When he was in grade school, Jeff Krabbenhoft, Service Technician at RDO Equipment Co. in Kindred, ND, recalls his class being asked to draw what they thought the future would be like. Jeff drew a nuclear-powered tractor, which should tell you two things about him:
Jeff began his career in 1977 at Fargo Implement’s Barnesville service center. In 1982, he transferred to the Fargo location, a John Deere company store that was acquired by RDO in the late ‘80s. In 1997, he had the opportunity to transfer to the Kindred store to bolster its service department, and he’s been a part of the team there ever since.
As he thinks about the last 45 years and how he’s been able to maintain his original passion for the job, he makes one thing quickly clear about his career.
“If this was just about a job, I doubt I would have stuck around for as long as I have.”
There’s a lot more to it for Jeff. First, there’s the important fact that he still enjoys what he’s done for the last four-and-a-half decades.
“I’ve always enjoyed taking something that doesn’t work, diagnosing the issue, making the repair, and then finding out what I diagnosed and fixed was correct and the customer got going again,” he said. That leads to his next point – the customers.
“The trust they’ve given me is satisfying,” Jeff said. “To have customers specifically ask for me to look at their equipment, that says a lot.”
It speaks to Jeff’s simple formula to earn that trust: be up-front and transparent.
“I look at it as always offering what’s in the customer’s best interest,” he reiterates. “It’s my job to find what’s wrong, present the options, and help the customer make the choice that’s best for them. It’s always their decision, and I try to give them the best value and results for their situation.”
People are at the center of Jeff’s most memorable moments from his career, whether it’s the individuals who mentored him in his earliest days on the job, the team members he stood beside while working to protect the Fargo store from the historic flood of 1997, or the times customers and teammates alike offered compassion during rocky times.
Today, he pays his appreciation forward, helping and mentoring other young Service Technicians just as the previous senior members of the team once did for him. Teammates, customers, and knowing the important roles they each play in a vital industry is what keeps Jeff’s career in perspective for him.
“It’s satisfying to be part of the big picture – the customers we’re dealing with are feeding the world. What I’m doing or what the team is doing may seem like a small part, but it helps to keep that system working.”
There are perhaps few more qualified to address the misconceptions of working in the diesel industry than Jeff, who, in 45 years, has heard just about everything there is to hear about what outsiders think about his trade.
“People think it’s always dirty work, that it’s just grunt work and all about having a strong back and a weak mind. That’s not the case at all,” Jeff said. “When I started, I didn’t know what a computer was. Now, everything is either controlled by or answers to a computer.”
Through technology, Jeff sees opportunities in the industry that simply didn’t exist when he began, for people who may have had no reason to explore it back then. In fact, the way the industry has changed since Jeff began, nuclear-powered tractors are far from just the product of a child’s imagination.
“Who knows? It may happen yet,” he said with a laugh. “We never envisioned tractors and sprayers that could steer themselves either and pretty soon they’ll operate without anyone in the seat.”