For many hundreds of farmers and contractors running Pottinger grass land equipment throughout Ireland, there is one man that has probably spoken to and helped many of these people. This man is Aaron McFarland from Fintona in Co. Tyrone.
Aaron McFarland has compiled the following report after a Pottinger service training day at Pottinger Ireland’s headquarters in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary on Tuesday 10th September.
Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background
Born 21st July 1975, yip that makes me 44. I have four brothers and one sister, brought up on a dairy farm near Trillick, Co. Tyrone. Growing up on a farm has given me a good understanding of how farmers think, their ambitions and goals, their way of doing things and of course their dependence upon machinery to carry out their daily duties. While I enjoy the farming way of life, I am not a farmer but if I had to choose, I would be a dairy farmer as it has a daily routine and therefore easier to plan your day. Pigs and poultry would be a definite no, sorry pig and poultry men, no ill feelings. I am married to Audrey who is not from a farming background, but has quickly learned that PTO doesn’t mean “please turn over” but rather “Power Take Off”.
Where and when did you start your working life and what all was involved?
I started my working life in September 1992 working for my uncle Timothy McFarland and that’s where I have been ever since. Back then the D Series Marshall had just given way to the relatively unknown red and white Steyr and also on the Pottinger side of things the Mex V trailed harvester had in 1990 given way to the Mex VI so by 1992 the Mex VI was a tried, tested and trustworthy machine.
My early working days were mainly taken up repairing Marshall gearboxes and clutches and also making up new heavier wiring looms. This gave me an early love for electrics, hydraulics and transmissions which I still have today. On the Pottinger side of things my work mainly involved building new Mex VI harvesters and also refurbishing trade in Mex VI machines to a very high standard. It would be fair to say that I know these machines inside out, upside down and back to front, hence the reason that so many people contact me by telephone or drop into the yard to seek guidance and advice on service or repairs. In 1995 Steyr launched its new Hi Tech range of tractors ranging in horse power from 105 – 145, then in the February of 1996 I attended my first technical training course in St. Valentin, Austria. The training was very well delivered and was excellent in value, not text book vagueness but deep and intense. I would describe it as “proper training for proper tractors.”
Can you tell the readers of this paper what you most like both about working at, and selling Pottinger equipment?
I suppose it would be fair to say that Pottinger like any other brand wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a customer demand for it, but to answer your question what I most like to work at is the Mex VI trailed harvester and the range of silage wagons. Back in 2013 we held an open evening in Fintona Ecclesville centre running from 3pm right through to 10pm. During this time I delivered two service training sessions on the Mex VI and on silage wagons. It was factual and informative and I really enjoyed the challenge of it. There is always a deep sense of satisfaction in helping people over the phone and or repairing their machines either on farm or in the workshop. I love to see a job well done and the machine running as it should be.
In selling the Pottinger brand I always ask certain questions to ascertain what machine is most suitable for them in both the short and long term, I always say to them, “look at the big picture.” Farmers soon know if the salesman knows his product by the way he tries to sell it. Head knowledge is king compared to always having to refer to the sales brochure. I always explain to people the merits of the machine in question what it can and cannot do, then I explain the physics and the geometry of the machine. When a man is about to spend £70,000 on a machine to be used maybe only 10 days in the year, well then it helps that he knows what he is just about to buy and more importantly the service and parts backup that he can expect to receive. Pottinger equipment generally has a good second hand value which is always a good starting point on any new sales deal.
If you had a choice would you prefer selling or servicing Pottinger equipment?
I suppose I always get a certain kick out of selling, but I always try and sell the product on the basis of what service support I can offer them should they have a problem. But truth be told a big part of me still likes my hands on the tools. Telephone diagnostics is something I enjoy provided the ears on the other end of the phone tells the brain between their ears to do exactly what I want them to do. I explain to them slowly and in a courteous manner that I want them to be my eyes, hands and ears. That way generally most things can be either fixed or at least diagnosed.
Where does Pottinger sit in order of your franchises?
Without doubt Pottinger sits at number one. T. McFarland Agri is the longest serving Pottinger dealer in the whole of Ireland and for that reason we are very well placed in giving sound advice to farmers and contractors wishing to purchase a new or used Pottinger machine.
How do you view your personal impact and influence on business within the Pottinger brand in Northern Ireland?
I suppose it would be fair to say that Pottinger equipment is almost second nature to me as I have so many years of hand on experience with the product. For me I have serviced and repaired these machines, I have sold spare parts for these machines and I have sold many of these machines also, so the customer gets the whole package when dealing with me.
New customers especially look at me in shock or surprise when I arrive out in their yard to service their machine as some of these customers have only seen me at shows dressed in a shirt and tie. They never expect to see the same person arriving out wearing overalls and working with spanners, and that is the very thing that sets me apart for sales. I know how the thing works because of practical knowledge and experience. It also helps to build up trust, respect and rapport as I understand the workings of their machine. I have often said that people buy people and this is so true. I as an individual want to provide an excellent after sales support and yes this, of course, is very dependant on the staff employed, however people have bought and do buy machines from me because they trust me.
Most dealers today are complaining about staff shortages etc and I know that you were very very busy this year as a result of this very thing. How are things now?
Yes 2019 was without doubt the most difficult year in my working life as regards shortage in staff and looking back now over the months of February – July my head was nearly fried. Many thoughts on the best approach to business were going through my head. Thankfully and just recently I am pleased to welcome three new members of staff into the service team, Philip Cashel, Nathan Gilmour and David Henderson so I am now in a much stronger position to stay put and press on with fresh zeal again in promoting, selling and servicing all our brand products.
What is your vision and thoughts on the future of farming in Northern Ireland?
Farmers in general are a very resolute type of people, resolved in one thing and that is being good stewards of the land they are entrusted with. However I feel pity for a lot these farmers as they are not getting the remuneration that they deserve for the hours they have to work. Farmers are the back bone of our society. All we have to do is to look at every walk of life from doctors to dentists, factory workers to financial advisers, mechanics to managers, teachers to train drivers. Many of these are sons and daughters of farmers and most of these people will still view the family farm as home, so it is fair to say that everything revolves around our farming way of life.
However over the years farmers have suffered many crisis with foot and mouth disease, poor weather, price reductions due to cheap imports, and of course and perhaps number one in recent times is the top heavy layer of bureaucracy, red tape and sometimes unworkable rules stipulated by the EU. But yet the EU seem set on pushing ahead with what’s known as the Mercosur deal which if ratified will open up the flood gates of South American beef into Europe while our local beef farmers are being hung out to dry as it were.
Most Farming Life readers already know my views on Brexit, but to summarize I will state again that I want out from the EU for many different reasons, and I think that Boris Johnston will be the man to do it if he is given a fair chance. There will no doubt be many spineless politicians opposing his vision of a better and more prosperous Britain, but be under no illusion, Michel Barnier the EU`s chief negotiator is no friend of either farmers or business men in Northern Ireland.
But among all the confusion in the world today there is a promise that I would like to draw your attention to. It was spoken of old but yet is right up to date. “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest,and summer and winter,and day and night shall not cease.” Even the beautiful rainbow made up of seven colours not six is a very visual promise to us all.
Finally and leaving Brexit to the one side I would like to invite the farming community to visit our yard at 24 Cavan Road in Fintona. We can offer you the customer a full range of Pottinger grassland equipment, new and used Merlo telehandlers, other products from Reck, NC, Johnston Bros, Fleming, Slanetrac and Moneycarrie. I am looking forward to doing business with our local farmers upon which we all depend and rely upon.