Bismarck farm equipment salesman to retire
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Since Pete Deichert could push a broom, he has worked in his family’s tractor implement company. June 1 marked his 50th year in the business and he still loves dealing with farmers.
“I’m the first in in the morning and the last to leave at night,” Deichert said.
On June 1, 1964, Deichert started working at what was then Twin City Implement as a summer job during college. That same day in 1970 he started managing it and in November 2007 he stayed on as a salesman after selling the business to Titan Machinery.
Deichert’s father Pete Deichert Sr. started the business as a combination car and implement dealership in Flasher. Years later he expanded it to Mandan.
“Mom was upset when he bought it (the Mandan location) because he already had a six-day-a-week job,” Deichert said.
Deichert said his father believed, at a distance of 40 miles, Flasher was too close to Bismarck-Mandan to succeed. People came into the two cities to do their shopping. He said 10 to 15 years later, the march of people out of North Dakota’s small towns began. The Flasher store closed in 1986.
Deichert said his father came upon the Mandan business almost by accident. The previous owners were dissolving it and auctioning off tools when they convinced him to buy it.
“He was running around buying back what other people had bought and hiring those employees that had stuck around to help with the sale,” Deichert said.
With an economics and business degree, Deichert said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father sat him down one day and told him what he enjoyed and disliked about the business: “I said, ‘Well Dad I already know all that.'”
Deichert said his father then asked him to manage the Mandan store.
“I told him I don’t know if it’s what I want to do but I’ll give it a whirl,” Deichert said.
Deichert said his dad taught him a strong work ethic and how to deal with people.
“Customers would come in and say ‘You’re still here. We bought a lot from your dad,'” Deichert said.
Deichert said farmers often came in to buy a $5 part for their machine from his father and often left with a brand new one.
At 25, as the oldest of seven children, Deichert took the lessons he learned and started as manager. And he hasn’t left yet: “because I’m still having fun.”
When Deichert sold the businesses, his brothers who had worked there left. He said Titan Machinery asked him to stay on as manager, but he wanted to go into sales so he could spend more time with his customers and go out to farms.
Come September, Deichert plans to retire.
“I think it is time to move on,” he said.
Deichert said the most rewarding part of his 50-year career has been helping farmers solve problems and get the equipment they needed to better their operations. In that time he has seen the ups and downs of the business.
Lawrence Hoff has known Deichert since he worked for Deichert’s father in Flasher for 10 years. After that, he started farming and has bought his equipment from Deichert ever since. The two and their families sometimes take trips together and meet for supper.
“We’ve bought a lot of equipment from him,” said Lawrence Hoff’s son Todd Hoff. “He’s always treated us right.”
“Pete has always been the guy I go to,” said Maynard Rathjen who farms with his brothers near Hazen.
Rathjen said he has gotten to know Deichert well over the years and even refers to him as “Uncle Pete.”
“The farmers in western North Dakota are as honest and down to earth as any one you meet,” Deichert said. “It’s not that way everywhere in the country.”
That is why Deichert said he always tries to get people the best deal and is honest with them when he knows it’s not the right time for them to buy.
“If they’re not going to make it, your business isn’t either,” he said.
In the hard times, Deichert said, the difficult part was knowing how much inventory to keep on hand.
“A crystal ball would help,” he said.
His father’s well-chosen Mandan location helped. Deichert said he has always had the benefit of diversity being near the two largest beef and dairy counties and having good-sized grain farms in the area. There also were lawn tractor sales for those living in town.
“There are not many products in ag you can’t sell here,” he said. “You can generate sales one way or another.”
During one hard year in 1974, Deichert said he had the good fortune to connect with another dealer in Australia. He met them at the airport and took them out to some customers’ farms who were combining wheat.
Deichert said, at the time, Australia had a similar agricultural landscape to North Dakota, planting wheat, barley and oats. Farmers there needed tractors at a time when upper U.S. farmers didn’t.
Deichert gathered 12 tractors from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Later they needed slightly used combines. That put Deichert into the agricultural equipment exporting business “before it was cool,” he said.
“We helped them out and it was a stroke of business,” he said. “You can’t beat a deal like that.”
In addition to helping people through his business, Deichert said his father raised him to give back to the community.
His father was mayor of Flasher and a city commissioner, bringing paved roads and water to the community.
Deichert followed in his father’s footsteps, seeing the Mandan Chamber of Commerce through its merger with Bismarck’s chamber. He joined the Mandan Rodeo Committee when the event was floundering and helped get it rolling again. He also was the youngest president of the North Dakota Implement Dealers Association.
“You learn more than you give in those situations anyway,” he said.
Once retired, Deichert said he plans to spend more time volunteering.
“I have no hobbies; this has been my hobby,” he said. “I’m going to have to do something where I’m out amongst people.”