreneur, Wackman said the area between Austin and Houston is bustling with the oil industry as well as a number of commercial-development and highway projects.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing areas of the country,” he said. “And we’re blessed to live in one of the best territories in the country for tractors, outdoor power, and construction equipment.”
Washington County’s competition also has found fertile ground in the area. Within 40 miles of Washington County’s stores are eight Deere locations, five Case locations, seven Mahindra locations, eight other Kubota locations, and many shortline stores, Wackman said.
Such competition requires differentiation. That poses its own continuing challenges and requires creative thinking and hard work. “If you can’t find a way to differentiate yourself, you’re going to get run out of town,” Wackman said.
Washington County works to distinguish itself by carrying and supporting premium products. “We want to sell the best products because we want customers to have the best experience with those products, and we want to provide them the best solutions to their problems,” he said. “If we didn’t believe in our products then we’d lose that trust. But even the best products sometimes fail so we want to partner with manufacturers that share our philosophy and will do whatever it takes to make customers their first priority.”
Employee Training, Careers, And Advancement
Washington County also invests in employee training. In addition to sending employees to manufacturer training programs, the company provides in-house multi-media training. An in-house trainer covers selling basics, service, parts, and more. Washington County recently offered a program featuring Bob Clements of Bob Clements International. His company’s training and development programs specialize in creating high-performance dealerships.
“We invest a lot in training,” Wackman said. “We don’t want to undertrain. But we also work to hire smart, aggressive people at the outset.” The dealership offers internships and has built a relationship with agriculture teachers at Sam Houston State University. A representative from Washington County also has served on the board of the Texas State Technical College. Washington County staff members regularly speak to students in agricultural classes. They also participate in job fairs and career days. “We offer career-advancement opportunities that many others can’t or won’t offer,” he said. “We’re managing labor shortages to the best of our ability, but the challenges are ever-present.”
“Playing hard (in addition to working hard) builds the team and shows our employees we’re here for them.” – Chris Hackman, owner, Washington County Tractor
Hard work is expected of employees, but the dealership rewards their efforts. For its 75th anniversary, for example, the dealership hosted employees and customers at an event featuring three bands. Th e company also surprised employees with a trip to a Houston Astros game.
“We rented a bar overlooking center field and everyone had the time of their lives,” Wackman said. “Playing hard (in addition to working hard) builds the team and shows our employees we’re here for them.”
Dollars In And Dollars Out
Washington County also invests in its facilities. “In the past five years, our sales and profits have quadrupled,” he said. “We’ve reinvested in new buildings, trucks, and technology to build our relationship with employees and customers.”
Building relationships extends beyond the company’s doors. Washington County supports and participates in a number of local events – such as Extension programs, cow-calf clinics, other youth livestock events, and parades. The company also markets heavily – investing in radio, television, and print advertising, as well as social media, billboards, and more. “We do everything we can to stand out,” he said. “It never stops.
A Look In WCT’s Trophy Case
The company’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Washington County has been recognized as a Circle of Excellence Dealer for Kubota and a President’s Award winner for New Holland. The company also has been named Bad Boy Mower’s Dealer of the Year twice in the past four years. And it has been named an eclipse award winner for Rhino Ag.
Article Written By Lynn Grooms
LYNN GROOMS is an agricultural journalist living in Mt. Horeb. Wis.