Several years ago, I was combining soybeans early one afternoon and a rock about the size of my fist bounced into the header, doing a fair amount of damage. I only had about five acres of beans left to harvest, but a big snow storm was coming up fast and predicted to hit late the next day. Needless to say, I was wishing for better luck when this happened.
I called my local dealership, and they told me to drive the combine into town and they would take a look at it. This came as everyone was trying to finish their soybean harvest. Every farmer in my neighborhood was feeling the same pressure to finish before the weather turned hostile. My old combine had seen better days, but it was paid for and it was all I had at the time.
After I drove the combine into town, I caught a ride home with one of the salesman at the dealership. I figured it would take a day or two for them to work on my machine, so I worked at other jobs around the farm through the afternoon. I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be one of the lucky ones to finish on soybeans before the snow struck.
Three hours later, the mechanic drove onto my farm. “Hop in,” he said. “Let’s go get your combine.” It was fixed and ready to go. He had driven to Yankton, about 20 minutes from Crofton, to get parts that were needed. He fixed the damage immediately and had driven out to the farm to pick me up.
Shocked, I hopped in, drove my combine home, and finished on soybeans late that evening. I couldn’t thank the mechanics who worked on my combine enough. They had gone above and beyond the call of duty so I could finish.
I have to say that my “experienced” machinery has kept the mechanics there busy over the years. I am certainly what they might call a loyal customer. But still, I was pretty impressed with their effort on my behalf.
That’s the kind of service we get in our hometown. People truly care about each other and work hard to serve each other in that way. Sure, they get paid for their efforts. Still, when you know the folks where you conduct business, there is a trust and kinship that develops over time. Sometimes that contributes in a big way to your bottom line.
Many farmers will argue that you should always bid out your inputs for the best price. You should take the personal side out of farming and go with the service business that can be the low bidder. Yet, in my book, service is everything. If I had called a dealership in another town, they may have been able to fix my combine, and maybe even done it cheaper, but they would never have worked so hard to finish it quickly and then help me get back in the field too.
Farming is a business. This is true. But, we can’t overlook the business people in our own hometown when we look to do business. Prices aren’t everything. Service counts for a lot in my mind.
Being penny wise and pound foolish doesn’t cut it on the farm. We have to look at the big picture. I will always give my grocery business to my hometown store, not just because my cousin owns it, but because I know that he will work hard to help me out when we need sandwiches for a family gathering at the last minute. I could purchase fuel in another community, but I know that when my minivan dies the day before our family is supposed to visit my in-laws, the local mechanic will work us into his schedule for repairs because we are loyal customers.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called our grain elevator, feed man or implement dealership after hours, and received wonderful service with a smile. Like I said, there is value in caring for each other, and in my hometown like so many others, local business folks usually go out of their way for the folks they know.
Dollars and cents mean a lot, but service means everything.
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