Crop farming is a high investment industry, but only has little revenue. For someone who dabbles in that area, Dave Buurma has decided to start a fertilizer company to achieve a completely balanced cashflow. He joins Solomon Ali to share the story of how a school dropout like him managed to purchase a plot of farming land and eventually establish his own company, LaSalle Agri Fertilizer. He discusses the right business mindset every farmer must possess, which is all about creating the right connections and learning the best money management strategy. Dave also shares his plans for his business, which focuses on farming equipment distribution.
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Cash Flowing Through Crop Farming With Dave Buurma
I’m doing wonderful. Every day’s a journey. I enjoyed it all. It’s been good to be here with you and see you again. I always feel like I should be doing the interview with you, to learn from you. That’s what I want to learn from.
I want to learn from you. From what I hear, you got big things going on. You did well. Tell me about the farming business. How did you get into it?
The farming business, I was raised on a farm and when you’re raised on the farm, you’re taught that you’re going to be driving a tractor or you’re going to be planting. You are going to find your mold. No one does any emotional psychologist tests on you to understand where you fit in the business.
You grew up farming and you loved it?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t like farming. I didn’t even enjoy it. I dropped out in grade nine out of school. My dad had a simple policy that if you didn’t have a 75% average, you’re going to work.
Here you are, this extremely successful person. You got all these women chasing you around town. You run this big business. What’s to see?
In life, you need to have both your cashflow business and investment business.
I don’t know if I ever never had hunger. I think I always did. The thing is that, I didn’t know myself at a young age. I didn’t know what I wanted. I moved to Mexico. I have lived in Mexico for years. I got married down there. Seeing the poverty of other people, seeing them struggle, see my struggle down there, losing my money and businesses down there, and coming back with nothing. On average of $4 an hour is what I got paid down there. Living in that environment and trying to look after your family and have children, the corruption down there and all those things, it builds something in you. You come back to North America or Canada, where I live and everywhere is an opportunity. My brother accepted me back. I was working for him. He ran a factory and I worked a night shift and I got paid $20 an hour. I hit a goldmine.
That’s where it started. You’re running night shifts. You try to look for the next opportunity. I got on the phone in the evening, called my brother up, and says, “Would you sell me your farm?” It was 35 acres. I said, “What price is it? I’ll buy it for $80,000.” Back then he says, “We’ll do a deal.” I called my other brother up and I say, “Brother, would you lend me $20,000 for a month?”
You called the first brother and said, “Would you sell me the farm?” You agreed on the price. Then, you called your other brother and you said, “I need to borrow $20,000.”
On the first deal, I said to him, “I want to buy the farm, but I can only give you three-quarters of it right now, which is the part of the bank was going to give. The other 25%, I’ll give it to you in a year plus interest. I’ll give you the 5% or 7% or whatever it was at the time.”
You made him your personal banker.
I gave him the $20,000 in a year’s time, but I had to get $20,000 for a month because the bank wants to see the 25%. I call my other brother up and said, “Will you give me $20,000 for a month?” I needed it for a month. There is no interest. I borrowed it for one month. He agreed upon that. That’s how I made the first transaction.
What did that feel like?
I was always grinding.
Was it exciting? When I closed my first acquisition, a first nursing home. It was about a $5 million acquisition and all the due diligence, I had to put down $1 million and the bank gave me the rest. I remember walking through, looking at the paintings and everything on the wall. I said, “The spoils of war. All of this belongs to me.” Did you have that type of feeling?
I’m weird. If I make a deal on, I’m getting 10% off my groceries because I’m a senior, I feel good. Any deal’s a good deal for me. I don’t care. I don’t want to deal with the small ones anymore. A salesman, I’ll sell the tractor or sell something else to give him a high five. I don’t want to deal with them quite often, but everywhere has a deal like at the grocery store is a deal.
Dave, tell us about the process of farming? The process of what you do first in the day-to-day and about your business.
I love to create new businesses and that might be at my downfall a little bit too. Once a business is created, I get bored and I like to have everybody take it over. I’ll make sure the manager’s there. My brother being the artist. The human resource guys there, and I get bored. I move to the next project. I always say that, “If I didn’t work for a year, I’d probably make more money.” I wouldn’t be spending it all to the new businesses. That’s where the excitement comes from. I would tell people not to get into farming. Farming is a high investment business with little revenue. The margins are very small. A lot of people do it because of the love of farming and lifestyle and there’s a lot of crazy Dutchmen that want to buy more land and buy more everything. It makes the margins very small in farming. There are many variables, the markets, weather and bugs. There are so many varieties. There are so many things to think about that it’s not a very cashflow-rich business. It’s an investment-rich business, but not a cashflow-rich business.
What was the worst experience you’ve had thus far?
Probably a divorce. It has nothing to do with business. When I came back from Mexico, how I look at is the worst day in Canada is that you go bankrupt and you get to wake up in the morning and have cereal again. I want to borrow more money from the bank and the bank says I was leveraged too far. At that time, I was living in an apartment drive at Grand Prix. I say, “What’s the worst-case scenario if I get leveraged too far?” “You can’t pay your debt.” “What does that mean?” That means I go back to the apartment in the Grand Prix. There’s no downside and that’s how I look at it. You live in North America.
One thing that’s missing in this generation is knowing how to serve people.
Did he give you the loan?
I don’t even know. Even if they didn’t give it to me, I go to the next bank so he must have. Someone was going to give me a loan. I have moved back to another bank before for a period of time, the one bank wasn’t going to do business. You always got to find the right life partners in life. We’ve moved to a bank, the right personality, the right interest rates and the right everything. That’s how I look at life. You always have the right partners.
You say farming has low margins.
What type of farming do you do?
All cash crop farming.
What does that mean?
It’s crop farming. Its soybeans, wheat and corn are what we grow. In life, you have to have your cashflow business, investment business and you have to have that both. My cashflow businesses are the fertilizer business. That’s where my cash comes from. My future businesses, they’re all going to a cashflow business, not investment business.
I was thinking, you said something as cashflow. We had a talk when we were in Spain about raising some capital for a year and everything of that nature and taking you guys’ public. I’m still waiting on that call from you.
A lot of manufacturers in Europe and different countries don’t have a way of distributing their equipment in North America. What I’m setting up now is a distribution system in North America that’s going to revolutionize how equipment is being distributed. We get to go through dealerships and they have to order their product. It takes three months and all that stuff. What I want to create is distribution systems across North America whereas you, the salesman, can sell it now and have the product delivered in three weeks. Instead of having two pieces of equipment that you have in your yard, you have a 100 because they’re sitting in my distribution center. You have one piece to demonstrate to the customer, but you have this whole entourage of the equipment that’s sitting there ready to be delivered. That’s my focus. That’s the business that I do want to go public eventually one day. I do want bring a company public and after that, I might go and coach people on how to be successful. That’s where I have passion.
When you’re ready to do that, I’m getting that call? It’s starting to seem like my ex-wife or something.
I don’t know, I’m still waiting for the call.
I haven’t gotten there yet.
The time you should get money is the time when you can handle it.
We are in COVID-19. It’s affecting everything globally. It’s going on. How’s it affecting your industry?
There are two things. I was very aware of the whole COVID thing as it was going on. I was very conscious about how it was going to affect my mind and that was something I took into high consideration. Also, for all the employees that were with me. I took it quite concerning at the very beginning because it’s a deadly as it all and try to understand the truth of it and you could be still wondering that now. Even if I die during COVID, I rather die than live in fear. The people that were scared, I said, “Go home and everybody else were going to freaking rip it up because I’m not going to allow this bull crap effect my mindset.” I went hungry and harder than ever because the truth is what are you going to do? You’re not going to go any chips, are you? You’re at home, you’re going to work. Go harder at it. It’s interesting though, agriculture is always the last one to be affected by any recession. We’re not affected on an agriculture level, on the recession.
Who are your clients? Are they individuals or corporations?
When we sell our grain, it goes to two large corporations. When I’m selling the fertilizer, it goes right to the customer. I’m building one other business where you have a grain facility to buy and sell grain from farmers. That one’s already built but I want to expand on it. Everything is service-oriented. The reason why people do business with me is because of service. That’s the one thing that’s missing this generation is how to serve people. A lot of industries are failing for that reason because if you can sell a service to a customer at an extreme level, they’ll always be with you.
What drives you, Dave?
I wake up hungry. I don’t know why. I wish I knew why. I can’t to tell you why.
Is it the corn flakes?
It’s the challenges. If I wish anything for my children, it is more challenges. If I wish anything, it’s a struggle. I’m not going to give them anything. I told them that already. I say, “I’ll have to pay for your personal growth but as far as going to school, you’re on your own.” It’s because I have a grade nine education. The thing that I learned is coming to events like this.
Let me see if I can regurgitate that back to you. You’re not going to spoil your kids by giving them anything because you dropped out of school. You only have a ninth-grade education yet, you are a highly successful businessman. Is it that you’re teaching them to work for it?
No. I believe that the time you should get money given to you is the time you can handle money. The time you can handle money is the time you don’t need money. I’ll explain it this way. The time I feel that people can be given money to deal with and manage is the time that they can handle it. The time they can handle money is the time that they generally don’t need it anymore. I see that with my brothers. My father, when he passed away, the money would be divided up with us all. That’s fine. The thing is that a lot of us won’t need it and some of us will need it.
It was so profound. It wasn’t the first time that I had heard that. I have all these little sayings that I use myself. Like in business, you don’t have to lie, cheat or steal. You just have to do the work. A lot of people look at me like, “What do you mean?” It was like, “What? Is work for it?” Just do the work and be the best at what it is that you’re doing. I’m going to have to adapt that, make it a part of my sayings. I’m going to just take that from you.
You got everything you want.
When we first met in Italy, Dave, you were one of the first people that came when I got there, greeted me, hugged me, and everything. I was like, “Who is this big guy hugging me? He doesn’t know me. I’m the only person of color there.” Your energy, your excitement and enthusiasm is about life. It’s contagious. Instantly, I was like, “I like this guy and his energy. I like him as a person and a human being.” The more I got to know you and understand what it is you were all about I was like, “This is a person I want in my life,” just to hang out when we went to Spain.
I don’t even understand this because I’m like, “I’m nobody. Why did this guy want to hang out with me?”
I like nobody who makes millions. Keep doing it. We had this conversation and it was very intimate conversation and touching because it was a lot of successful people sitting there. We were at the museum or the castle and we’re sitting there having lunch. You brought up, “How many of you ever had a lunch paid for and you’re always the one paying for lunch?” We all put our hands up because every last one of us were accustomed to always being the one paying for lunch, doing for others. You then made this great grand gesture and you bought everybody’s lunch. I was like, “That was something.” Later, we went shopping. You bought me this leather coat and the bag. The bag, you got the man to give me a huge discount on. I’m bringing this up because you have this great big heart. You’re full of energy. I know how you take care of your employees and everything of that nature. Why do you treat your employees so well?
You can’t succeed in life without everybody else succeeding with you.
I don’t know if I do. I guess a part of my family, that’s why. If you work for me, I feel like I have a responsibility for you. As soon as you don’t work for me, I’m not going to be rude. I don’t care what happens. I’m hoping you’re successful, but I’m not worried, “Did you get your lunch,” and all that stuff. If you work for me, I’m going to make you successful. I believe all ships rise at the same level, at the same time, I always ask people, “Do you ever hear about the guys that worked for Warren Buffett or his partners and his stuff?” I never do, but I’m sure they’re billionaires and successful also. You can’t succeed in life without everybody else succeeding with you. It just doesn’t happen.
I’m coming to work for you. I’m going to buy him out first.
Even new businesses, I’ll start a new business. I’ll put my brother in a 25%. He doesn’t do anything to do with him. I don’t know, I’m just a great guy.
We know you’re a great guy. We know you take good care of your employees. When do you find the time to deal with family and friends?
I’m on the phone all the time. I’ll come home, I’m on my Bluetooth. I put on Bluetooth when I wake up in the morning and it’s on all day. I’ll come home, I have a wonderful nanny at home and she looks after me. She’s our nanny but looks after me like I’m a kid. She has the food ready, I’m on a Bluetooth still. I’m still talking to somebody. I’ll be on the phone the whole time. I don’t wait for people to come back and I’ll call them and they’re going to call me back. I know that’s bull crap. If you want to create connections in life, you create the connections. Don’t wait for them to call you back. Don’t wait for it to be mutual. Keep on delivering. If you want that relationship, go get it. Don’t wait for that relationship to respond back to you, that’s how I look at it.
Give three things that you would say to a young entrepreneur or business person that could help them to be successful in this long hard journey.
First of all, it’s not long hard. There are lots of opportunities. The number one thing is find out who you are. Find out what you’re good at and what you suck at. Understand your personality. Once you defined what you’re good at, what you suck at, then find the other people that are going to develop the rest that you suck at. Find those people and then go down the journey. Follow the money. There’s a money trail in everything. If it was a corrupt politician, follow where the money goes.
If you have a huge problem that you’re dealing with and it has the financial backing to it and it’s a big one, I want to solve that problem for you. I want to solve that because as soon as I solve that problem, you’re like, “That’s awesome. Thank you very much. Here’s the money.” That’s all I want to do all the time. Solve people’s problems, be of service and understand how to serve people. If you freaking serve people nonstop, they’re going to be there at your feet.
I recall saying that so many times on the radio interview that, “Be of service, wash other people’s feet, provide that for them and then they’ll be there.”
They won’t leave you. Where are they going to go?
Dave, like always, I love seeing you every time. I don’t know where we’re going next. We have been to Spain, Italy and New York. We might go to the moon, but we’re at another Magnify Your Wealth, you and I belong to a mastermind. We get together and solve the world’s problems and things of that nature. I’ve learned so much from you. My energy is way up now from when you met me. One of the things I would say to each and every one of you is be excited about what it is that you do, enjoy your work, enjoy the process and you got to go get it. You got to be hungry. You got to go get it.
I’ll add to that. Stay at the heart level. A lot of times when I started business at the first, I thought I’d to be this cold-hearted guy. As I got to the heart level, it’s become more successful, colorful and everything. You don’t have to be this ruthless guy. You don’t have to cut everybody out. Of course, squeeze it hard but you do it with care, love and passion. If you do it with heart, you’ll enjoy it way more.
Dave, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you.
About Dave Buurma
My Strengths are Influencer, Sales opener, and Marketing. I know how to see the opportunities in adversities. Risk Taker. Farmer, Business owner. ENERGY/ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING!!!!???