The first day I showed up to work at LSB I was given a copy of a book called The Fred Factor and it was explained to me that all employees of the bank were to read “Fred” that quarter. To give you an idea how much I like to read, I can tell you I hadn’t read a book for pleasure since graduating from college. I was certainly glad I was assigned the task of reading the book though, as it was one I ended up enjoying very much. I’ve particularly been captivated by the use of The Fred Factor at LSB and most recently by the book’s author’s speech at our annual meeting. As Mark Sanborn the author of the book spoke at our annual meeting, I couldn’t help as my mind wandered to a real life Fred I know. I’m sure he has never read the book, but he epitomizes Fred is every sense, and it’s been fun to watch as that spirit has helped lead him towards success.
I met this fellow Iowan several years ago at the Circle of Gold Pig Sale in Oklahoma where we had both consigned hogs. Andy was penned directly down the aisle from me. He walked up to my pens, looked over the hogs, and made a little small talk with me about their pedigrees. I figured he was simply checking out the competition and didn’t think much of it. I had an absolutely horrible sale that weekend. I’d hauled 4 pigs to the sale, only 2 made the sale, and only 1 sold. At the end of the sale, I backed the truck up to the corner of the barn to load my tack and 3 no sales. My wife had come along for the trip and was helping with this process. I’d no more than gotten backed up to the barn when Andy stepped in and told my wife she could relax, he would help me out. Andy made quick work of the loading process, and we were on our way back to Iowa.
To this day, I don’t think Andy knows how important his gesture was to me. I would hardly have considered him an acquaintance at the time, and he certainly didn’t owe me any favors. The fact that he jumped right in and helped me out spoke volumes about what type of person I was dealing with. The small little gesture is probably a big reason why I made my way to his place the following spring to find a barrow for a family I’ve placed pigs with over the years. That small gesture that required so little effort on his part is what kicked off the start of a great friendship.
Over the last couple years Andy and I have spent hours together in the pickup traveling the country to hog shows and touring boar studs. We talk about a lot of topics on our travels, but probably the most common thing we discuss is developing our businesses. Although Andy and I both raise showpigs, our models are very different. Given we have our differences; we share a common idea that customer service is of the utmost importance. We probably spend as much time talking about customer service and adding value for our customers as any other topic. We sell pigs to folks, but rarely does the relationship end the day of the sale. We answer questions for months following the sale on daily care, health issues, nutrition, showmanship, and any other issue that may arise. Heck, a lot of producers in our business don’t even understand that people are looking to buy more than just a pig for their kid to show at the county fair.
Andy has told me a story several times that has “Fred” written all over it. He had a family through his farm one spring to look for pigs. There was a small boy that was part of the family, probably not more than a few years old. He had a small plastic stick horse that he’d brought from home that Andy said he spent most of the tour entertaining himself with. Keep in mind we are talking about a toy small enough to fit in your pocket and of little material value. To that little kid, it was hours of entertainment, and probably one of his favorites if he took it everywhere he went. Andy noticed shortly after these folks were gone from his farm that the little boy had dropped his toy in the driveway. He packaged it up in a small little envelope and mailed it to the young man with a note that read, “A cowboy can’t be without his horse”. It is one of the many ways I have seen Andy represent the main theme of what makes Fred so great. The smallest acts, requiring the fewest resources, often leave the biggest impression.
A couple of weeks ago Andy and I headed to El Reno, Oklahoma to the Circle of Gold Pig Sale. It was the first time we’d traveled together to the sale where we’d met 4 years earlier. When Saturday night rolled around we had all our deliveries off the trailer, the sale pigs had been through the ring and sold, and the tack was loaded. We waited around as the buyers of the sale hogs slowly made their way back to the pens as the sale was winding down. Andy loaded them 1 by 1 into the rigs of their new owners. As we were driving out of the parking lot headed back to Iowa Andy turned to me and said, “You know, I think it is really important to help load those hogs for their new owners. I want those people to know I care how they get along after they buy a pig from me.” I just smiled at him and nodded my head. If it only meant half to those folks what it meant to me, then it left a heck of an impression.