What happened when a tractor manufacturer decided to take on Ferrari

Who doesn’t love a good “revenge” story? Like how Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic when American Airlines canceled its flight to the British Virgin Islands. Or how Reed Hastings started Netflix after paying a $ 40 late fee for Blockbuster.

Or how an Italian tractor manufacturer decided to take on Ferrari.

Ferruccio was born in 1916 into a family of wine growers. After an apprenticeship in a machine shop and as an aircraft mechanic during WWII, he saw an opportunity to capitalize on his experience and start a tractor manufacturing business. Short of capital, he tinkered with his first prototypes using leftover parts from military vehicles.

Then he saw his opportunity: since gasoline was extremely expensive, Ferruccio developed a device that would allow an engine to be started with gasoline, but then to run on much cheaper diesel fuel.

And with that, he was gone. Business exploded.

Ferruccio became a rich man – and as rich men often tend to do, he started buying sports cars. Fiat. Maseratis. Jaguars. A few Alfa Romeos, just for good measure.

And then, one day, a Ferrari 250 GT.

He loved the statement made by the car. But he didn’t like the real car. It was too loud. The ride was too steep. As Ferruccio said, his Ferrari was a converted track car with an extremely uncomfortable interior.

And then there was the clutch, which required frequent trips to the Ferrari workshop to be serviced. Ferruccio expressed his displeasure to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. Enzo – revealingly nicknamed he Commendatore, or the Commander – was not happy.

As legend has it, Enzo replied, “You stick to making tractors. I’ll make the cars.”

In the centuries-old entrepreneurial tradition, Ferruccio decided not to stick to the manufacture of tractors.

And knew exactly where to turn for help getting his business started: Two years earlier, Enzo had fired five key engineers, including a chief engineer and a legendary development manager, for complaining about the way. whose factory decisions were made.

Ferruccio’s first car, the 350 GT, was a modest success. But its focus on quality and innovation quickly paid off: the Miura, the world’s first mid-engined production car, was a success. A few years later, Ferruccio sold and retired. Successive owners have developed the brand and the company; in 2020, the company reported nearly $ 2 billion in revenue and recorded record profits.

But the best part of the story? Ferruccio, the client whose contribution Enzo Ferrari rejected, was the founder first Last name.

Her last name? Lamborghini.

Of course, sometimes the customer is not right.

But you should still listen, because some of your customers know better than you what your brand has to offer. You know what your promises are; your customer knows what your brand offers.

And because the things you don’t do well – quality and service issues that you aren’t aware of, or that you make a conscious decision not to resolve – can turn what was a customer into a competitor.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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