“Only in America can a 20-year-old kid with $3000 and a pick-up truck build a successful business,” that’s how Tim Havens, owner of Falls Farm & Garden Equipment Co. in Hudson Falls, NY, prefaces the history of his business. Those thoughts are first and foremost on his mind today as he continues to run his 38 year old business during these unprecedented times.
Havens tells Radio Ink that his 20 employee – 30 thousand square foot equipment and tractor business, about 50 miles North of Albany, NY, uses radio to show he is part of his community.
Havens: My ads start out “Hello neighbors, this is Tim Havens at Falls Farm and Garden Equipment, your full service John Deere tractor and equipment dealer in Hudson Falls.”
There’s the intro, then you go about and sell your product. You talk about service, you talk about your commitment to the community, you talk about that you are conveniently open 7 days a week; here’s our phone number and our website. Then you end it “We truly appreciate your business.”
Radio Ink: You sell a lot of national brands of equipment. Those brands usually provide the ads to use on the radio; yet they let you do your own ads?
Havens: I have to send them in for approval, but for the most part they let me do my own spots. You know those canned spots sound just like they’re canned. You know they are written by somebody in an office that doesn’t know anything about the product. They read the literature and they pick something out that is in the literature; but in the grand scheme of things it’s not relevant at all. It’s a “crappy ass ad.”
You know, that’s what you get when you hire an agency to just get something off of your desk. They don’t know anything about lawn mowers, wood splitters, snow blowers, tractors or brush hogs. They don’t know anything except what is given them by the manufacturer.
Consequently, that agency person makes his or her best effort to get it off their desk. It goes through production and gets sent to us and we are told to use it because it passed muster with co-op. It’s a tune out ad. That’s not what I’m looking for. I want people to tune in, be engaged. So we write our own ads and I voice them.
Radio Ink: What got you interested in radio?
Havens: I was a newspaper guy. My rep would come in and we’d cut and paste from the ad books and then we would put it in the paper and hope folks would come in a buy stuff.
Occasionally a radio rep would come in and offer me a package for a week or so. We would use a canned script. After a few weeks they would send a bill and we would send a check and that would be it until the next salesman came along.
Years ago, Chris Lynch, then the owner of WWSC in Glens Falls told me – You know I’ve watched how you advertise and you kind of fly by the seat of your pants. He said a salesman comes in and sells you a TAP package so you are getting something in every daypart. You buy it for a few weeks, and then you go dark until the next sales guy comes in and sells you another package. You are inconsistent, flying by the seat of your pants.
Well that pissed me off, I had a bit of an ego going, I had had a bit of success, so I was upset; but it was a great lesson that I have never forgotten. It hurt my feelings for awhile and then I realized that he was absolutely right. I had to do something different.
So we started advertising with some clarity and set up a schedule. Not just when a salesman would come in, but with consistency. It was a great revelation. From that moment on we have used radio because it is responsive.
With WCKM and the Regional Radio Group, I’ve been able to respond to situations quickly. If the power goes out I can get an ad on about generators. If a snow storm blows through the area I can respond immediately, pick the dayparts I want. It’s been wonderful.
When I was about 10 years into the business I wanted to do a thank-you ad. I wrote the ad and voiced it myself. I got great response, so since that 10th year in business, I have always written and done my own radio ads. I have been doing that for about 28 years now.
Radio Ink: So how has this situation affected your business?
Havens: We are not doing the volume we should be doing at this time of the year, but we are open and still doing business. More importantly we are keeping our employees working which I think is very important. They are doing their part for the community, and they have their self respect. They are earning a living and helping me earn a living.
I have an ad on right now that has been running for about a month that is basically a calming influence. You know folks we’re open, we’re here for you. We know these are unprecedented times. We’re here to support you. We have curbside parts pick up. We can ship your order. Whatever you need us to do, we are all in this together.
Radio Ink: What do you think about those who have stopped advertising?
Havens: You know if you are open for business you need to advertise to make sure you are getting the word out that you are here and are open. It shouldn’t be a greedy ad like come on in we have a lot to sell. It’s better to say folks we have a great selection of what we sell, we are here to help you. If you don’t want to buy right now that’s okay, we understand, but we are here when you are ready.
Radio Ink: When this is all over, what is your business going to be like?
Havens: How am I and my business going to emerge on the other side of this? I have never lived frivolously. I will still be in business, I will have my inventory. As we sell things now, I am reordering it. My dealer reps are appreciative of that. The customers will always be appreciative of us because we will have what they need on hand.
We will survive, our volume of business my never be the same for a period of time. In the meantime we are being proactive in our management, and being careful with our finances so that we’re able to keep our people working. We’re going to continue to be a valued business in our community. We are going to employ people, we are going to be paying taxes, we are going to be paying property, sales and income taxes. That is all important as the economy recovers.
I’m not the eternal optimist by any means, but by the grace of God I was blessed with a very conservative upbringing that has prepared me for this. I mean 20 years ago this would have shut us down. But I was raised to keep a little money in the other pocket so that we can be reliable as an employer and an asset to this community and that is where we’re at.
We will come out of this stronger, but mentally we will be beaten down because as part of this community, there is going to be a lot of sadness that we are going to watch. There are going to be a lot of shattered dreams. That’s the part that hurts.