IT’S a succession plan in progress for Northcliffe cattle producer turned machinery dealer John Della Gola.
Having one son, Matthew, in charge of the cattle feedlot business at Northcliffe and Tonebridge properties, John is now focused on his younger son Joseph as a budding machinery dealer.
Four years ago he and son Joseph started Southern Forest Machinery in Manjimup as an AGCO dealer, with John in sales and Joseph in parts and service.
It was supposed to be a temporary move by John, as he wound down as one of WA’s biggest domestic cattle producers – at one stage the family enterprise carried 7000 head in two feedlots and grazing on between 10 and 15 farms at any one time.
“I only came to this dealership for a few months but I haven’t left,” John said.
“My biggest joy is talking with our customers and the staff we’ve got.
“It’s a great life and I can relate with the products we sell because we’ve got most of them on our farms.
“It’s a business we know and I also know how to fix things, which comes in handy when you’re talking about problems, for example, in the hay season.
“It’s still very personal for me to deliver products to customers, whether it’s a new machine or parts.”
With a staff of eight, including two mechanics, an apprentice and a motor cycle technician, John recently took on the HARDI franchise to expand his product line-up to cater for the small and medium broadacre and horticultural industries.
“We are a full-line dealer for HARDI but I think the most popular spraying models will be three-point linkage with tank capacities up to 3000 litres and boom widths between 15 and 18 metres, he said.
“Plus we’ve got the full range of HARDI misters which are renowned for their effectiveness and reliability.
“There are a lot of HARDI products in the area so we naturally carry a wide range of parts and if we haven’t got it, it’s an overnight delivery from Adelaide.”
On the AGCO side, there’s the popular Massey Ferguson tractor range, along with Fendt and Iseki, to cover the spectrum of horsepower requirements, which mainly focus on three-point linkage gear.
“We also handle Lely tillage, hay gear and balers,” John said.
“With a family heritage steeped in a tradition of respect for others, Southern Forest Machinery quickly earned a reputation for its customer service and within its first year of operation, was named Australian AGCO dealer of the Year.
That didn’t go unnoticed by precision guidance manufacturer Topcon, which four years ago, appointed the Manjimup dealership as Topcon dealers from Dandaragan to Albany.
“Joseph does that side of the business,” John said.
“We get customers from all parts of the industry including the spud and avocado growers, who are using RTK guidance for that two centimetre (sub-inch) accuracy, which gives them more rows and more tonnage.”
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, Southern Forest Machinery also was awarded top Topcon dealer for technical support and sales in 2016 and 2017.
Manjimup also is motor bike country with the Manjimup Motorcycle Club hosting WA motocross titles at its Cosy Creek circuit and Southern Forest Machinery, is one of the sponsors.
The dealership sells Sherco endurance bikes, which featured recently in the Hattah Desert Race, in Victoria.
They also sell CF Moto ATVs and UTVs.
Also on the sponsor list is the annual Manjimup State Ploughing Match which attracts vintage machinery aficionados competing in mouldboard ploughing.
“Down the track” John has his eye on being a competitor, employing a Massey Ferguson “Grey Fergie”.
“I’ve got two of them and one’s a goer and the other is for parts,” he said.
“Time is a killer for me at the moment but down the track I’d like to have a go.”
For now, his annual break from business is a trip to his father’s house in Valtellina, northern Italy.
“We go there from mid-July to mid-September,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful house that is 1200-years-old and we’ve done a bit of renovating to restore it to its former glory,” John said.
Enjoying the quiet life, munching on bread rolls, salami and cheese and enjoying the vista could certainly assist in hurrying up his succession plans.