Leaving the security of a career as a store manager for a farm equipment dealership to run a YouTube channel and blog doesn’t sound like a choice many people would make but it’s one Mike Wiles has found to be successful.
His “Tractor Mike” YouTube channel is expected to reach 50,000 subscribers early next year.
Wiles, who grew up on a farm in Marionville, Missouri, attended what is now Missouri State University where he tailored an agricultural communications degree before anyone really knew what that was — with a major in electronic media communications and a minor in agriculture.
“My first job out of college was working for KTTS back before the internet,” Wiles said, explaining he did market reports and analyzed information for farmers in the area. He later began working part time in sales, took advertising accounts no one else wanted and cultivated those accounts. When he discovered AGCO, one of his advertising clients, was looking for a territory manager, he decided to shift gears.
“I thought it would be interesting to try,” Wiles said. He spent 10 years working for AGCO before switching gears once again into an 11-year career as a store manager for S&H Farm Supply.
During his time at S&H, the importance of the compact tractor buyer became apparent to him.
“For pretty much my entire career, I have been chasing the compact tractor buyer,” Wiles said. “When I was at KTTS, a lot of the advertisers wanted to reach the compact tractor buyer.”
Though many think of farm equipment dealerships as catering to farmers, the compact tractor buyer is a growing demographic in the farm machinery world, he pointed out.
“The compact tractor buyer could be anybody — a doctor, lawyer or truck driver,” Wiles explained. “The only common denominator is they own land in the country and they need training.”
When their lawn mower gives out as they’re trying to manage their small acreages, they often start looking for a compact tractor but don’t know anything about them, he continued.
While answering questions when he was working for S&H, Wiles said, “I realized with a compact tractor buyer that we have to begin educating them from the start. I thought it’d be a great idea if there was a place on the internet for people to get that education but it wasn’t there.”
The next week, he went to YouTube to find instructions to patch an asphalt driveway and found a video showing exactly how to do it.
“The lightbulb came on,” Wiles said. “I need to do a YouTube channel.”
This spurred the creation of “Tractor Mike.”
“In the first week, I had a 100-and-something views,” he said. “A month later, there were 7,000 views. I thought it was crazy. I was just showing how to hook up a three-point implement.”
After seeing the potential for future videos and the success of his first video, Wiles decided to continue with it.
The majority of his YouTube videos are geared toward “weekend farmers,” he admitted. Those individuals often have no idea what to look for when shopping for farm equipment and need a bit of guidance to find the right tractor or implement as well as to operate them safely.
He often receives questions about how steep of a slope tractors can be safely operated on and questions about the different brands of tractors.
In addition to the videos and blog posts, people send Wiles specific questions about their tractors and equipment, adding a service portion to the YouTube channel. He’s assisted by many southwest Missouri farm machinery experts including Steve Bishop, the former owner of Crossroads Tractor in Golden City and now with S&H Farm Supply, Ron Galbraith, co-owner of Marshfield Machinery, Steve Dopp with Murphy Tractor, Chris Justis, owner of 417 Mobile Repair, Brad Toellner, Kubota field service representative, Hoot Hunget with S&H Farm Supply, and Sam Kahre with S&H Farm Supply.
“One of the fun things about a YouTube channel is you get to help people,” Wiles said. “I do a lot of safety videos, and I have to think the channel has saved a few of them from injury or death. There is a tremendous opportunity to educate these folks that you can die not knowing how to operate a 30-horse tractor.”
Looking forward, Wiles said he believes the “weekend farmer” is getting smarter and more educated when it comes to equipment.
“I think YouTube has played a big role,” he said. “These folks aren’t dumb — they just didn’t grow up on a farm and don’t have the background… All of us on YouTube are trying to push that bar higher because the more they know, the more they can do.”
He also sees a need for dealers to provide training to their customers.
Overall, Wiles recommends people focus on finding a good equipment dealer over making a choice based on a manufacturer or brand.
“I recommend you find a dealer you can trust,” Wiles said. “The dealer is the most important part of the equation.
“They’re going to administer the warranty,” he added. “Take them donuts this year for a ‘Dealer Valentine’s Day.’ A dealer can make or break you, and I want to be on the good side of the dealer.”