A lot can happen in a year. When looking at RDO Equipment Co.’s acquisition of Evergreen Implement in Washington’s North Columbia Basin area, this statement especially rings true.
“It’s hard to believe it has already been a year,” Cheri Niemeier, Office Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Pasco says.
In February 2018, RDO Equipment Co. acquired Evergreen Implement, and officially welcomed the team and its five stores: Coulee City, Moses Lake, Othello, Pasco Potato Central, and Ritzville.
Not only did the acquisition boost RDO Equipment Co.’s total number of agriculture stores in Washington from two to seven, it doubled the company’s support in the Columbia Basin region – one of the most diverse and productive agriculture areas in the world – going from five stores to ten.
It may seem on the surface that the acquisition brought a lot of change to both groups – and it certainly did. However, the two companies quickly learned they had many things in common as well. The combination has provided great balance, with the similarities helping to ease the transition, and the differences are paving the way to a bright road ahead.
Similar People and Practices
In just 12 months, two teams, two customer bases, and two cultures embraced growth and learning, new experiences and new opportunities. And their similarities provided a solid foundation for a smooth transition.
“Evergreen’s Mission Statement and RDO’s Core Values are virtually identical,” Tom Wells, Regional Sales Manager and former Evergreen Implement employee, said. “In fact, the two cultures are so similar, I believe that made the transition easy for both teams.”
Another aspect that made the transition easier was familiar faces and customers. RDO Equipment Co. committed to bringing onboard all 77 Evergreen Implement team members as part of the acquisition, something Michael Nichols, Store Manager and Parts Manager at the Ritzville location, felt confident would be the case, even before he knew the acquisition details.
“I think RDO recognized we were successful and did our jobs well, so they’d want everyone to stay onboard when the companies came together,” he said.
Ian Carey, Vice President of RDO Equipment Co.’s Northwest Agriculture region, explained why Michael’s notion was right, saying, “Our business is about people. With Evergreen’s history of excellence in the Columbia Basin agricultural community and their solid relationships with customers, there was no doubt we wanted everyone to stay onboard. It would help us remain strong as one company.”
Speaking of customers, the fact Evergreen Implement and RDO Equipment Co. had similar customer bases meant the Evergreen team would be working with a lot of the same companies and people they already knew. Cheri noted, “that really made me feel comfortable joining a new company.”
A final aspect that Cheri, Michael, and several others agree has been important is the camaraderie and community feel both companies had – one that goes beyond the walls of the dealership.
“In this business, in this industry, it’s all about friendship and family,” Michael said. “I’ve always loved working with my coworkers and customers, then seeing them outside the office. It’s important to us to be involved in our communities and that’s RDO’s philosophy, too.”
Just as there were similarities between Evergreen Implement and RDO Equipment Co. that helped ease the transition, there were plenty of differences. However, those differences have been viewed, not so much as challenges but instead, opportunities that have further boosted the strength of RDO Equipment Co.’s agricultural presence in the Columbia Basin.
New Support and Opportunities
Rich Mollotte, Regional General Manager for RDO Equipment Co.’s North Basin stores – Coulee City, Moses Lake, Othello, and Ritzville – spent his entire career with Evergreen Implement, starting out in high school, “doing everything from sweeping floors to cleaning toilets,” he says with a laugh.
As a member of Evergreen Implement’s Leadership team, Rich was also a leader in embracing the changes that came with becoming a new company.
“We did a lot with a little,” he recalls of his nearly 40 years with Evergreen Implement. “Our team members wore a lot of hats and were stretched.” This style, Rich admits, didn’t leave much opportunity for them to focus on growing, training, or thinking outside the box. “As RDO Equipment Co. I was excited to have those opportunities.”
Greg McCoy, Store Manager of RDO Equipment Co. in Othello, agrees, saying, “Now, we have more people and there’s more support. It allows us to better focus as well as think about new opportunities for the business and our customers.”
Another difference that has been positive for several former Evergreen team members is the opportunity to move into different roles. Rich says that while many team members stayed in their existing roles, several were offered new ones.
“RDO recognized that we had good people who had good relationships, and they kept everyone on staff,” he said. “Some have moved into different roles and that’s exciting, it’s a growth opportunity they likely wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Expanded Solutions and Partnerships
While perhaps the biggest similarity between the two companies was each’s partnership with one of the biggest agriculture equipment manufacturers in the world, John Deere, one of the most exciting differences is also what has really strengthened RDO Equipment Co. and is setting up the company for more and expanded customer partnerships: the addition of potato equipment solutions and the expansion of the orchard and vineyard business.
“Potatoes are a major crop in the area,” Rich says. “This area can out-produce any other area in the world. Years ago, we identified that we could support potato growers and remain profitable year-round by bringing on potato equipment.”
Spudnik Equipment Company offers specialty equipment for the complete potato growing cycle, from planting to harvest to storage. Echoing Rich’s comments, Ian says the acquisition brought RDO Equipment Co. into this new, exciting area of business.
“The Columbia Basin has the highest potato yields of anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s great for RDO Equipment Co. to now have a partnership with Spudnik, a company that truly understands our area, our customers, and the potato business.”
Another growing area that RDO Equipment Co. is more proactively serving now is the orchard and vineyard industry. The company had been working with these customers for years, recently upping its game with John Deere’s new line of narrow tractors and the expansion of its partnership with Blueline Manufacturing Co.
While these customers were prevalent in Evergreen Implement’s areas, particularly in and around Othello, the company hadn’t been able to focus on them – but that’s changing now.
“As Evergreen, we didn’t have the equipment and service solutions to really support orchard and vineyard growers,” Rich recalls. “Now that we have the strength of our collective stores and teams, we’re poised to offer these customers the equipment, parts, and support they need.”
The Best is Yet to Come
By building on similarities and embracing differences, the RDO Equipment Co. team in the Columbia Basin region is looking to the next years with excitement and optimism.
“We’re in business to help growers and I truly believe we’re the best partner they can have for the equipment side of their business,” Ian said. “With our expanded presence and the strength of our two groups now integrated as one, we’re offering RDO Equipment Co.’s total solutions to more people and in more local areas. And I am confident that we’re only going to keep getting better for our customers.”
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