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In the 10-year anniversary of AgProfessional's salary survey, this year's respondents indicated that salaries for applicators and general managers increased. However, salaries for agronomists and agronomy department managers were down compared to salaries reported last year.

AgProfessional initiated the survey 10 years ago to provide ag retail management a basis for comparing their operation's employee compensation to similar operations.

Although the core of the survey hasn't changed, a few notable changes to this year's survey included dividing the manager salaries into two categories. Instead of requesting information for just the dealership manager, we split the category into general managers and agronomy department managers in order to get more accurate data.

The 2009 salary survey examined salary information, education and benefits for applicators, agronomists, general managers and agronomy department managers.

Responses came from an online survey of AgProfessional readers, and as in the past, completed surveys are random without any connection between companies completing surveys from one year to the next.

The average salary for the general manager was the largest increase of all salaries this year. In 2009, general managers' salaries averaged $77,711 compared with $72,156 in 2008, which represents an increase of 7.7 percent. Average salaries for applicators also showed a slight increase from $38,382 in 2008 to $39,045 this year, which is about a 1.8 percent increase.

Average salaries for agronomists and agronomy department managers, on the other hand, from this year's respondents were down compared to 2008. Average agronomist salaries this year were $50,482 compared with $52,193 in 2008, which is a decrease of 3.3 percent.

Average salaries for agronomy department managers showed a significant shift lower in 2009 at $51,130 compared with $72,156 last year, which is a 41 percent drop. The likely reason for the major difference is the splitting of the manager salaries between general manager and agronomy department manager.

One figure that was up for all respondents was the amount of bonus they received in 2008. For applicators, the average bonus was $6,103, for agronomists it was $9,479, for general managers it was $15,388 and for agronomy department managers it was $15,523.

For details on how bonuses are determined, see the chart How Bonuses are Determined. Sign-on bonuses seem to be decreasing each year of the survey. General managers indicated that only 2.6 percent of them were offered a sign-on bonus while 4 percent of agronomy department managers were offered the sign-on bonus.

Average hours at work for applicators and general managers also increased in 2009, but insignificantly by an hour or less. Average agronomist hours are exactly the same as last year at 52.4 hours per week. Agronomy department managers' hours dropped slightly from 54.7 hours per week in 2008 to 53.5 hours per week in 2009.

There were extreme differences in the percent of respondents who are CCA certified between 2008 and 2009's responses. Seventeen percent of 2009 applicators are listed as CCA certified compared with 72 percent last year. Eight percent of agronomists are CCA certified in 2009 compared with 83 percent last year; this again points out the variety of respondents from one year to the next. General managers' CCA certifications went from 49 percent in 2008 to 38 percent this year. The emphasis on agronomy managers being CCA certified showed up as 62 percent this year compared with 49 percent in 2008.

This year all three dealerships that reported the highest overall sales for their business are from the Midwest. For true anonymity, the ag retailers' state locations are not being revealed.

The operation with the highest sales in this year's survey was $250 million. This business services 250,000 acres.

The highest paid applicator at this location earns $50,000. If we assume that the highest paid applicator at this dealership also has the most experience, that applicator has 20 years of experience.

The top agronomist at this operation earns $55,000, and if we assume the top paid agronomist has the most experience, that agronomist has 20 years.

In terms of education, the top applicator has some college education and the top agronomist has a bachelor's degree.
This operation did not indicate general manager or agronomy department manager information.

The second operation with the highest sales, does $226 million in total sales. This business serves 510,000 acres. The top applicator at this location earns $46,000, has a high school education and has been with the company for 20 plus years. The top agronomist earns $57,000, has a master's degree and has around 40 years of experience.

The third highest sales by a retail operation that completed the survey, came in at $120 million. This company serves 375,000 acres. The highest paid applicator earns $42,000, has a bachelor's degree and about 40 years of experience. The top agronomist earns $60,000, has a master's degree, but their level of experience was not indicated on the survey.

In addition to gathering data on the general manager and agronomy department managers, we also asked about assistant managers. Fifty-five percent of respondents indicated they have an assistant manager for general operations, which is up from last year's 46 percent. The average number of assistant managers per operation was two. Respondents indicated that experience ranges from less than one year up to 31 years. The average experience of the assistant managers is 14 years, and the percentage of assistant managers who are CCA certified is 43 percent.

Assistant managers for the agronomy department also average two per operation. Forty-seven percent of these assistant managers were CCA certified and their experience ranged from less than one year up to 35 years. Their average amount of experience was 9 years.

In 2009, we again asked respondents to indicate what hiring qualities they look for in potential candidates. In all but one job category this year, respondents indicated that potential was the number one quality managers say they look for in candidates. For applicators, 57 percent selected potential, for agronomists 63 percent selected potential and 56 percent of agronomy department managers picked potential. The lone difference was in the general managers who were divided between experience at 51 percent and potential at 49 percent.

Education was consistently the lowest hiring quality managers assessed.

It appears that this year's survey respondents are quite optimistic in the people they hire, choosing potential over experience and education. In nearly all cases, experience was only slightly behind potential, but both beat out education by a very wide margin.

This suggests that the industry sees the value in evaluating a possible candidate's personality and attitude when assessing their potential.

Retailers have decided that simply knowing how to work equipment isn't the only valuable characteristic. How they approach working with others and customers also appears to be leading the pack in terms of assessing a candidate's fit within the company.