How does Patrick Bailey, vice president of F.G. Schaefer Co. Inc. in Cincinnati, log all the hours and trek the miles he does in pursuit of excellence?
“I really, really love the business, and I'm very passionate about it,” he said. “I love the challenge that it creates every day. I always try and put myself in my clients' shoes and spend their money like it was mine.”
One lesson experience has taught Bailey, who spent all but two of his 39 years in the business with Schaefer, is that the most important product he and his colleagues provide their clients remains service. “Anyone who thinks they're selling refrigerators and dishwashers is just wrong,” he insisted. “You're really selling yourself, and the medium of exchange is the product. If the customer doesn't have faith in you, he's not going to buy anything from you.” Time, he reflected, has helped shape his perspective.
What he has found, Bailey added, is that frequently “the biggest problem is getting to the real problem not just a symptom of the problem. Once we are to that point, successfully executing the solution is almost easy. Like I said, I try and put myself in my clients' shoes and spend their money wisely.”
Bailey was studying architecture at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., but “couldn't handle the math. I bailed out to the business world, and between the two I struck a good balance. I really love the design and consultation aspects of my business. I have been told I am kind of a bridge between the architect and the operator. We try to bring these two segments together and make them each happy. To the degree we succeed, I am happy.”
Schaefer principal Chip Glaescher praised Bailey as one of the first to arrive and last to finish nearly every day. He generally starts his day at 5:30 a.m., making some coffee at home, glancing at the paper and checking his e-mail. “Unfortunately or fortunately,” he said, “we conduct a lot of business via e-mail because I deal with a lot of multi-unit folks. It's by necessity more than anything else.” He arrives at his office by 7:00 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., and usually ends his day at 6:30 p.m. on his sofa catching up on more e-mail.
“I don't want to say it's a 24/7 kind of job — though it really is, for the most part ... but I love every minute of it,” Bailey explained. “When I go on vacation, I have my laptop with me and stay connected.
Bailey covers about 40,000 road miles a year visiting his “couple of hundred” clients, and flies to one or another of them every few weeks. Last year, he accounted for between $3 million and $4 million in sales, 90 percent of it in heavy equipment. The bulk of his work is with chains, including several large regional operators. He also services a large theme park group and the B&I and leisure services segment through several national food and facilities management companies.
Keeping up with equipment and the rapid advances in technology remains, Bailey said, “a constant challenge. It's a full-time task just staying current on things.” His “right-hand man” on equipment is engineer Clay Schirmer, with most installations supervised by Kent Goldsberry. Smallwares specialist Margie Otting provides invaluable additional support.
“People always ask, â€˜How's business,'” he confided. “I tell them that I've been busy for the last 25 or 30 years, and I don't mean that sarcastically. I don't really think too much about sales for this year, or last year, or the coming year. I just go about trying to take care of my client, and more times than not they take care of me.”
The best thing he can tell younger colleagues is to “listen well. Be educated. And learn the business. Passion is the key. You either have a passion for the business or you don't. Be knowledgeable, honest and sincere. I tell this to people all the time: The only thing that's more apparent to a client than sincerity is insincerity.”