In his 45-year career, Darrell Bauer, Product Specialist at RDO Equipment Co. in Bismarck, North Dakota, has dealt in knowledge as much as he has equipment. From the early days in the Bismarck dealership that was eventually among RDO’s first construction equipment stores to his unique relationship with John Deere and RDO customers, staying in the know has been Bauer’s specialty.
Hired by then-owner Vern Kindseth in 1977, Bauer began as a Service Technician in the shop before getting a service truck and doing field service. He went on to lead the service department, overseeing 18 Service Technicians when then Bismarck store became RDO Equipment Co. in 1989. Seeking a change of pace, he transitioned into a new-at-the-time Customer Service Advisor role, which naturally evolved into the job he does today as a Product Specialist.
In his current role, Bauer specializes in demos and deliveries throughout the Midwest Construction region. In his words, it’s his job to “keep up on everything yellow” so he can be the most knowledgeable person on the scene when a customer receives a new piece of equipment. Bauer says there’s no better way to do that than getting his hands on the machine.
“I can do all the training in the world, but nothing beats spending a few hours in the cab,” he said.;
Today, inside the cab is exactly where the bulk of all customer demos take place.
“Outside, machines are all largely the same,” Bauer said. “But when we go in the cab, it can quickly become a 45-minute to an hour-long conversation.”
Technology has changed everything: how machines function, work is completed, and even how jobs are bid. For the latter, Bauer says it’s becoming ever more critical for contractors to have and understand the latest technology even to win jobs.
“It’s getting to the point where you have to use this technology to do jobs today,” he said. “You can’t lay a road and find out it’s an inch too thick. So, my job is helping people know their equipment and everything it can do.”
While many have witnessed the evolution of equipment during the last several decades, Bauer has had a unique opportunity to help shape that evolution. In the early 2000s, he was invited to participate in a customer advocacy group organized by John Deere. It started with 12 customer participants traveling to Deere’s facilities to step through the then-unreleased D-series motor grader.
“We met with engineer groups who wanted to know everything we liked and didn’t like about it,” he recalls. “We slammed the thing. We knew graders, and we had plenty of feedback to offer.”
The feedback proved valuable. Before long, Bauer was back, offering similar insight into G-series graders. The advocacy group changed over the years, but Bauer’s participation has remained steady. He has been involved in first-hand looks at concept machines, on-site trial runs of new products and parts and an ongoing feedback loop with Deere engineers. It’s been a beneficial experience for Deere, Bauer and RDO and its customers.
“It’s been one of the highlights of my career,” Bauer said. He has a shelf in his home lined with the crystal plaques he’s earned for his efforts.;
Bauer has used this unique understanding of Deere’s construction equipment to help customers understand their machines as well as possible. It’s not always easy, especially with the ever-expanding technological capabilities that Bauer says can be understandably overwhelming, but in many ways, he’s a teacher at his core.
However, he hasn’t left his roots in the service department entirely behind. His toolbox never leaves his truck, and he’ll still help fix an oil leak on a machine 200 miles from the nearest shop if needed. That part of his mentality will never change, and neither will the parts of RDO culture that stem from the pre-RDO days, Bauer says.
“The work ethic and values of RDO today are the same as the mom-and-pop days,” he said, a testament to the Offutt family, RDO leadership and many team members he’s worked alongside in the last four decades.