Hearing the voice of the customer
By Brad Turner
Since the original Brinly plows of 1839, the Brinly-Hardy Company has been actively listening to the needs of those who use its products. Celebrating its 175th year in business in 2014, the company has survived civil and world wars, societal shifts, economic booms, recessions and depressions. Though so much has changed, one ideal has remained constant: Maintaining a constant focus on hearing the voice of the customer is the single most important determinant of business longevity.
The Brinly plow
In the early 1800s, a blacksmith known as “Little” John Brinly built high-quality handmade plows from his small shop in Simpsonville, Ky. In 1837, his son, Thomas E.C. Brinly, designed a new steel plow by modifying a saw blade. By 1839, the new plow design was ready for sale to the general public. With its new smooth-scouring moldboard, the Brinly plow became well known throughout the country for its durability and performance, cutting through the sticky clay soils of the South.
Demand for Brinly’s plows increased quickly, surpassing the productive capacity of the Simpsonville shop. By moving the thriving business to Louisville, Ky., and forming a partnership with businessman James E. Hardy, the company was able to increase its manufacturing and distribution capacities. Expanding the product line to include a broad selection of tillage equipment and becoming a wholesaler for dozens of other lines, the Brinly-Hardy Company became a major player in the agricultural equipment market of the early 1900s.
Weathering the storm
Between World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, to say that the early 1900s was a difficult time period, would be a serious understatement. But it wouldn’t be until 1980 that the Brinly-Hardy Company would face a challenge that would change the face of the business from then on.
In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter began an embargo on grain shipments to the Soviet Union. Twenty-five million tons of excess American grain flooded the market, driving down prices. Many American farmers all but eliminated their spending on farming equipment, resulting in an agricultural recession. As both a manufacturer and wholesale distributor of agricultural equipment throughout the South and Midwest, the farm crisis took a toll on Brinly-Hardy Company. Something had to be done — and quickly.
A fundamental shift
In the early 1960s, Brinly lawn care attachments were introduced to accommodate the expansion of the suburban middle class. Building a relationship that continues to this day, Brinly-Hardy Company worked closely with John Deere to develop attachments for use with its newly introduced Model 110 consumer lawn and garden tractors. Until the grain embargo of 1980, manufacturing lawn maintenance attachments was not the central focus of Brinly-Hardy Company’s strategy, instead preferring to stick to its roots in the Ag market — both manufacturing and wholesaling.
As the 1980 farm crisis wore on, the outlook of that product mix and business model looked increasingly bleak. The decision was made to exit the wholesale business and solely manufacture attachments for lawn tractors and some small garden tractors. With its focus now centered on the growing consumer lawn care market, the design engineers at Brinly-Hardy committed themselves to hearing the voice of the customer once again. Gathering feedback from end users, dealers, distributors, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), they began refining and developing one of the world’s most comprehensive lines of lawn and garden tractor attachments. Producing the rugged Brinly product line, the economical Lawn Tender product line, plus many more private-label OEM collaborations, Brinly-Hardy Company solidified itself as a world leader in the lawn and garden attachments category.
The commercial user
As more and more homeowners and business owners continue to convert from the do-it-yourself attitude toward lawn care to one of efficient outsourcing, the demand for commercial lawn, landscaping and turf maintenance services has exploded. In 2014 alone, it is projected that these types of services will generate approximately $50 billion in total revenues. To cater to the needs of this hardworking, entrepreneurial market requires products that are designed to run for hours at a time and from property to property while minimizing equipment downtime, ensuring consistent performance, and reducing operator fatigue. At the end of the day, these are paramount factors that translate directly to their bottom line.
Listening again to the voice of the customer — lawn maintenance operators, golf course superintendents, sports field managers, and outdoor power equipment dealers and distributors — Brinly-Hardy Company made a strategic decision to purchase Spyker Spreaders in 2008. Founded by the original inventor of the broadcast spreader, Samuel Speicher, the company has come to be known for its extreme durability and best-in-class performance within the commercial market.
Since the acquisition, the company has expanded its extensive line of broadcast push spreaders to include drop spreaders, electric-powered broadcast spreaders, ride-on broadcast spreaders, and power seeding equipment. Enabled by intense collaboration with commercial users, each of these newly developed products has integrated the Brinly-Hardy Company ideals of innovation, manufacturing excellence, and durability with the voice of the customer — dependability, ergonomics, and performance consistency.
2015 and beyond
As a leading manufacturer of consumer lawn and garden attachments and commercial-grade spreading and seeding equipment, Brinly-Hardy Company is well positioned for significant growth in both sectors of the green industry. With a continuing focus on innovation, product quality, and hearing the voice of the customer, Brinly-Hardy Company looks forward with excitement and enthusiasm to its next 175 years in business.
For more information, visit https://brinly.com/
Brad Turner is the marketing coordinator at Brinly-Hardy Company.