Founded in 1894, 2019 marks the 125-year anniversary of Peacock and Binnington.
Charting its history, Simon Henley talks to the family behind the company...
Celebrating its 125-year anniversary, Graham Main has been the managing director of Peacock and Binnington (P&B) for the past nine-years.
His approach to running the business in today’s competitive agricultural economy is based on the time-honoured practices of the company’s original founders.
Mr Main says: “The company has always maintained its family ethos. The chairman, Michael Peacock, is the third generation of the family to have run the business, and he is still as passionate today as he was when he started.
“There are several significant reasons why P&B has remained successful, however one of the most important ingredients has been the company’s hands-on approach to customer care. Another factor is we run all five of our depots as a single unit, so we are effectively managing all five in the same way we would run just one.
“The key is to keep close to the day-to-day activities in each depot. Furthermore, it is essential to give employees access to management at all times.
“My philosophy is to give everyone in the company the support they need to feel they are a part of P&B. I want the managers in each department to feel as if they are working for their own company. I am very passionate about that.”
The directors at P&B are making a big deal about the company’s 125th anniversary. Having been a Massey Ferguson dealer since the manufacturer’s inception, as part of this year’s celebrations, P&B has designed a custom package which will be installed on every MF tractor sold during 2019.
The 125-year package includes bespoke black-vinyl graphics applied to the tractor’s bonnet, a 125 year commemorative emblem in the cab, and a custom cab floor mat embossed with the 125-year P&B emblem.
Each tractor also comes with a numbered glass paperweight, engraved with the image of the tractor and the company emblem.
To mark the occasion, the company will offer 125 MF tractors with this package, and the orders are already coming in fast. The package is free and the graphics are designed to last 10 years, so the vinyl is not going to peel off the first time you take the tractor into the sun.
In the red and grey brigade, P&B’s volume sellers are the MF 7726 and 7718 models, an increasing number of which are ordered with MF’s DynaVT continuously variable transmission. However there is more to P&B than just selling MF tractors, as Graham Main reveals.
“In this part of Lincolnshire, we have a 30 per cent share of the tractor market. This includes MF, Fendt and Valtra products. We have seen significant growth in the past two years, which has resulted in a 34 per cent increase in business.
“New and used combine harvester sales are an important part of our business. Last year we sold 47 new and used combines in this area, and this year we recently sold two of the new Ideal combines. Another important aspect of our business is our franchise with JCB. The sales of JCB Loadall telehandlers by P&B accounts for 67 per cent of the market share in this region.
“There have been a few changes in the dealership’s structure in recent years. Today, both MF and Fendt are now promoting themselves as full-line equipment brands. As a result, we have had to restructure our sales format to separate the brands and retain their individual identities,” says Mr Main.
“The demise of Challenger has had an effect on our business. We were European Challenger dealer of the year in 2011 and the UK dealer of the year in 2017.
“On the plus side, we have seen strong interest in the new Fendt MT models. However, up to now they have only been available in limited numbers. As the new Fendt models become increasingly available this year, we will continue the active demonstration campaign we initiated last season.
“Since many of our customers are now very much aware of the cost of ownership, the future tradein value of tractors now affects how we order them. Most 180-plus horsepower tractors we order are specified as guidance and auto-steer ready, even if the farmer does not use it.”
According to Mr Main, P&B’s ethos of providing first-class customer service is another factor which plays a significant part in the company’s success. With modern technology increasingly taking a forefront in modern tractor design, P&B today employs a sales support team whose job it is to demonstrate machines, install them, and followup with the farmers.
“The role of the sales support personnel is essentially a sales apprenticeship and a good way of introducing younger people into our dealership program,” says Mr Main.
“The follow-up process also enables us to encourage our customers to give us feedback. This way we can immediately deal with any of the customers’ questions or concerns.” P&B employs 135 people, including 22 apprentices.
"Like many dealers, encouraging new people into the dealer business has presented a challenge. To overcome this, the company recruits young people from local schools, encouraging potential apprentices to work at the dealership on Saturdays, and local schools to place them at the firm for work experience.
The company has also initiated an apprentice of the year scheme in collaboration with Agco, to encourage a competitive nature among its apprentices. As part of the programme, apprentices are sent for block sessions of training at Warwickshire College, which accounts for 12 weeks away from home in the first year of the scheme.
“We are aiming to fast-track apprentices over a period of four or five years, to positions of responsibility within the company,” adds Mr Main.
“It is important we are bringing the community into the dealership and I personally meet the parents of every apprentice who comes to P&B.”
Asked what changes he would like to see in the industry, Graham Main says he believes customers and dealers would benefit from having a national Agco programme for quality-assured tractors andequipment, allowing them to know there was a specific type or model of tractor somewhere in the country which was quality assured.
So what does the future hold for P&B? Despite the political waves being created by Brexit, Mr Main remains positive. In fact P&B has just announced it will be adding Vaderstad to the firm’s franchise portfolio at its Brigg, Corringham and Louth depots.
Mr Main says: “We will concentrate on running our business. In every recession or depression, some businesses will fail and some will succeed.
“We are going to succeed and our focus is to look for continuous improvement and achieve optimum performance from our current dealer infrastructure. This year, my goal is to increase our tractor market share to 33 per cent. This is achievable, but only with a great deal of hard work and dedication.”