As always, I learn something new every day about business and life and just before Xmas I had a chat with the ‘well known’ business man, Sir Tom Farmer of ‘kwik-Fit’ fame.
Why would he talk to me you say!
Well, the story goes back a long way.
My father Andrew Knight and his business partner Alec Stenson were creating a tyre business that was expanding fast in the mid 1960’s.
They wanted to expand quickly and go public and were looking for companies that they could buy to increase the size of their business ‘Albany Tyres’ as quick as possible. They were cash rich as a business.
They came across a business in Scotland run by a young entrepreneur who had 5 branches based in Edinburgh area and they approached him with a view to buying him out. Cut a long story short they succeeded and he joined them in 1968.
I can still see Sir Tom Farmer standing in our lounge at my parent’s bar. Me thinking ‘he looks young’ compared to the others. He was only 28!
He seemed like a fish out of water but he definitely had a steely look in his eyes. They were having a pre-board meeting and I at 9 years old was flat out writing notes up on the meeting. Wish I still had those notes!
The company ‘Albany Tyres’ went from strength to strength and took over ‘Brown brothers’ Motor Factors and then they eventually sold out to the ‘Dana Corporation’ for a lot of money in 1970/71.
Sir Tom Farmer retired at 30 years of age and went to California to live. It didn’t last very long and he returned to Scotland in 1971 and decided to start in the Automotive repair business as had been happening in the USA.
He teamed up with my father’s ex business partner Alec Stenson and came up with the name of ‘Kwik Fit’ for their 1st depot.
My father had retired at 48 years old and did not want a part of it.
He went to live in the south of France. (looking back a big mistake-more of that another time)
The rest is history and Sir Tom and Kwik-Fit went on to become a Multi- National business. He sold out and then purchased the business back in the late 90’s again after Ford messed it up.
With my 1st business workshop looming at the end of January 2019, I decided to write to Tom Farmer and tell him what I was doing and see if he could give me any thoughts on what he would say to a potential selective audience. I had seen some of his talks on ‘You Tube’ at Edinburgh University in 2011. He talked about my father and said that my father and Alec were the finest mentors in his lifetime. I was shocked as I had never heard this speech from STF before and didn’t realise he held my father in such high esteem.
So, worth a try I thought in trying to contact him.
I contacted a company that use him for public speaking and asked if they could tell him who I was and if he would come and be the star of our evening later this year. They said they wanted £7000 for his appearance and they would ask him. They came back to me and said no luck and that was the price. Mmmm, slightly higher than we could afford at this stage. What to do?
After some digging around, I found a company head office address and wrote to him.
I didn’t expect any sort of reply at all but at least I had made an effort.
The next day the phone rang, I was on a webinar. Private number, do I answer it?
Ok, I’ll answer. ‘Hello, is that Andrew? (Deep Scottish accent)
‘It’s Tom’. The penny dropped quickly..
I can answer all your questions Andrew, call me back when you have a list. Here is my tel number.
I did call Sir Tom back and this is what he said:
1/ ‘Business is all about people, always. Happy staff, happy customers’
2/ ‘Business is about speed of service today more than ever’
3/ ‘Keep your suppliers happy and life is much easier. You will be amazed what you can get from them when you need it’.
4/ ‘Be Number one at customer service. Make sure you deal with customer queries quickly and over deliver in this area. Always and for evermore’.
5/ ‘Love what you do. It is a passion that becomes a successful business.‘If you are not enjoying it, then keep looking for your passion until you find it’.
6/ ‘If you as a business owner are not a people person, then hire someone who is! Fast’…
7/ ‘Get a good team together and look after them. This is the key to success’.
There are you go, the words of Sir Tom just before Christmas.