What I Learned at NAMA

The annual trek to the National Agri-Marketing Association’s April conference is always a good one for getting motivated, learning new things and reconnecting with the movers and shakers in our industry. We’re trying to stay on top of what’s important in agriculture and in marketing. I think about the people we work with and all that they have to learn as well. Agriculture is changing so fast and continues to present us with opportunities for a lot of learning.

“The person with the answers is usually doing the least amount of talking and the most amount of listening.” That’s a quote I wrote down this past week after a one-on-one conversation with Ryan Estis, who’s a business performance expert, and one of the meeting’s keynote speakers. Remember when your mom said that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? Perhaps she was trying to lead you to be the person with the answers. Listening well is an important skill, and one that we try to employ daily at Beck Ag. We know the importance of talking to people in the market and learning what’s impacting them…seeking to understand, as Stephanie Liska said last week. We just got our first quarter stats in, and we did that 95,545 times in the first quarter. That’s a whole lot of listening.

Beck Ag is a company that Charlie Beck and I founded in 1996. At NAMA I visited with another Beck, none other than Sonny Beck of Beck’s Hybrids after he was named Agribusiness Leader of the Year. Congrats to Sonny and Beck’s – no relation, but a friend of Beck Ag for sure! Beck’s Hybrids has doubled in size every four years over the past twenty years and is now the largest family-owned seed company in the U.S.. Sonny complimented me on the strong, very positive reputation that Beck Ag has. He’s comfortable in sharing the same last name with us.

Since we started, we have had a unique company culture that we’ll talk more about in the weeks to come. We are a virtual company that allows and enables our people to have balanced and productive lives. To keep our culture strong, we have to always be protective of it, reinforce it, live it and take actions that are consistent with it. Next time you run into someone from Beck Ag, ask them about our company culture and how we live it and protect it.

As Stephanie has mentioned recently, our people are among the very best in the industry, and out culture affords us the opportunity to work from wherever we want. That’s a big perk these days, especially when you talk about having a real career or even a calling, which is another topic that came up at NAMA. The speaker, Dr. John Izzo, has worked with dozens of multi-national companies and brands. He stressed the need for us to find meaning in the work that we do. The steps on the ladder described by Dr. Izzo are: 1) a job is ok and better than being without one, 2) a career is better and more motivating, and 3) a calling is best and creates passion for what one does. For many of us, agriculture is our calling. At Beck Ag we share a passion and pride in our ability to reach and educate Ag professionals and essentially revolutionize marketing through our experience sharing approach.

Experience sharing and education of the client and the potential client are at the root of what we do. Ag technology is forcing us to be more scientific, while at the same time, the general public is less and less knowledgeable about science. That’s a big disconnect. For a company with a product in the ag market, education is important, because the customer needs to understand what’s in it for them…and they need to hear it from a trusted, unbiased source. For the general public, well, we heard a lot about bridging the gap between farmers and consumers, and Beck Ag’s Margaret Oldham will talk more about some of those initiatives in a post here very soon.

Margaret was on the NAMA Conference Committee, and I’d like to thank her for the work she and the whole committee put into this year’s meeting.

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