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Agriculture Business of the Year: Empire Tractor

This is one of a series of articles highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

In Tim Call's mind, there's little separation between the success of Empire Tractor and the hard work and dedication of the company's employees.

Whether it's sales or customer service, the conversation with Call either starts or ends with praise for Empire's 112 employees at six Central and Western New York locations.

"We have some of the most friendly and knowledgeable people in the industry," Call said.

Eighteen years ago, Call acquired a company on East Main Street Road, Batavia, then known at Tri-State Tractor. Through growth and partnerships, Tri-State became Empire and is one of the most successful farm equipment companies in the region.

Customers of Empire range from people with just an acre of land to farmers with 10,000 acres of land, Call said. The company doesn't handle push mowers or weed eaters, but the guy with just an acre of lawn to mow can get a nice zero-turn rider while the largest grain farmer in the area can buy the biggest tractor you can imagine.

In May, 2011, Empire moved to a bigger facility on East Main Road that gave Empire more room and paved surfaces that makes the whole business look more attractive.

"Everything is clean and everything just displays so well," Call said. "It's given us a whole different image and it's helped us increase our sales."

The entire service operation is now under one roof, Call said, which helps improve efficiency.

Even with the better facility, it's the people at Empire who make the sales process work, Call said.

"We want a sales process that is easy and fun and not too hard," Call said. "People buy from people and we try to remember that. When a farmer comes in, however much money he's spending, that's a lot of money to him to spend and we want him to feel happy and comfortable and satisfied that he got a reasonable deal."

Some employees have been with the company for more than 30 years, and that's saying something, Call said, especially for those who deal with farmers who had a piece of equipment break down.

When a farmer has to come into the shop because of a broken tractor or broken combine, it means he or she is not out in the field plowing or harvesting or herding. It means work that must get done isn't getting done.

"It's the employees who take care of customers every day," Call said. "A farmer comes in because he's broke down and he's not happy. There's a lot of thankless chores and when you're dealing with a guy who's beating on you and you're trying to be happy and upbeat, well, our guys are pretty darn good at that."

Good employees and a pleasant experience are so key to success in the competitive farm equipment business, Call said.

"Most of our business is referral, and if a customer has a bad experience, he's not going to come back and he's going to tell his friends," Call said. "We've done everything we can to try and make it easy for people to do business with us."

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