Agri-Retailer of the Year Award
Award sponsored by Bayer CropScience Inc.
If you work for McEwen’s Fuels and Fertilizers, you’ll have ample opportunity to ask your customer about their spring season challenges – while you’re coaching their kid at hockey practice.
“We’re heavily involved in our community, which seems to be appreciated by our customers. We’ve got five or six hockey coaches on staff, ski coaches, dance teachers. The owners strongly encourage us to participate in the community,” says Mike Loney, territory agronomist for McEwen’s. “That face-to-face factor really seems to make the difference.”
Loney, along with a group of his cohorts, were on hand to accept the award for Agri-Retailer of the Year at this year’s conference. The beaming band of brothers represented the company’s various locations near Fort Saskatchewan, AB. “We’re really excited to be here,” he said.
In his decade working for McEwen’s, Loney has witnessed the sea change in producer operations, with farms growing in size but shrinking in number. He believes his organization’s unique and hands-on approach to customer engagement is what has made them stand out in the sector.
“Farm consolidation is happening, and the acres are bigger, so that individual customer is much more important,” he says. “You’re handling higher volumes for fewer customers, and you have to make sure you can retain that business.”
For McEwen’s, exceptional customer service has many facets. Community involvement is but one of many ways that they connect with their customers’ lives – on both a business and personal level.
“I went to five customer weddings last year. Everyone knows my wife, my kids – it’s just building that relationship and friendship,” says Loney. “It seems to give a competitive edge, having that relationship. And you don’t do it for work, you do it for fun. When you can go to work every day and deal with your good friends, that’s great.”
The McEwen’s staff are also adept at meeting and exceeding producers’ needs, and proactively finding ways to adapt their services as the industry evolves.
“We’ve been a very high-service company forever,” says Loney, citing product delivery and longer hours of operation as a few of the ways the organization makes life easier for their customers.
“Our priorities for customer service are purchasing at the right time, making sure we can get our hands on the commodities in order to make sure we have what the customer needs,” he says. “We also do lots of training – we’re doing four sessions this spring to make sure our staff is up to date on anhydrous, as well as new products.”
Another key factor in customer engagement is keeping in touch. McEwen’s takes it one step further by adopting new channels of communication as producers’ habits move towards the future.
“As we work with young customers more often, we’re using text messaging or finding new ways to communicate,” says Loney. “In the last few years we’ve really adopted the social media aspect.”
Does the McEwen’s philosophy of meaningful connection exist only between sales staff and their clientele? Absolutely not. Loney explains that the company culture is familial, making the staff feel valued and committed to the success of the organization.
“Being an independent company, we know our owners, we have dinner with them,” he says. “They come to baby showers and birthdays, and it’s a true family experience.”
Loney believes it’s the internal philosophy of the company that makes the rest of the operation so successful, and makes talented staff happy to put down roots with McEwen’s.
“Many of our guys have been with the company ten-plus years,” he says. “The encouragement, and the extra involvement, that’s what makes it fun and totally different than a corporate or chain environment.”
With a team of close-knit comrades, and loyal customers, it’s not hard to see why McEwen’s has stood out to the CAAR community as a prime example of agri-retail business done right.
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