Buzz Perry had a vision...
Buzz Perry had a vision. A pretty stubborn vision that became Equipment Mart.
It certainly wasn't easy for Perry, who founded the paper with his wife Dianne back in 1993. Growing from truly humble beginnings, Equipment Mart has evolved over nearly 20 years after getting its start from the Perry's home in Southern Oregon.
Now semi-retired and living on the Oregon coast (you never really retire when your name is Buzz), he had to overcome more than his share of skeptics to get the paper going and growing.
"People thought I was crazy. Even where we had them printed, they tried to discourage me."
Like any good entrepreneur, Buzz created a product that filled a void. He owned used construction equipment and wanted to sell it but couldn't get anyone to travel a few miles off the beaten path to take some photos and list it in their magazine. After several missed appointments – and then a promise to come only if he paid a mileage charge – Equipment Mart was born.
"I just thought, 'Hey, what a business.' They have no service at all and didn't seem to care about anybody. The way these people were operating, they needed some competition."
The fact that neither he nor Dianne had any publishing experience did little to deter them. And for anyone who knows Buzz Perry, he doesn't let minor details slow him down.
"We didn't really have a clue. We invested all the money we were going to start building a house with. Then I wound up selling all my motorcycles, the motor home and other stuff. I saw all this money going away and was starting to get nervous. Then it started to turn around."
The early issues of the paper consisted mostly of Buzz's equipment. With customer service paramount, things started to happen. And some loyal advertisers who started with the paper in the early days found that it worked and weren't afraid to tell others about what they had in Equipment Mart.
"A lot of those guys were in from the first or second issue and have been in there ever since," said Buzz, who sold the paper to Dave and Heidi Ehrhardt in 2003. "We went way out of our way giving service. If someone called me and wanted to advertise, I went out and did it. I didn't charge 'em for going out there. And they started telling their friends and I got other ads. The paper sold itself, it really did. The people that advertised in it helped a lot."
Buzz wasn't afraid to take a chance on people. If he saw a piece of equipment for sale on the side of the road, he'd take a photo and gather as much information as he could. That night he'd call the seller and do his best to convince him to run the equipment in the paper. And he'd do it on a promise to pay.
"I'd probably get eight out of 10 of those. We'd just ask them to pay before the next issue. People would always send us a check."
Over the years, ads both small and large have amounted into millions of dollars of sales. The equipment (both new and used) has run the gamut of the construction and logging industries as Equipment Mart has become a source for buyers to move their wares.
The emergence and steady growth of Equipment Mart led others to try and launch similar products. But they weren't able to match the customer service and also tried to force contracts on regular advertisers.
"People didn't like being pushed into a contract," Perry said. "I don't like contracts and I wasn't going to force anyone to sign one."
Almost 20 years later, the same holds true for Equipment Mart. The Ehrhardts and staff take photos for customers and have never forced advertisers into contracts.
"We have a great and loyal business base," Dave Ehrhardt said. "We work to treat them the way we'd like to be treated. And we work to get them results."
Sounds a lot like Buzz Perry's credo.
"People couldn't believe I was going to run this paper and wasn't going to have them sign a one-year contract. If what we do doesn't work for you, you just need to discontinue the service."
With over 15,000 copies in print twice each month and available at over 640 locations in the western states plus a growing website (www.equipmentmartads.com), Equipment Mart has proven its staying power in nearly two decades. Not bad for a guy with a good bit of stubborn in him who had a vision.