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NDTO Member Profile: RDO Equipment Co.

RDO Equipment Co.’s Olga Hall always knew she would work in international business. She grew up in Siberia, Russia during the Soviet regime, with two industrious parents who taught her about persistence and perseverance. Those traits have come in handy during her nearly 20-year career that has taken her around the world, supplying customers with the agricultural equipment they need. As Director of International Sales at RDO Equipment Co., she leads the company’s export division and works closely with RDO Equipment Co.’s international partners.

Hall first came to the U.S. from Irkutsk, Russia on a Rotary Club scholarship to attend Texas Tech University, where she received her master’s in international business. Afterwards she went to work for John Deere for four years until moving to her husband’s home state of North Dakota. She continued working in the agricultural equipment industry and returned to the John Deere brand when she started with RDO Equipment Co. in January 2015.

RDO Equipment Co. has come a long way since its founder, Ronald D. Offutt, was farming potatoes outside of Moorhead and searching for opportunity beyond the farm. In 1968, after scrounging together enough financing, he bought the John Deere agricultural equipment dealership in Casselton, ND. The store was a success and Offutt began buying additional John Deere dealerships, building up his network to include construction equipment, heavy duty trucks and additional brands such as Vermeer, Topcon and Hitachi. RDO Equipment Co. now has more than 75 dealerships in 10 states along with partnerships in Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and Australia.

The company recently added to its growing reach with the launch of RDO Equipment Africa, located in Kabwe, Zambia. The store sells used John Deere agricultural and construction equipment as well as several other brands. Its location is poised to meet the area’s need for affordable, used machinery and after-sales support. A food shortage has prompted more Zambians to begin farming on the large amounts of available land. However, mechanization has not always been feasible for local farmers.

“We hope to change this by making an impact on the area’s economy – providing jobs in the store and increased opportunities in agriculture,” said Hall.

Hall’s vast experience in international markets has earned her a reputation as a skilled exporter. When asked to share her advice for new exporters, she offered some very helpful guidance and lessons she’s learned over the years.

For the beginning exporter, Hall says that it’s important to differentiate between domestic and international business. Exporting is different in that arriving at a mutually acceptable price is only about 50% of the deal. The other 50% is logistics and transportation, which can make or break a deal.

“There’s a lot of good salespeople who are adept at wheeling and dealing but don’t have the attention to detail that it takes to get the transportation and logistics nailed down,” said Hall. “And that can cost you a deal and/or a customer.”

She says that by the time they’ve made a purchase decision, many customers are hard-pressed for time and missing key shipping deadlines can mean missing a season for the customer, which is unacceptable to them. Paying close attention to detail when shipping out product is critical.

“Sloppy paperwork can hang-up a container for over a week at a port, costing both time and money for you and your customer.”

Hall added, “Anything you can do to keep these costs in-line and ensure timely delivery only enhances your chances of making the sale and possible repeat business.”

She also advises exporters to accurately document the condition of their product. “There should be no surprises when the container is unloaded at the final destination.”

She cautions new exporters not to ship out items until they’re paid for or have a valid, completed letter of credit.

Also, “if a deal sounds too good to be true, it is,” said Hall.

When asked about working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Hall says her career experiences have shown her that gender in international business makes very little difference. Adding value to the customer’s transaction is the important thing.

“People may be initially surprised that they are dealing with a woman, but they quickly forget that part once you establish that you are serious, dependable, and committed to taking care of their needs.”

No doubt the persistent, persevering work ethic has helped, as well.

For more information on RDO Equipment Co., please visit https://www.rdoequipment.com/.

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Cozen O\'Connor