Happy Birthday Land Surveyors United! Part One

NOTE:  This is an update to an original post from 2011 on our 4th birthday

Hi. Its about time I reintroduced myself to all of the wonderful and talented surveyors in this community. My name is Justin Farrow and I have been creating and maintaining Land Surveyors United for exactly 10 years. Many of you may not be aware of this, as I do not make a huge deal out of birthdays, but March is Land Surveyors United's birthday month. This year, LSU turns 10 years old this week and to commemorate this occasion, this year I've decided to take a look back at LSU and offer a glimpse into the history of building the world's first and greatest global social support network for land surveyors! I am going to tell the short version of this tale in several parts,starting with the first day of LSU's inception. Let's begin.

 

It all started on March 2nd, 2007

It was at this desk in the back of Palmetto Equipment and Supply store in Charleston, South Carolina that Land Surveyors United was born, with a blog post. I had come down from Brooklyn, New York to visit my family for a month and to assemble a book that I'd been working on for about 5 years for publishing. Upon arriving to Charleston for this visit, I discovered that my father's company wasn't doing very well. The downward spiral of the economy hadn't really taken hold, as of yet, but local land surveyors were starting to have a hard time finding work and the construction industry was starting to lag. My father, Skip Farrow, God rest his soul,  had several employees that were, as we discovered, stealing from him and things were starting to unravel. I made a commitment to my father to help take pictures of all the inventory and offered to make him a one-of-a-kind Ebay store, so that he could sell his equipment globally and rely less on the local economy. This is how we do it in New York, so i figured "Hey, maybe I'll stay 2 months and do this thing to help my dad." Little did I know that this adventure would become a ten year journey into the future. I started out by creating an ebay store using this old and busted slow contraption pictured above right, working out of the repair room in the back of Palmetto Equipment store. Although I wouldn't admit it at the time, I did not know what I was getting myself into and discovered quickly the fact that building and operating an Ebay store is a full time job. My life began to vanish. Within 3 days of having items up on the store, I suddenly became aware of how much competition I had selling surveying equipment on Ebay, when one of my new competitors flagged my store 47 times over the course of an hour to have it removed. Why? because I was using the same stock equipment photos that he was using, right off the Sokkia website. He insisted to Ebay that those pictures were his. Ebay removed my store and needless to say, I was upset and I told my readers about it. So what did I do? I began taking my own branded photographs of the actual equipment, which I uploaded and created "equipment art" from, while working with Ebay to restore my account. When they did, I blasted the surveying world with new creative ammunition and the game was back on. I built a Palmetto Equipment website using a google service called Pages which is now extinct and replaced by the new Google Sites. The competition got dirty. However, with 8 years of real estate experience in New York City under my belt, I had grown accustomed to dealing with competition.  I maintained (and at times obsessed over) a surveying equipment blog which is now retired with my dad's passing. With that little site, we climbed the search engines, becoming number 1 in search results for just about everything my father sold, and at times even showing up above the manufacturers' websites. It became fun. However, it was a one-dimensional presence which could never fully support all of the surveyors I wanted to help. It became my personal responsibility. The more broke we became, the more excited I became because what I had created was something that surveyors needed - a place to find affordable equipment. As long as I made my own art work and created my own marketing materials, there was absolutely no way that anyone could ever take this away from my father; and that gave him hope and the confidence to make it through the tough time and the even more difficult economic times to come. Nevertheless, there was one missing piece that I just couldn't wrap my mind around; the problems that surveyors were having daily finding support for all of this high-priced equipment.

There were a few trends that seemed to be haunting the surveying industry.

 

  • Every time a surveyor tried to find support from a dealer, they always tried to sell them a new piece of equipment
  • Every time a surveyor called the manufacturer for training and support, they told them to call a dealer.
  • Every time a surveyor could actually find support, they needed to be at an office
  • Every time a surveyor actually needed support, they were out in the field.

ePalmetto Site Circa March 2007

Here I sat in room surrounded by hundreds of instruments and data collection devices, all needing upgrades to the new software versions (which would only run with proper firmware),cables to god-knows-what and a constant stream of support issues that my father no longer had employees to handle. However I noticed something one day when three surveyors from different companies were in the office.  It reminded me of dozens of conversations I had overheard as a kid working in the family blueprint shop. One guy brings up an issue he was having with his total station....another guy says "oh yeah,I had that problem once..this is what you do." The third guy said "man, I never thought about that...maybe that will work on my total station..let me write this down." BOOM,i realized that a surveyor's best tech support is another experienced surveyor. I thought to myself, "Someone has GOT to bring surveyors together in a place where any and every aspect of land surveying can be discussed and discovered. If the manufacturers weren't willing to do this, I would have to...as a cultural experiment. "Later that night, I remember stumbling across some old philosophy class notes from a class I took which explored "Karl Marx and Critical Marxism" and while skimming through them one phrase in the Communist Manifesto stood out to me in an entirely new way:

"Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!"

LSU's first Logo in 2007

I assume I do not need to explain the many reasons why this jumped out at me. That was on March 1st 2007. The next day I started my hunt for a solution; found one, and ran with it. Today we are all sharing this idea. I will let you ponder that a bit and will continue with part two tomorrow.

Part One |  Part Two  |  Part Three  |  Part Four   |  Part Five  | Part Six  |

 

This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network

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Reply by Jaybird on March 2, 2013 at 7:37pm

Happy Birthday Land Surveyors United!  We turn 6 today!  

Where Thousands of Professional Land Surveyors, Students of Surveying and Educators are United through Collaborative Knowledge and Purpose.

Dedicated to the Memory of Skip Farrow (1953-2015)

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