It’s onwards and upwards for WA John Deere dealership AFGRI Equipment.
Last week’s acquisition of Esperance John Deere dealer Ratten & Slater marked the finalisation of an 18-month expansion strategy which now sees AFGRI servicing districts throughout the Wheatbelt, incorporating 14 branches.
It also has a branch at Guildford servicing the Perth outer metropolitan area and surrounds.
In February, it established a new head office in Middle Swan underscoring its tantalising message to the market of “willing buyer, willing seller”.
According to the company’s operations director Gollie Coetzee, that’s not the end of AFGRI’s aim to continue to grow its business.
“We’re open to growth,” Gollie told Torque at the company’s official announcement in Esperance last week.
“Just how much growth there will be in the short term will depend on our ability to supply and support the current product line.”
But there’s no getting away from it that AFGRI is here to stay, having now become one of the world’s biggest John Deere dealers with 45 branches in Africa and Australia.
For those thinking that big will overshadow personal relationships with customers, think again.
Gollie was emphatic that every AFGRI branch would reflect the company’s ethos of people first.
“I have my business cards here and you can take one before you leave tonight,” he said.
“If you have any problems that can’t be solved by our dealership, you can ring me to get it sorted out.
“But I have faith in the staff which has contributed greatly to the success of Ratten & Slater.
“That service will continue and when you walk into this dealership, the only thing you’ll notice that’s different is the name of the company.
“We want to say to you that it’s business as usual and we are especially excited that most of the Ratten & Slater staff have chosen to remain with us.”
Former administration manager Kim Anderson, who has a 19 year involvement with Ratten & Slater, takes over as branch manager while sales will be headed up by Sascha Bozanich, Mark Bratten and Scott Willis.
Parts manager is Jason Puckridge and service manager is Matthew Upton.
While recognising the acute shortage of skilled labour in the WA farm mechanisation industry, Gollie was on the front foot with a positive approach to the problem.
“We’ll be actively looking for staff for a range of positions throughout our dealer network,” he said.
“It will embrace sales, service, parts and management and we are discussing our needs with TAFE colleges and universities along with continuing our apprenticeship intake program and our internal product training program.
“We consider we are a long term employer and our scale gives us the ability to assist and encourage staff in careers within the company, even moving from one branch to another to meet their expectations.
“We have the capacity to improve the business management skills of all our staff no matter at what level they are involved and we want them to feel it’s their business.
“We’ll back them to make the right decisions when they need to be made and will always be ready to support them if they have doubts.
“Agriculture is now a more professional and sophisticated industry than it was even 10 years ago and we’re promoting agriculture as a business sector that is worth being involved in.
“In reality, nothing has changed, we’re just emphasising the value of respecting and helping people.
“We have very strong feelings about the value of the so-called people game.”