Joel Dufour owner of Earth Tools met with the Leadership Owen County Class of 2012 in his phenomenal multi-million dollar business with only 12 employees . Mr. Dufour has (an inspirational way) with his web based business, ethical values, commitment to customer service, and genius ideas; so much so that I felt it would be a crime not to share a sample of his knowledge and inspiration with everyone. [cincopa A0HAT7qQIiZg]
Joel’s Father, Victor Dufour, was an entrepreneur who developed his business called D&D Enterprises in 1977 with his 7 children in mind. One of the three equipment lines the business began with was BCS walk-behind tractors. His Dad was impressed with the quality and versatility of the product, the machine broke 5 acres of sod, cultivated, mowed a 17-acre hayfield, cleared snow and ran a sprayer pump. Victor and his family put 1700 hours on it in 6 years and spent about $120 in maintenance (mostly tiller tines!). Then they put a new engine on the 715 and sold it (it is still in service; the transmission has never been serviced except for an occasional oil change) and graduated to a model 735 (roughly the equivalent of the 853 today) with a 10hp Lombardini diesel engine equipped with wind-the-rope-on-the-pulley-and-PULL start.
Like his father Joel refused to accept the main stream “good enough” mentality and was constantly searching for a better way to do things. At 23 years old Joel was looking to branch out, so he decided to open his business 7 miles from home selling a specialized walk behind tractor and tools. Walk-behind tractors (also called walking, 2-wheel or hand tractors) are used worldwide for small-scale farm, horticultural, industrial, landscaping and home use. He personally hand tests every tractor that he sells, and he refuses to franchise his company because he feels it is necessary to have complete control over his company name. Although Earth Tools is a web based business, Joel does not accept online orders but requires a phone call from his customers if they wish to place an order because he is repulsed by the impersonal contacts of email or online ordering. Joel is the epitome of pride and responsibility as a business owner who takes PRIDE in and responsibility for the product he sells.
Joel said, “Even though our business (his Father’s business) was located out in the sticks 9 miles from the nearest town and 7 miles to the nearest highway, our business attracted customers from far & wide, eventually putting the shops ‘in town’ out of business. Why?
1. Selling top-quality products at reasonable prices.
2. Standing behind those products and taking care of our customers.
3. Service, Service, Service. Dad taught me that to repair something, you first have to understand how it works, and then figure out why it broke and try to fix it so it didn’t fail again. We were constantly coming up with improvements for various products we sold. Our “return” rate (equipment that came back in after we had worked on it, because it wasn’t repaired properly) was staggeringly low…this was, I’m sure, the main reason our reputation kept attracting customers from further & further away. I have carried this philosophy with me:
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing RIGHT.”
Joel told us that he wants to TALK to his customers and he can’t stand the impersonality of email and that talking on the phone is impersonal enough. He credits the success of his business to their attention to detail; he personally hand tests every tractor before he sends it to a customer. He has NEVER advertised, and his multi-million dollar business has come directly by word from the mouth of his satisfied customers. AMAZING! What a great example of an entrepreneur who has been blessed through genuine hard work!
EARTH TOOLS, Inc.
1525 Kays Branch Road
Owenton, KY 40359
(502) 484-3988 tel. (502) 484-3357 fax.