INSIDERS Seed Conditioning A Lesson from a 1910 Pullman Railroad Club Car

A Lesson from a 1910 Pullman Railroad Club Car


I have often heard it said in the seed industry, “We are not in the seed business selling to farmers, we are in the people business selling seed.” Maybe you have said something similar. But what does it mean in practice? It means that the relationship between you and your customers is more important than your customers’ loyalty to your brand.

I don’t often go to a restaurant for lunch, but when I do, I enjoy going to the Club Car Grille and eat in a restored 1910 Pullman railroad club car integrated into the café’s dining room. That club car caught my attention and brought me there for my first visit. The second time, I came back for their food. After that, I came back to see the people. I scarcely notice the club car anymore. I take the food for granted.

It is server Mel and owner Penny who bring me back. They know me, they have my cup of coffee waiting before I get to my table. They serve lunch, but they are in the business of making me feel welcome and at home. After a 23-week shutdown in response to the COVID-19 virus, I returned and asked to be seated in Mel’s section. My coffee was waiting.

The Club Car Grille will continue to thrive because Mel and Penny understand their first order of business is not serving food: it is serving customers. It is an infectious, heart-felt attitude that is evident as soon as you walk in the door. (Maybe “infectious” is not the best term to use in this time of COVID-19!) I doubt Penny had to give Mel a service-lesson. Some people, by nature, have a customer-oriented temperament. It would be more of a challenge for Penny if Mel were someone Penny felt obligated to hire and retain, a friend-of-a-friend, for example, whose only satisfaction is a paycheck. These people can be a challenge.

It is especially important (mandatory) that you create an internal corporate culture that bolsters desired attitudes.

• Lead by example, without exception, 24/7.

• Repeatedly reinforce expected behavior to employees.

• Sincerely compliment an employee when a customer is well-treated.

• Provide supportive encouragement to all employees.

• Greet customers with a smile and your full attention.

• Measure success by customers’ level of satisfaction.

If you have a competitive product/service and position your company as being in the people business, sales will follow.

Brian Burney
Brian Burney
Oliver Manufacturing - Brian Burney, a third generation family member, currently serves as the chief executive officer and the president of the board of directors for Oliver Manufacturing. He has learned everything about the company by working his way up through every area of the business. Participation and interaction with industry professionals, combined with collegiate development courses, allowed Burney to understand how to lead a world class manufacturer in today’s global economy.