The Ferguson Approach to Education

Copy of an early letter from Dick Chambers (circa.1951)


Distributors are well aware of the importance attached to education as applied to the Ferguson franchise, and it is considered desirable at this stage to review the situation and point out how Distributors may gain the full benefit from an Education Scheme in their own territory, and so build a very prosperous future for their Ferguson franchise.

Value of Education

We have no doubt whatever that through the Education Plan as applied by Harry Ferguson Limited, Coventry, the sales of Ferguson products have been considerably higher than would have been possible without instruction being given to Salesmen and Servicemen in the proper adjustment and use of the equipment.  Just how much the very large volume of business being enjoyed by this Company can be attributed to education, is certainly a matter for conjecture.  We do know, however, that most of the sales are made by what the implement does.  We have a maxim “It is what the implement does that sells the tractors”.

We do not propose to burden this article with the many experiences which can be quoted how proper adjustment of the implement and proper appreciation of the Ferguson System, and what is built into it, has enabled salesmen to prove to the Farmers that the equipment is suitable for their requirements.

 The value of education is exemplified in so many ways that we feel the quoting of just one example may be permitted.  Experience has shown that where the Agricultural Mower has been properly understood by the salesmen and demonstrators of a dealer, who, in turn have passed this information on as completely as possible to the owners, the satisfaction obtained by these owners from this piece of equipment has been very much more than where the Dealers’ Salesmen and Servicemen were unfamiliar with the equipment, and, therefore unable to instruct the owners.

Please understand that this is only one example, we can quote many more.

What To Do

It is our desire to help all Distributors in the Education Scheme, and any help that this Company can give is at the disposal of all distributors.

It is our view that each Distributor should immediately set up an efficient Education Organisation, the staff of which would devote their whole time to instruction.  The primary object of this Department would be dissemination of instruction on Ferguson equipment to representatives of Dealers and Sub-Dealers, so that they would have a fuller ability to demonstrate the equipment successfully, maintain it correctly and gain a precise appreciation of the aims of the Ferguson Plan and System.

We suggest that your instruction should not be limited to the Dealer Organisation.  We have, in fact, through or Coventry Education Department been extremely successful in spreading the information on the Ferguson System far and wide through the medium of other Organisations.  In this connection, the Government Agricultural Advisory Officers form a useful nucleus through which information may be passed to farmers.  It is of course, essential that these Agricultural Advisors should be well briefed in the equipment and the plan behind the production of this modern agricultural machinery.  There is no doubt that the easiest way, and the most lasting way to convince Agricultural Advisors, is through practical experience with the equipment.

To fulfil this, we have arranged a number of very successful courses, each lasting about one week, to which the Agricultural Advisors have been invited.  We know that, if we may coin a word, these Advisors have been “Fergusonised” during their stay with us.  They, in turn, speak highly of the equipment when amongst farmers, and, in fact, become unpaid salesmen.

We have arranged other courses for Agricultural representatives of the various Rubber Companies, and similar courses for the Oil Companies Agricultural Representatives.

It is agreed that the Agricultural Advisors and Agricultural Representatives must not become too biased towards our equipment, thus excluding completely from their minds other competitive equipment, but we do know from experience that these men have spoken very highly of our System and have often – perhaps unwittingly – swayed a doubtful prospect very much in our favour.

We submit that as well as the training of Sales and Service Representatives, the Managers of your various Dealers; these are other useful lines, which can be applied to an Education Department.

In addition, the Young Farmers’ Club Organisation members in England and Wales have completed, with us, a number of short term, usually weekend, courses on the equipment.  We assist in the Young Farmers’ evening lectures, and visit various Agricultural colleges and Agricultural Institutes, with a view to explaining fully the principles behind the Organisation and how the Ferguson System works.

Our Education Scheme is opened to many non-agricultural organisations also – associations of businessmen like the Rotary Club, political bodies, etc., come under our barrage of Ferguson Plan and System propaganda by lectures and films.  Distinct from the sales talks, these are of a general nature, aimed at selling the idea of more food at less cost.

For education of any type, one must take a long view, and not hope for immediate results, but it is gratifying to note that in Great Britain during the month of January 1951, we had 67% of the sales for all makes of wheeled agricultural tractors on the home market.

The education tree we have been growing during the past five years is now beginning to bear full fruit.

How To Do It

The setting up of an Education Department is something, which should receive the immediate attention of the Principals of your Company.  There must be ample scope for the development of a first rate Education Scheme covering the territory for which you have a franchise.  We do not wish to lay down any hard and fast rules for the establishment of an Education Department.  We appreciate that each territory must have its own requirements, and its own suitable arrangements, but we feel that an indication of what can be done should be given to you so that the benefit of education to your Organisation, and, indeed, to the owners of the equipment, should be achieved at the earliest possible time.

Distributors have in the past sent representatives to our Instruction School established at Coventry, and here we should like to assure you that further visits from your staff will be welcome at any time.

The Education Department now has its own residential accommodation and lecture rooms right on the farm.  The instruction is essentially of a practical nature, and two distinct types of course are arranged.

For the Field Course, instruction is given on the operation and the farm maintenance of the tractor and the adjustments necessary on the equipment, to obtain from that equipment the many features built into it.  This course lasts for two weeks, and provides a useful basis on which salesmen may develop their knowledge of the Ferguson equipment.  We do not claim that one such course completes the knowledge of our students in the Ferguson equipment, indeed, it is one of the features of the Ferguson franchise that for those who will keep an open mind, there is always more to learn.  Overseas students are recommended to remain for two or three field courses, which enables them to become more familiar with the equipment, visit some of our home dealer organisations and gain experience in our office organisation.

For this course we run a fleet of 22 tractors, and a full range of equipment; Ploughs, Cultivators, and other basic implements being held in triplicate or more, so that each student is given an opportunity of operating the equipment in the field.  It cannot be too strongly emphasised that during this course we teach “The System”, so that students are conversant with the range of equipment which will enable them to pass on to prospective customers details, which will eventually result in the prospect buying more of our range.

The Service course is designed primarily for Workshop Servicemen, whose job it is to ensure that the Ferguson equipment is maintained in top quality condition, so that the farmers in turn may derive the full benefit from it.  During the Service Course students are given instruction by Departmental Managers and their Deputies of the Demonstration, Service, Sales and Spare Parts Departments of the Headquarters.

Residential accommodation expenses are paid by the students or their employers.  All other expenses are charged against the general Company expenditure.

The ideal to be aimed at is something along the lines briefly indicated above, an, indeed we hope that when the equipment is being established in any country, due consideration will be given to the organisation of an Education Department along these lines.  Much thought has been given to the organisation of the Department, and we always agree that the residential facilities are of very great importance in creating a friendship between representatives who will thereby have a full realisation of the importance of the Ferguson franchise, and understanding of the immensity of the Organisation.  It is interesting to recall that on a recent course at our Residential School at Stoneleigh Abbey, 12 different nationalities were represented.

Even if it is not possible in the first year or so of holding a franchise, for a Distributor to set up a Residential Establishment, education should be given considerable priority in the Organisation.  A few suggestions on how this may be achieved are submitted for your consideration.

One country starting with a nucleus of two representatives who were fully trained at our Coventry School, arranged for these representatives to visit each Dealer’s area in turn, and there to give practical instruction in the use of the equipment, to the Dealer’s Representatives.  This team visited an area for a period of about two weeks, taking with them such equipment as was then available on which instruction could be given.  The team moved on from Dealer to Dealer.  In additional to equipping the Dealer’s Representatives with a full knowledge of the Ferguson System, they have made use of their time in the particular area to assist the local owners in any operation problems, which they may have had.

In this connection the presence of the team in an area enabled the local Dealer to arrange for a “Dealer Owner Meeting”, to which all owners and some of the more prominent prospects were invited.  The Dealer meetings should be arranged in conjunction with a show of recent Ferguson films and the ensuing discussion has always enabled the Education Staff to get to know the problems of the Ferguson owners, and has enabled them to suggest methods of operating the tractor and equipment to achieve the results required by the farmers.  So successful has this scheme been that the particular country concerned now has four prominent members of the Staff on Education.  After the initial course has been held in each dealer’s area, further courses, specialising in newer equipment and revising on the old, are continually in operation.

Another country, having laboured hard and well in publicising the equipment and making good sales, has now come to realise that the establishment of a Ferguson Training School would be of more value from the publicity angle and of immense value to the owners, than any other system yet conceived.  A Training School has therefore been established, and to this School will be invited all who in any way are connected with the Ferguson business, and also those other representatives of Organisations whose interests are in the Ferguson equipment.

Other countries have, in an endeavour to gain more information on the equipment, arranged to have a large number of Dealer’s representatives attend courses of instruction at our Residential School.  We welcome the idea, but while good, we can only consider this as being a preliminary to the setting up of a successful Education Department in the Organisation concerned, and it is, in fact, noteworthy that such has been the case.

It is our intention to arrange from time to time for our Senior Instructors to visit Distributors and to assist them with advice on setting up of Education Departments.  We feel certain that with the experience we have had during the past five years of education in this growing organisation, our Instructors could be of immense value to you.  We are certain also that this intimate contact between your organisation and ours would be of real value in our appreciation of your agricultural conditions, and no doubt our staff would be very heartily welcomed by you.

In acknowledging receipt of this letter, please let us know what scheme of education you have covering your territory, and also whether we can be of further assistance to you in the immediate future prior to one of our staff visiting you.

We look forward with interest to your remarks.

Yours faithfully