Australian industry veteran Bill Dowdle brings his ideas and expertise to Canada.

When choosing a CEO for their newly-formed alliance, the members of AgLink Canada were looking for someone with the experience and insider knowledge to quickly bring the organization up to speed. The man they chose was Bill Dowdle, an industry veteran who served for over a decade as CEO of AgLink Australia. After the official formation of AgLink Canada in September 2017, Dowdle moved to Alberta to take on his new role.

The organization, currently made up of 14 independent Western Canadian retailers, is based in part on the Australian model. It offers its members networking and training opportunities and, as a single entity, more meaningful and direct communication with manufacturers and distributors. By communicating as a group, members will help shape future developments in products and technology by providing insight and feedback, while gaining advance knowledge of new goods and services entering the market.

Bill had the experience we were looking for to take the lead and we felt that he would be able to fast track the inception of the group. Tim Winter

Tim Winter, owner of Ag Advantage Ltd., and an AgLink Canada shareholder, says that Dowdle’s experience, track record and reputation as a trusted leader made him a natural choice to head the organization.

“Bill had the experience we were looking for to take the lead and we felt that he would be able to fast track the inception of the group,” says Winter. “To be the CEO for over 12 years speaks very highly – it means you are doing something right.”

Forging Relationships

Dowdle did a lot right in his term as CEO of AgLink Australia, a diverse collective of 16 independent Australian agricultural businesses, representing approximately $1.2 billion in sales annually. During his tenure, the company was known for its consistency, well-trained staff and member loyalty, and Dowdle’s ability to strategically engage with industry stakeholders was instrumental in increasing the organization’s footprint.

“Having the vision to work with key suppliers and do it in a way which is collegiate with both suppliers and members has certainly been innovative,” says Ian Scutt, AgLink
Australia’s new CEO and former AgLink board member. “Bill showed good foresight and led the organization in the right way.”

Throughout his term, Dowdle brought on new suppliers, which allowed members to expand their product offerings and grow their companies, and forged strong relationships with manufacturers, giving members early access to the latest products and technologies. The benefit was mutual for manufacturers as well, since a relationship with AgLink allowed them to fast track the adaption and commercialization of their products.

Bill Dowdle (CEO AgLink Canada) has had a busy year making connections in the industry and familiarizing himself with agriculture in Canada.

Making Connections

Dowdle shares the same clear vision for AgLink Canada. Since his arrival in Canada, Dowdle is already making key connections throughout the industry and is pleased by the positive response he’s received on both sides of the table.

“I’ve spent time meeting people and getting a sense of the industry – that’s been a very big priority for me. It takes time to get to know people and establish relationships. I was in the Australian game for over 40 years and I’ve been here for five minutes, but I’ve had a very fair hearing from everybody, so let’s get on with it and see where it will take us,” he says with a laugh.

Sharing Dowdle’s optimism are the retailers who make up AgLink Canada. The group is looking forward to seeing the benefits of their alliance as things start to take off under Dowdle’s guidance.

“It’s a little easier as a group,” says Winter. “Bill brings it all together for us. We all get together to throw some ideas around and he’s been there, so he can guide us in the right direction. He’s got that enthusiasm that’s going to drive us forward and he wants us all to achieve what we set out to do.”

Bridging Oceans

Dowdle is also working on developing networking and learning opportunities for the group, both separately and in association with its Australian counterpart. “We want to share information. The independents are similar on both sides of the Pacific – they have similar challenges – so the first phase is getting to know each other a little bit,” says Dowdle.

One such opportunity will take place this summer when a member of AgLink Australia will come to Canada with several of his customers to visit manufacturers and meet with AgLink Canada members. Then, in November, Dowdle and several AgLink Canada members plan to make a reciprocal visit, timed to coincide with the AgLink Australia annual shareholders’ meeting and a large industry function. Later, he intends to bring together agronomy teams from both countries to meet and learn from each other’s challenges and successes.

“Coming out and seeing the challenges the Canadian guys have got and how they deal with them is very valuable – even though it’s different,” he says. “Sitting down and having conversations about how they deal with those challenges is extremely valuable.”

Dowdle points out that without a group like AgLink, independents might not have the same opportunities to build these valuable relationships with each other, and describes AgLink as a “catalyst” for that to happen.

“That’s an extremely valuable part of AgLink,” he says. “When you look from the outside, it’s hard to quantify, but it’s extremely valuable. People who have been in AgLink Australia for a long time really value those relationships and that ability to communicate to like-minded individuals who have similar challenges.”

He adds, “It can be pretty lonely out there on your own – you’re up against some large, corporate organizations – so, having a few mates to talk to isn’t a bad thing.”

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