My business partner “Buzzy” recently sold us his pristine 1986 Ramcharger. Or should I say he sold it to Rita
. It’s more than just an old car to us. It is relevant to us owning our own company. Almost exactly 25 years ago, when I was 38, we had a huge ice storm in North Texas. I was the only one who made it to work that day. I mean the ONLY ONE. Not even the owner of the company or his children (whom I was training to do my job) made it in that day. 5 years earlier, I had been hired to set up a salvage yard from scratch with the promise of an eventual partnership. Lesson 1. ALWAYS get a contract.
Early in the morning, I had a phone call from a gentleman from Wisconsin. I had forgotten that he was in Texas and had an appointment to come meet me to discuss purchasing large quantities of hydraulic cylinders from his factory. We had never spoken. Since the rest of the country wasn’t iced in like Waco, the phone was ringing off the wall. But, since I had invited him, I felt obligated to welcome him. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Actually, every opportunity I’ve ever had was a result of being kind to a stranger.
When he showed up, we were trying to talk business, but the phone kept interrupting us. Every time, he would patiently wait for me to finish my phone call before resuming our discussion. Little did I know he was sizing me up. He stayed all day as he watched me answer every phone call, look up every part, write up every sales order, call the truck lines, palletize the shipments, fill out the freight bills and load the trucks. And it happened to be a very busy day. My grandfather, who owned a cafe when I was a child, once told me “Never open a cafe’ unless you know how to cook.” At the end of the day, the gentleman asked me if I was happy with my job. Since my promise of a partnership was being replaced by being forced to train my replacements, my answer was an emphatic “NO SIR”. He said “You work this hard and you don’t even like your job?” I told him I loved my job but my employer, not so much. He offered me a job on the spot but I wound up taking a position at a Deere dealership in Louisiana, where I refined my abilities and processes to produce top notch rebuilt components and near perfect used parts. Buzzy called me once a month for 3 years, every time asking me if I was still happy. One day, his timing was perfect, as my supervisor had just insisted on a lot of ridiculous reports and procedures that were counterproductive to what I was doing. He was a typical clueless corporate egomaniac. That day, instead of trying to hire me, Buzzy offered to fund a new company. I could decide the name of the company, location, employees, procedures, etc. During the contract negotiations, one day he asked me if I was more interested in money or freedom. Without hesitation, I said “FREEDOM”! So, he honored that and has never tried to help me steer my ship. After 264 monthly financial statements, he has never questioned a single line on a single statement. But for 22 years, he has always been on board. He has always had my back. We started with no inventory, no customer list, not even a location. But we never gave up. And the company continues to thrive and grow.
So, how does the Ramcharger play into all of this? The first thing Buzzy noticed was our Ramcharger in the parking lot, the only car that icy morning. At the time, it was also our only family car, nicknamed Ram Bam. He told me that he loved Ramchargers, owned one himself, and even named his company, Ram Rod Industries, after his. His company logo was a copy of the hood ornament. But why is an old Ramcharger so relevant to my opportunity of a lifetime? It was the way I got to work that icy day. Why is it Rita’s? She’s the reason I went to work that day. And she still is…
President, OEM Replacement Parts, LLC