A favorite saying: “Your best advertising is word of mouth by satisfied customers.” It takes time for “word of mouth” to spread the word, but the results are a solid foundation on which to build the market for the product. There is something authentic about one person freely telling about their experience with a product and telling the truth (both good and bad experiences) to another interested person.
Beyond the mechanics of operating a business are the ways a business behaves toward all of its stakeholders. With an economic system of free enterprise and free markets like we enjoy in the U.S., business behavior often moves to bad and selfish unless guided by moral principle. As a life-long student of good business behavior and watching my dad and grandpa Walker follow good moral principles in business, I believe there are principles that serve as our moral compass in business. I would quickly add that following good morals in business is not always easy—we know sometimes there can be dilemmas and tough choices to be made, and we have not always succeeded in finding the “perfect” way to take care of our stakeholders.
Forty years ago we made our first public introduction of the Walker Mower at a farm equipment show in Kansas. We were showing our 3rd prototype as a market test, and with the encouragement we received from farmers at the show, we started working on building our first batch of 25 machines in 1980. As I think back over the years, a lot has happened in our industry. There have been many manufacturers of lawn mowers and other power equipment that have come and gone; quite a few well-known brand names have disappeared.
Walker Mowers are being produced year-round every working day at our manufacturing plant in Fort Collins, Colorado, by a company of around 200 workers. There are 160 workers on the factory floor making the machines and 40 workers in the office supporting them. While some may call it semantics, we like to refer to ourselves as workers because we are all hands-on workers, producers, makers — no room here for paper shufflers, desk jockeys or office fluff.
Like many parts of a well-lived life, there is balance needed between the old and the new. Life is out of balance when old people live in the past, and miss all the wonderfulness and discovery of the new, or when young people focus only on the new, and ignore the richness and principle-teaching of the past. Both perspectives are needed to avoid wasting time repeating mistakes from lessons learned from the past and missing the opportunities that come with new developments.
In 2018, we will build the 150,000th Walker Mower. Well over a year ago, we began to plan for the Walker Family Reunion III to celebrate this milestone on July 13 through 15, 2018. For all of you that attended Family Reunion I and II, I am thinking you have good memories of celebrating the 50,000th and 100,000th Walker. For those who have not attended, we think you would have a great time if you are able to come to Colorado this July.