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What We've learned in 50 years

Four Team Members, Countless Lessons, and What Can Be Learned in 150 Years

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150 years is a long time. Most businesses don’t make it to such a significant milestone but those that achieve even a fraction of that longevity learn a lot along the way.

Likewise, when people combine their years of experience and passion for their careers, it adds up to a lot of knowledge, lessons learned, and opportunities to pass along wisdom to the next generation.

Earlier this summer, the RDO Equipment Co. team in Mankato saw the start of a significant shift in its store’s workforce and core, as four longtime team members began the transition to retirement. Between the four of them, they had more than 150 years of service and experience.

The team and customers will certainly miss the expertise brought by Marcie Cook, Mark Krzmarzick, Richard Hruska, and Ron Hummer, but they can rest easy knowing that these four didn’t leave without passing on knowledge to everyone else.

Preparing the Next Generation
While it may seem as though four people retiring within six weeks of each other would leave a huge gap for the Mankato team, they’ve known this was coming for three years, allowing plenty of time to prepare.

“To say these four are close would be an understatement – literally,” Kerri Courier, Aftermarket Manager said. “They have birthdays within a month of each other so we knew they’d be retiring close together; it almost became a running joke, a contest to see who would retire first.”

Some of the most significant efforts to prepare began in late 2018 in to early 2019. In the parts department, a team member began the transition into a Parts Specialist role to start to learn the ropes from Ron. Shortly after, in the service department, two new Service Technicians were hired, giving them more than a year of closely working with Mark and Richard.

Two new Service Managers also came onboard around this time and took the opportunity to learn the customer aspect of the service department from Mark. As great as a technician he is, Kerri gives Mark just as much credit for his ability to shine in the role of teacher, noting his patience and attention to detail going through everything with the new team members, including, “how to talk to a customer about a repair, how the parts work, and making sure the full process is understood and can be communicated to the customer.”

Kerri herself has been taking on some of the learnings as well, working closely with Marcie on a variety of tasks, one of the biggest: managing store events.

Preparing for the loss of four key  team members – their knowledge, skills, and customer relationships – goes beyond teaching day-to-day tasks. The true void left by these four will be felt in ways that can’t be documented on spreadsheet or checklist. But, according to Kerri, Marcie, Mark, Richard, and Ron have been preparing the team in this unspoken way for years, long before any of them were even thinking about retirement. They each played a huge role in ensuring the RDO culture was instilled in every team member and represented every day.

“A big part of the RDO culture is a sense of family; it’s the way we all truly care about each other and customers,” she said. While it can’t be “taught” the same way a new service manager can learn a process, it can be infused into the workplace, which is exactly what the four team members did and continued to do up until their departure.

Lessons Learned
Marcie, Mark, Richard, and Ron each shared one of their biggest learnings and takeaways from their decades in the equipment industry, serving RDO customers, and carrying on RDO’s hallmark culture.

While all had different thoughts, their comments all shared two key themes: embracing technology and seizing learning opportunities.

Marcie Cook, Office Administrator, 38 Years of Service
“Between iPads, cell phones, and technology, kids today are learning things at such a young age. They’re teaching us. When we’ve had new team members join, I always learn something from them. And that’s an important lesson for everyone at every age: Never stop learning. Take opportunities for training, working in other departments, and to learn as much as you can.”

Ron Hummer, Parts Specialist, 33 Years of Service 
“Sometimes, you worry the next generation doesn’t have the get-up-and-go, but they have more computer and technology skills, and that’s important, as that part of this industry really has changed in the last 10-15 years. You may not always like it, but change isn’t always worth fighting, it’s not always bad – in fact, you eventually realize it was probably the best after all.”

Mark Krzmarzick, Service Technician, 43 Years of Service
“The more you think you know, the more you realize you don’t know. This equipment changes fast. There’s a lot to be learned. There are machines that are going to kick your butt. So stay humble; don’t ever assume you know all there is to know.”

Richard Hruska, Service Technician, 41 Years of Service
“Machines were pretty simple to work on when I first started. Back then, I didn’t think a laptop was ever going to be one of my major tools.”

Embracing Change and What’s Next
Even after all the preparation and passing along wisdom, Marcie, Mark, Richard, and Ron will be missed in their own unique ways.

When a team member walked through the door and would see Ron behind the parts counter. When a customer called and would be greeted by Marcie’s friendly voice. When a machine would come into the shop and the customer knew there was no issue that Mark or Richard couldn’t help solve.

And even though there’s plenty to look forward to in retirement, Kerri’s also cognizant of the change this will bring to each of the four.

“Imagine your entire career, in the same location, seeing the same people, taking the same drive to work – it’s pretty remarkable,” she said.

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Find out more about equipment for sale, parts, and service by contacting your local RDO Equipment Co. store.

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