Thompson Tractor Company Inc. recently held a reception at the Bay Point Marriott, Panama City, Fla., in recognition of the retirement of Steve Parish and his 56 years of dedicated service to Caterpillar products.
In his speech applauding Parish’s contributions to the company, Thompson’s Mike Thompson pointed out that back in 1953 when Parish started working for Caterpillar, a Ford car sold for $1,537, gas was 22 cents a gallon, postage stamps were three cents, Chevrolet rolled out the first Corvette, the state of New York adopted the first traffic lights with three colors, and the unemployment rate was just 2.9 percent.
Thompson went on to say “Let me tell you what else happened in 1953, Steve Parish went into the Caterpillar business and that is why we’re here today to honor him. Steve has sold well over 1,000 Caterpillar machines in his career and worked from daylight to dark to make it happen. Along the way, he made his customers his friends always putting their needs first. Steve will be no stranger, but will be missed by all of us on a day-to-day basis. He is the Thompson Tractor Company salesman of the century and I thank him for all he has done.”
In turn, during his speech Parish simply stated “It’s been an honor to represent Caterpillar and Thompson Tractor Company. I appreciate being a member of the team and all the support I’ve received. I appreciate the support of my family throughout my career and all of my customer friends that turned out tonight. Ya’ll are like family, and I will miss you.”
At the conclusion of the speeches, Thompson presented Parish with a unique statue called the Bronco Buster, which is an exact replica of a statue designed and carved for Teddy Roosevelt by Frederick Remington.
The statue represents Parish’s passion for horses. Parish calls himself a “Sunday cowboy” and has owned and ridden horses his entire life. With his retirement, he looks forward to spending more time with his horses at his Marianna, Fla., ranch.
When Thompson Tractor Company celebrated its 50th anniversary, a book was published to mark the occasion. One of the feature stories is excerpted here in an edited version.
“Nothing happens until something sells,” Steve Parish said. He ought to know. He spent his entire career selling Caterpillar tractors and heavy equipment from 1966 to 2010, first with Burford Toothaker, then with Thompson Tractor after the company took over Burford in 1987. In a world where most baby boomers hold an average of 10 jobs from ages 18 to 38, there aren’t too many people that can proudly point to 56 years with the same company, doing what they like and doing it well.
Parish actually started in the tractor business on October 12, 1953, when he began working for Burford in parts and service. He sold a tractor to H.S. Sikes of Sikes Pipe Company on his first day on the job as a salesman in 1966. That relationship continued until his retirement, since Parish sold excavators and wheel loaders to Mr. Sikes’ son as well as excavators, loaders and dozers to his grandson. Parish was only the second Caterpillar salesman in this territory.
Back when Parish began selling for Caterpillar, there were approximately 30 different models to offer customers. Today, that number is more than 300. It was mostly the excavators and smaller tractors that were Parish’s big sellers in Florida, and he counted highway contractors, governmental agencies, mining outfits and the forestry industry as his primary customers. Parish would always be on the go and said, “If there’s not something happening in one area then there’s something happening in another.”
Selling in a region where construction work continues year-round certainly helped keep Parish busy and with the continued growth and expansion of Thompson Tractor over the years, sales representatives have had more options when trying to close a deal. As customers have grown used to having more to choose from, technology has played a larger role, and Parish is glad that Thompson Tractor has kept up and has always remained a leader in the business.
“People want more product support nowadays”, he said. “They want things fixed yesterday. Shoot, they don’t want them to break down at all. Thompson’s been very aggressive in using modern technology to deliver these services.”
When asked what has been the best part of his job, Parish didn’t hesitate to say,“My customers.” In today’s often frenetic-paced, high-pressure world, Cat sales may be a bit more complicated than they used to be, but in the person of Steve Parish, there’s a reminder of a time when a good firm handshake was all it took to seal the deal between customer and salesman.
“My customers are my friends” Parish reflected.“I spent more time with them than I did with anybody but my family.” Parish had mentioned several years ago “If I retired, I reckon I’d lose contact with my friends.”
We certainly hope that is not the case and everyone in the industry wishes him nothing but the best for his retirement.
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