By Laura Wooten, Wooten Communications
The recent Business Toolbox Seminar on Implementing Your Business Plan held June 5 was chock full of information. Greg Farmer, a panelist in the session and owner of Farmer Business Systems and I chatted afterwards about how he started his business, where he learned about sales and how his experience in the Marines impacted his success.
LW: How did you get started in business machines?
Greg Farmer: In 1989, I got out of the Marines and moved in with my parents while I was figuring out what to do next. A retired neighbor a couple of doors down had an old Xerox 1048 he was going to throw away. I rolled the 500-pound machine down the street and started tinkering with it in my parents’ garage. I didn’t really have an agenda. I took the panels off it, messed around, and it ended up making beautiful copies. I knew it was worth something, so I ran an ad in the newspaper and sold it for $100. That was pure profit. From there, I started working with other machines, all Xerox, and my business began.
LW: How did you learn about sales?
Greg Farmer: My dad, Joe Farmer, who died this year, was the best salesman I ever met. My dad owned his own business his entire life. I got a lot of it from him. When I was a young kid, he ran cold call phone rooms out of the home selling tape for computers, printer ribbons for type writers and a variety of other products. I would come home from school and all these ladies with headsets on were calling on clients from our living room. I grew up in that environment and it rubbed off on me. He taught me some good ethical ways to make sales, taught me how to capture profit rather than keeping it going out the back door. I am still learning newer techniques that are more relevant, but I never forget what my dad taught me.
LW: How has the business grown?
Greg Farmer: When I started I worked by myself and stayed by myself for 5 years. Then my father got involved and set up a shop in San Antonio and we networked together. Leaned on each other. I then started adding technicians and saw that I could replicate myself and make more money.
LW: Why did you become a Xerox authorized dealer?
Greg Farmer: Becoming an authorized dealer was a big step for me. There were a lot of requirements—money, office space, employees and minimal sales goals. Eventually, I decided the rewards outweighed the risks because as an authorized dealer, I had the ability to sell new equipment rather than just used, to get better pricing on parts, etc.
LW: What do you credit your growth to?
Greg Farmer: We are a service-oriented business first. We just happen to sell copiers. If you can service someone and show them you are reliable, they are going to buy things from you.
LW: You were in the Marines. What skills from serving in the military do you apply to business?
Greg Farmer: Never give up/never surrender. Push forward even when the answer seems like a no. Start early, be healthy, eat well, sleep well, and exercise. Good, healthy stuff.
LW: Why did you join the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce?
Greg Farmer: I joined about 6 months ago. I had tried the Metrocrest Chamber for a couple years and liked being part of a group that was not just all copiers because I had done that with Xerox. I wanted more than a small networking group.
LW: Do you have any words of wisdom to share for other small business owners?
Greg Farmer: I would say, don’t focus on the sale. Become a problem solver. Focus on helping the customer with their challenges at a lower level than you might want to. The sale will follow when the trust is built. Focus on the customer’s challenges and get to know the customer, rather than starting telling them you can save them money when you don’t know how much they spend. That is insulting. Get to know your customer before you are in full-on sales mode.
Laura Wooten is a marketing consultant and helping businesses discover and implement strategies to grow.