Saul Goldfarb is President of Goldfarb & Associates, an international dealer of diesel engine parts. Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, Mr. Goldfarb received a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1982. After 2 years of working at the defense contractor division of Westinghouse, he left and went to work for his father in the automotive core supply business. After 15 years, he left his father’s business and started Goldfarb & Associates, Inc. G & A has a unique niche in the core supply industry, only dealing in turbochargers, fuel injectors and fuel injection pumps. Starting from a spare office in a CPA firm plus a separate 10 x 20 self-storage facility, G & A has grown into a 16 person business, working out of a 25,000 sq. foot warehouse in Rockville, MD. In 2013, Mr. Goldfarb hired his retired father and step mother to work for him remotely from Florida as buyers. At 87 and 82, they continue to work for G & A today. In 2014, he hired his son Scott to work for the company.
Mr. Goldfarb has been married to his wife Elissa for 36 years. Together they have 3 grown sons and one fantastic grandson. In his off time, he enjoys traveling, gardening, golf, baseball and hiking. But mostly he enjoys the grandson (and gardening).
Where did the idea for President of Goldfarb & Associates come from?
I was working for my dad’s company for 15 years. I knew the industry well by that time. The automotive core industry was going into a down period in the late 1990’s. At that time, we had 3 young children and a mortgage. I needed to find a way to make more money, but not hurt my Dad’s business. I looked into being a headhunter, as I am a good networker and I get along well with people. But I couldn’t start a new career that was 100% commission driven. So I looked at the skills that I had, and the market place that I knew. What I saw was a niche market that was really developing at that specific time. The diesel engine market was taking off, and I grabbed the related parts that were being remanufactured, but which my Dad’s company did not handle. In this way, I could continue to work in the field that I knew, but would not compete with my Dad. My Dad and I have a very close, open relationship. He wished me well and I was off and running with G & A.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I suppose I am very old school, but my days usually look the same. Up early at 5:30AM. Run, yoga, spin or some kind of exercise. I get to work around 8:30AM and I stay until about 6:00PM. First thing I do is look at my calendar and notes from the day before. I take pretty detailed notes, as memory is not a strength. I also use my CRM extensively. For the first half hour I usually review our financials, send out wires, or converse with people overseas. Then I dive into responding to emails or helping out with any issues going on in the warehouse. If need be, I deal with software and computer issues. On most days, I try and bring a healthy lunch. At 1:30PM we have a companywide standing meeting in the warehouse. This gives me an opportunity to let the entire company know what is going on, discuss orders coming in and out, decide on any changes that need to be made etc. We keep the meeting short and light. We wish people happy birthday, share a funny story or have trivia questions. Many days we have separate break out meetings during the day. General sales, online sales, Latin American Sales, etc. Every other week Scott and I meet virtually with our CFO. He’s really a smart guy, especially with finances.
I feel am most productive when I stay the course and focus on what I have in front of me. Follow up with customers and vendors is very important. Doing what I say I’m going to do is a must. I’m very proud to say that G & A has an excellent reputation in our industry. That comes from over 30 years of being straight forward and honest with everyone. We are a small company, but we get the job done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Typically, ideas come to me when I am not thinking about them. When I’m running or in the shower. If I think it’s a good idea, I immediately write it down in my notes. I use Microsoft One Note so that I can write it down anywhere using my phone, IPad or computer. Then when I have time, I sit down and research the idea. Usually, I run it by my son Scott, or someone who is more knowledgeable in that specific area, perhaps my CFO. We talk it through, and come up with a plan of action. As I like things to be structured, I might try to write up an outline of how I see it being brought about. Then I’ll decide who should implement the idea and talk it through with them. Finally, once we have come up with a plan, I’ll hand it off and schedule future meetings to track the progress of the project. If it really is a good idea, it usually works out. Ideas not fully thought through or just plain bad ones usually die on the vine.
What’s one trend that excites you?
While not earth shattering, online sales is really an exciting growth area of our business. Over the past few years, it is our leading growth area. Since we are uniquely situated globally, we have access to many parts that cannot be found in North America. Many of our customers are regional businesses, and thus do not have the international reach that we do. This has opened up many possibilities for us as a supplier to remanufacturers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Discipline, at least when it comes to work. I am pretty “no nonsense” when it comes to showing up and getting the job done. I rarely miss work, unless traveling. When at work, I’m working. I’m very friendly with everyone, but I am working. I answer every call. I return every call. I can always be trusted to be there, to be a straight shooter and to help everyone.
What advice would you give your younger self?
“Hire slowly, fire quickly”. Don’t hang on to employees who no longer fit the company and its culture. Once you think someone no longer fits, they probably don’t.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That’s a hard one for me. I am very much a “people please” type. Rarely do I take an oppositional view from the group. The one thing I’d say is, business does not have to be hyper competitive. There is enough business for everyone. Be open, share your experiences. Always be honest. Pay things forward. They always come back to you in the long run.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I don’t want to feel like a broken record, but the one thing I do over and over is be “nice”. I am friendly with everyone. I am outgoing and never get angry. Never, under any circumstances do I lose my temper. That may just be my personality, but it works for me. My son Scott has much the same personality, and I see that it works for him as well. After almost 40 years in this business, I can say that not everyone follows this advice.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Product knowledge and technology. I knew the intricacies of the core supply business before I started G & A. I had had 15 years’ experience working with my Dad. When I started, I was the only employee, so I really had “hands on” experience with the parts. That is, I touched every single piece I sold. Therefore, I gained very valuable product knowledge over the first 5 years of my business. Lastly, I am not afraid of technology. Many in the industry we are in are afraid of technology. Or at least slow to use it. I was on Ebay way back in 2001. I used the fax machine for mass faxes. I moved on to email always growing our database. Even now, 20 years later online sales is the fastest growing portion of our business. We had to grow with the times, so we have brought in people with technology experience, SEO people, etc. There is much room for improvement, but we are going in the right direction.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been times in my career when I realized that certain employees should be let go. Either they were not performing at a level that was needed, or they had grown antagonistic for some reason. In most cases, I kept them on far longer than I should have. Again, being a “people pleaser” has its drawbacks. As I have matured and gained experience, I have been better equipped to let people go when they no longer fit the company. It’s important to me that I do this in a respectful, professional way. But cutting ties with an employee once you realize they will no longer work out is important for the sake of the business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe that if you can find good sources of anything, you can sell it online.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My wife and I just came back from a trip to Rome and Berlin. After 10 days of traveling, we found ourselves in Potsdam, hungry for lunch. We accidentally sat down at a Vietnamese restaurant. It may have been the best meal we had the entire trip.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
How do you use it? We currently use Zoho for our CRM. For 20+ years we used ACT. You could use Outlook or any number of softwares. The key, if you are in a sales business, is to use the software. Take notes. Schedule follow ups. Use the calendar. It’s all there, but you must use it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. This book was given to me by a friend who is the managing partner in a large county law firm. A high stress, high paying position. Basically, it says that you won’t be happy no matter how much money you make if you are not happy regardless. Being happy, is a huge advantage on the way to making money. Easy to read, makes you think about priorities.
What is your favorite quote?
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
— Henry David Thoreau
- Business does not have to be hyper competitive. There is enough business for everyone. Be open, share your experiences. Always be honest. Pay things forward. They always come back to you in the long run.
- “Hire slowly, fire quickly”.
- The key, if you are in a sales business, is to use the software. Take notes. Schedule follow ups. Use the calendar. It’s all there, but you must use it.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.