People Power

I’ve recently rediscovered the amazing power that comes from surrounding yourself with good people. It’s something we’ve addressed many times in this magazine, but when it actually pays off it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment.

Back in my days working at a magazine for the relatively immature landscaping and lawn care industry, one of the core issues we always tried to get at was, at what point is a business too large for one person to manage? Many of the business owners got into it for the love of the work, not the business, so when it came time to grow past the point of full control, a lot of them either sold out, gave up, or just decided to maintain the business at flat growth.

To get to the next level would take not only guts and a willingness to take a risk, but the right kinds of people with a passion for the business and a willingness to learn and take on more responsibility. The profiles we did of successful companies inevitably led to discussions of competent and reliable management in the middle ranks that allowed upper level management to look for new opportunities and guide the company at a higher level.

When I started here eight years ago, one of the key strategic decisions we made was to bring in more seasoned individuals with the right mix of skills and personality traits that could grow into more responsibility. Mainly because of this, I’ve recently been able to grow my job into editorial management of our cotton group. As we’ve been having transitional meetings and some of these key people have stepped up to take on new challenges, I daily feel the load on my shoulders lighten. It’s a tremendous, empowering feeling.

I know many successful retailers have had similar experiences with the benefit of good people, and Eric Sfiligoj and I got to see a number of them at the recent Agricultural Retailers Asso­ciation conference last month. Virtually all of the largest and most successful managers of retail organizations tell us it comes down to people, plain and simple.

The distribution channel is facing some significant challenges in the next couple of years, many of which are covered in this issue. The care of corn is certainly an opportunity to be exploited, but it will take a solid plan and good people to get it done. With consolidation at every level of agriculture, diminishing value in crop protection, and increasing nitrogen and fuel prices, we need to be efficient. Will your people be able to answer the call?

Most really good managers can get by on working harder and filling in the gaps where people and systems fail, but as Bill Keogh says in his story in this issue, working harder is not a business strategy. Getting the right people in the right roles in your company is a step in your business plan that you simply can’t afford not to take.

Finally, two closing notes. First, on the subject of people, I’m pleased to announce that Eric Sfiligoj has been promoted to Editor of CropLife® magazine, as well as sister publications CropLife IRON and the PrecisionAg print properties. Eric’s done an excellent job covering the distribution channel and representing the interests of retailers, and will bring strong leadership and knowledge to the position.
Lastly, all the best for a happy and prosperous new year! 

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