In 2013, Johnny Georges became a You-tube sensation when his emotional plea on the entrepreneurial show – The Shark Tank aired. As the inventor of the tree T-pee, a water conservation system, Johnny had a very personalized approach to expanding his business. He’d been taught by his father – an inventor in his own right – that you had to work with farmers and find ways to help them grow their business and this was exactly was spurred him on to develop the tree T-pee.
The tree T-pee is a patented plastic dome that is placed around the base of small trees. It helps to preserve the moisture around the trees and prevents evaporation and water loss. The end result is that less water is required to irrigate each tree, less fuel is needed to pump water and the trees grow better because they are receiving more water. His motto is “When good people come together, with a noble cause, great things happen.”
In his pitch he tells a story of how he went and placed 5 tree T-pees on one woman’s farm in Florida. He was caught in the act and told he was trespassing, but he was undeterred. He gave the woman his card and apologized for being on her property saying that he just wanted to demonstrate how he could save her water and money.
A week later he got a phone call from the woman. “Johnny” she said “Those 5 tree T-pees that you put on my land, I’d like to pay you for them. And then I want another 49 995 to put on the rest of my trees”
On the You-tube video Johnny then proceeds to be grilled by one of the sharks. You see Johnny’s margins weren’t very big and that was intentional, because his primary concern was helping farmers to save costs and produce better crops. He made the tree T-pee’s for $2-95 and sold them for $4-50 which left just over $1-50 as a profit margin. This might not seem like much but as Johnny explained, farmers didn’t just buy one at a time, they bought thousands, so it was still good business.
The sharks disagreed, saying that he should sell them for $12 to $14 a piece, because that was the only way to put a proper distribution chain in place so that he could take his product beyond just Florida. Besides if there was no other product like his on the market and he had the patent for it, then he basically had the monopoly on the market. Johnny’s response was simply “But they are farmers!” Meaning that farmers were always squeezed for budget and he didn’t want to be in the business of making a bigger profit at their expense.
One by one the sharks shook their heads and said that they were out. But just as you think Johnny has lucked out one of the sharks John Paul DeJoria, of Paul Mitchell fame, tells Johnny he likes his idea and especially how he values his customers and wants to be his partner.
Two years down the line, has Johnny kept to his ideal of providing farmers with a cost effective solution to water conservation while still being able to grow his business?
The tree T-pee is now available from Home Depot in Florida, and online throughout the USA. He also has distributors in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. The tree T-pee retails for $7-95 for a black one and $8-95 for a white one. It might be more than $4-50, but not by much. It seems Johnny is just as committed as ever to look after his customer’s interests even as he grows his business.
The tree T-pee has been featured in several agricultural print magazines, websites and newspapers. On social media Johnny has a strong following and reading through the comments and posts it’s very evident that his personalized approach to business hasn’t changed much. To every comment or query, there’s a response and the overall sense is one of encouragement to continue doing good and helping to make a positive difference in the lives of farmers.
There can be little doubt that this strong customer focus has been the cornerstone of Johnny’s business success. There are not many businesses that will continue to put the customer needs and interests above the desire for bigger profit margins. Many entrepreneurs may start out with those ideals but too quickly get seduced by the lure of bigger and bigger profits.
The story of Johnny Georges and his tree T-pee is inspiration for all business people to not just focus on the profit margins. It is evidence that an uncompromising customer focus can and will grow a business successfully and profitably so that everyone benefits in the end.
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Carolyn is Managing Director of Real Results Training www.real-results.co.uk +44 1614082003 (GMT) firstname.lastname@example.org and co-author of Delivering Effective Social Customer Service available on Amazon.com Tweet @carolynblunt or say ‘Hi’ on Linked In https://uk.linkedin.com/in/carolynblunt