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Business Profile: Dealer grows nationally, nurtures local roots

Many mid-Missouri natives have grown up hearing the Sydenstricker name.
Eddie Sydenstricker, whose father, Ralph, started the agricultural equipment business in 1944, owns the largest John Deere scraper dealership in North America. What started in Paris, Mo., as an International Harvester dealership eventually evolved into the first Sydenstricker Implement store, which was opened in 1966 in Mexico, Mo., and now includes five other locations as well.

Since its formation, Sydenstricker Implement has done its part to keep in step with the times. Now the company is mostly known as a full-line John Deere dealer, selling agricultural and lawn-and-garden equipment, commercial worksite products, and scraper and scraper tractor products.

Sydenstricker Implement operates at two locations, in Mexico and Rocheport, while Sydenstricker Farm and Lawn, a separate company, has four Missouri locations, in Macon, Kirksville, Palmyra and Chillicothe. It is co-owned by Eddie Sydenstricker and the Gabriel family, who bought up one-half interest of the company in 1969.

Scott Brees, site manager for Rocheport location, says their dealership is not what you would consider a traditional John Deere store.

“At this one location, since it opened in 1994, there’s been a tremendous amount of change in the customers, how we serve them and the types of ways we market our services,” says Brees, who has worked for Sydenstricker since graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia seven years ago. “We have several different customers, whether it is the traditional farmer and agricultural producer or the large property owner and commercial development customer in and around Boone County.”

The Rocheport store, located seven miles west of Columbia, serves Columbia, Boonville and Fayette customers. Together, the six Sydenstricker locations—plus a toy store in Branson that sells licensed John Deere merchandise—employ about 160 people. Online at www.sydenstrickers.com, Sydenstricker takes orders for parts and service; connects customers to its eBay store; provides links to new John Deere inventory; and sells used equipment.

“Used equipment is something we’ve done for several years. We’re continually adding more and tracking the hits on our used equipment—trying to find out what’s popular,” says Brees. “It’s a continual process that we’re getting better at.”

Brees says Sydenstricker also works at improving marketing approaches, with events such as a spring lawn and garden open house and a summer “Hay Day” for agricultural customers. The company also sponsors regular trips for customers to visit John Deere factory locations, such as the scraper factory in Louisiana and the tractor and columbine factories in Waterloo, Iowa, and Moline, Ill.

“One of the things that we do want to do is be a good corporate citizen in the community,” Brees says. “Your customers notice you whether you’re purchasing livestock at a county fair or participating in a civic organization or a club.”

Sydenstricker contributes to area schools and community organizations, such as the Lion’s Club and Elk’s Rotary, and Brees says the company matches employee donations to Columbia’s Voluntary Action Center. The company also is involved in local county fair boards, 4-H and the FFA’s alumni groups; Eddie Sydenstricker says 4-H and FFA membership in his youth helped him gain important leadership skills.

“Likewise, if an employee has a child that plays on a sporting event, we may support that booster club,” says Brees. “We like to think that our employees enjoy working here and also enjoy being involved in similar activities. It builds enthusiasm.”

When it comes to human interaction skills, Brees says, Eddie Sydenstricker is proud of the fact that he built his company’s success by surrounding himself with decent people who have a good work ethic and good character.
“People can be trained to sell or service a piece of equipment, but their character and work ethic are harder to train,” says Brees. “A person just has to have that naturally. That’s been a key in the success of the business—surrounding yourself with the right kind of people.”

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