Important Business words from one the best
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 at the time creating a tyre business that was expanding fast in the mid 1960’s.
They wanted to expand quickly to go public and were looking for companies that they could buy to increase the size of their business. ‘Albany Tyres’.
They came across a business in Scotland run by a young entrepreneur Tom Farmer who had 5 branches based in Edinburgh 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 talking in a strong Scottish accent.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 and maintenance business that 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 and European business. He sold out in the late 90’s and then purchased it back again a few years later 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 Sir Tom 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 I could afford at this stage. What to do?
After some digging around, I found a company address and wrote to him.I didn’t expect a reply at all.
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.
I did and this what he said.
‘Business is all about people, always. Happy staff, happy customers’
‘Business is about speed of service today more than ever’
‘Keep your suppliers happy and life will be much easier’.
‘Be Number one at customer service. Make sure you deal with customer queries quickly and over deliver in this area. Always and for evermore’.
‘Love what you do.You need passion to become a successful business’. If you are not enjoying it, then keep looking for your passion until you find it’.
‘If you as a business owner are not a people person, then hire someone who is! Fast’…
‘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.