Make this Savvy Business Investment

Beverly Written by Beverly Leavitt August 28, 2022 Member Updates

Robert's Farm Equipment staff photo.

How do you get promoted in your dealership? Does it take years of service and a master of the craft to move up? Or, do you excel based on leadership capabilities? 

More often than not, it’s the former that moves you up the ladder and what happens is you have leaders who know the job well but don’t know how to bring a team together. 

If you do the opposite, you could end up with management that isn’t clued into the day-to-day operations. 

What’s the solution? 

Brian Osterndorff of Robert’s Farm Equipment is trying different methods to combat the problem.

Family Values

Robert’s Farm Equipment is rooted in the concept of continuing education. Since the beginning, Bob and Grace Osterndorff encouraged their sons, Bruce and Brian, to learn the ins and outs of the business. 

From the ground up, they grew their knowledge of repairs and service with the steady guidance of their parents. 

Those sturdy roots have spread and beckoned Brian’s children, Rachel, Brady, Nate and Bruce’s son, Derek, back to the dealership. 

Their story is similar to many other family-run dealerships, but their course differs slightly. 

Climbing the Ladder

You often hear of family businesses promoting from within. You learn the ropes from a young age, make your way around the different departments and maybe even spread your wings on your own for a bit before returning. 

If all goes well, you eventually take over the dealership. 

For the Osterndorff’s, the journey doesn’t end there. 

They’re continually looking for ways to better their leadership styles, which extend to every leader in the business. 

Seven Locations Later

It may seem obvious, but it’s essential to bring everyone on the same page, especially at the rate they’re expanding.

They started with one location in Chesley, and in 2006 they acquired a location in Lucknow, followed by Mount Forest in 2010, merged with the two McGavin Farm Equipment locations in Walton in 2019 and most recently acquired two locations in Owen Sound and Meaford in 2022.

With each new addition comes change.

Brian says, “we call ourselves a family business, but we run with systems and processes, which is sometimes a change for smaller counterparts. They aren’t always to that point, so there’s a little culture change.”

He continues, “in our mergers or acquisitions, we share knowledge and learn from each other. We implement some of their strengths and take their ideas that help us along. Everyone gives their input. After all, we’re not just gaining a location, we gain people, their opinions and their experience.”

The Secret to Longevity

When you merge new ideas and experiences, it’s not always an easy process. Businesses have established their hierarchy within and a particular way of doing the job, so when you bring in a new leadership team, there can be some growing pains.

Brian believes the answer is investing in leadership training. “As we grow, we need to understand everyone, and I’ve always looked into different leadership ideas.”

It was a natural fit for Brian’s team to enrol in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team training led by CEEDA.

“It opened up everyone’s eyes. It created a real team feeling because you draw into what your team thinks about in their personal and business lives.”

Following Through

The real question: did everyone buy in?

“I’d be lying if I said there was 100% buy-in. There are always some people sitting on the fence. But the training defines their role in the company and how they work with the team. If they don’t want to participate, it shows you that they may not be the team player you had thought.

We have a lot of different personalities and generations. We have to understand how everyone functions because we don’t all communicate the same. Just because you don’t do it one way doesn’t mean it’s wrong. You could have the best person in the organization, but they do it differently than you thought they should have.”

Brian’s team is pretty fresh into the training, but he expects it will begin to break down barriers. He hopes his team will start to ask each other, “why?”

When you can surpass the fear of conflict and fully understand your teammates, you work together seamlessly and make the best investment in your company’s future.