13 Sep UND business alum Jim Vasichek leads one of the country’s top John Deere dealerships
If there’s a person who embodies what it is to be a North Dakotan, Jim Vasichek might be the one. That’s because Vasichek’s success at the helm of one of the country’s best John Deere dealerships has not affected his modesty, friendliness or dedication to his community, traits North Dakotans admire.
For example, Vasichek is easy to chat with and quick to smile. But he seldom talks about his own accomplishments – and not because they’re scarce. The Michigan, N.D., native shifts the spotlight at those around him.
How does he explain the success of Leading Edge Equipment, a four-shop operation that sells John Deere farm machinery and parts?
By pointing to the people who staff the business that three generations of Vasicheks have owned. “It’s the continuity of our staff,” Vasichek said. “We have so many people who’ve been here for 20 to 40-plus years. And that’s how you get loyalty, because our customer base doesn’t change at a rapid rate. We feel that there’s a lot of value in having a crew that doesn’t change faces frequently, either.”
So, how does he keep the same people who have worked for his father and, before that, even for his grandfather, who with a cousin started the company in 1963?
Vasichek, who earned a business degree from the University of North Dakota in 2005, said he does his best to to relate to his employees personally. After all, he is a business owner in a rural setting, where life and work interweave, where small-town residents know each other well and where life moves at a John Deere tractor pace.
A knack for business
Vasichek’s routine, for instance, includes chauffeuring his three kids – 6-year old Lauren and the 4-year old twins, James and Claire – to daycare in Lakota, N.D., where the family lives. Lakota also is where Vasichek sits on the City Council and his wife, Amie, serves as city auditor.
Then, most days, Vasichek is off to Devils Lake, N.D., a 30-minute drive west, where Leading Edge has a large outpost. There, although he is involved in many functions – from administrative tasks to logistics for equipment repairs – Vasichek gravitates toward the sales department. He has a knack for it, one he has cultivated for years.
He started out in the family business mowing grass and later transitioned to work on combines and headers in high school. Vasichek went on to graduate from UND, then became an ag loan officer in Grafton, N.D. – following his father’s advice to gain diverse experiences.
In 2006, Vasichek returned to sell parts and handle equipment financing. A decade later, he bought the company from his father.
“I think it’s just been our culture – my dad was also very sales oriented as well,” he said. “The satisfaction you get from helping customers, some of the satisfaction you get from the creativity of finding prospects, finding a deal, the competitiveness of it – I enjoy that.”
His secret to great salesmanship is a lesson he learned long ago: grasp customers’ perspectives. And Vasicek has many clients in what is one of the most bountiful farming regions in the country.
With stores in the North Dakota communities of Michigan, Devils Lake, Hampden and Carrington, Leading Edge caters to farmers – who grow wheat, barley, corn, soybeans and canola, among other crops – in a 10-county area, stretching from the Red River to Bismarck.
In recent years, as precision agriculture has grown, Vasichek has focused on helping clients – many of whom have relied on Leading Edge for generations – unleash the technological potential of the latest farm equipment.
A focus on community
Technology is also what keeps Vasichek moored to the many duties he has as a business owner, father, husband and elected official. It helps him link the many facets of his life. And, there is a lot to connect.
As a Lakota City Council member, for example, Vasichek helped support extensive road enhancement projects, the construction of a new water tower and the establishment of a daycare center. But he doesn’t claim those successes (remarkable for a town of about 700 people) as his own; when asked, he says it’s the community that accomplished them.
“It’s really been an excellent learning experience, just to see how people can come together for some of those projects,” he said. “It’s been fun to see how a small town can really accomplish some big things.”
Leading Edge espouses the same mantra. The business has teamed up with Devils Lake’s community-based career education center to offer employment for students who struggle in the conventional work environment. The partnership has even delivered a full-time employee to Vasichek’s staff.
“We’ve really found that to be a good opportunity, both for the student and for us as a dealership,” Vasichek said.
Reasons for pride
There are, of course, a few things in which North Dakota born-and-raised Vasichek openly takes pride. His relationship with his father, who oversees finances at Leading Edge, is one.
“Over the years, we worked together and we still work together, just in different roles,” Vasichek said. “I’m proud of the positive experience we both had working with each other.”
His family is another. “I really need to credit my wife Amie as being the greatest partner I could have in marriage, parenting and business,” said Vasichek.
And with three young kids, the Vasicheks try to foster traditions to last for decades – including Saturday trips to Grand Forks for UND football.
Yet another reason for gratification is the success of a family business that has become a community staple and a John Deere standout. Attesting to the latter is Leading Edge’s position among the top 10 percent of John Deere dealers in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
“So, I would say what I’m proudest of is the relationships both with my family and with employees and customers,” Vasichek said.