Lyman/Tremont Group: Cultivating Bottom-Up Management

The Lyman/Tremont Group, based in Walnut Grove, CA, is in the midst of implementing some significant changes in its service to growers. Les Lyman, chairman, and Johnny Council, president and CEO, got the idea from a retail member of IAP, an input buying group that Lyman/Tremont belongs to, and was immediately sold on it.

“I said, ‘bingo, I can see right where to take that,’” recalls Lyman. “I could see that it could be a 5- to 10-year investment, but when we got that far out we would sure be glad we started when we did. No one else is doing it, and we’ll be getting a 3- to 5-year head start on our competition.”

Lyman is the designated “big picture guy” for the company these days, with responsibility for looking out to the horizon both for challenges and opportunities, and for keeping implemented ideas on track and as free from obstacles as possible. He spent his formative career years at Shell Chemical, providing him the opportunity to travel across the country and get a well rounded experience in the ag distribution channel.

“When I got back into the retail business, I carried with me the importance of always looking as far over the fence as I could,” says Lyman.

The opportunity that Lyman is referring to involves helping grower-clients to comply with increasingly suffocating state level regulations and market demands surrounding worker safety, water quality and food traceability.

“It all has to come back to what is sustainable,” says Lyman. “Nothing is sustainable without water and nothing is sustainable, in California in particular, without addressing worker and food safety. In this state, if you make one mistake and one illegal product gets through to the packer or shipper, they are either out of business or their lives will be changed forever, and it will take years for them to recover. Eventually, we will be filling niches to help our clients establish record keeping and traceability.”

The technology and the know-how is out there, he says, but no one on the retail side has figured out how to make it work for the industry. “We look around and see all that technology around us or that’s being developed, and we can see the need to figure out how to bring it all together.”

Starting with the worker safety compliance issue first, the concept is being rolled out through senior management to the store management level, where regional and local meetings are being held to move it forward. Now, a limited number of pest control advisors (PCAs) have been selected to bring the concept to select grower customers.

People Drive Innovation

At Lyman/Tremont Group, innovation is part of the culture of the business, and is carefully cultivated across the organization. Table stakes for creating innovation are “really just having darn good people,” as Lyman says, that are empowered by the leadership structure that allows employees to make decisions and encourages ideas from the ground up. “We are a bottom-up managed business,” says Lyman, “starting with the retail unit managers. The support team is basically the tiers of mid-level and upper level management, and most top management groups really function in support roles and big picture guidance.”

The mid-level management team, which includes all retail store managers, have brought innovative and significant proposals to the table, some of which were moved to implementation.  “We encourage that kind of entrepreneurial spirit.”

That can be a challenge to maintain when acquisitions are made, but Lyman says that leadership is careful to maintain and preserve the culture and identity of the acquired businesses when they are purchased intact. “We never had any inclination to roll things up under one label,” says Lyman. “By carefully managing the process we did not do anything but enhance the entrepreneurial spirit and talents of our management team.”

Perpetuating that entrepreneurial spirit is an important consideration with new hires as well. Lyman says that it’s critical to constantly work to upgrade the sales path, and solid employees are derived from within the ranks, and occasionally from the ranks of the competition. The real challenge is bringing in new talent straight from school and into the business.

“These are the ones that come in like a raw piece of clay that you want to mold into what your business requires,” says Lyman, “so you want to get hands on them early so they can spend a period of time learning and working with you.”

Until recently the talent coming out of universities had been slim pickings, but the company has been successful finding students with an interest in business and agriculture over the last couple of years.

Lyman says that they like to start working with students when they are freshmen, put them to work in the field during the summer and develop them. “If we can get three in a particular location, one or two might work out to where we end up offering them a job following their senior year. Not many kids have that in their back pocket these days, but if we are confident in their ability and we have an offer on the table before they get their sheepskin, nine out of 10 times we will get them.”

He also stresses that the company does not look for “cookie cutter” employees. “We want diverse personalities with diverse traits,” Lyman says.  “We want to be able to cover our customer base now and in the future, and if we hire like-minded and talented individuals, and robotically put them through boot camp and make them all the same, we also tend to get only one kind of customer. That is going to limit us in the marketplace, so we are very conscientious of hiring a diverse group of people.

“When you are a bottom-up managed company that is what you want,” Lyman adds. “You have to live on the ideas you get from your employees, so it’s very important to maintain a high level of diversity in our people.”

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

Management2016 CTIC Cover Crop Survey: 33% Report ROI From Cover Crops
July 28, 2016
Insight from 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and—for the fourth year in a row—found Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and RNC Invite
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Other Changes
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Trending Articles
Southeast Farmers Coop - Finished Building
Retail FacilitiesNew Stueve Facilities Offer Ag Retailers Speed, Accuracy
July 9, 2016
Leading the industry in planning and constructing dry fertilizer storage and chemical warehouse solutions, Stueve Construction helped three ag retailers Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Latest News
FertilizerGypsum Added To List Of Conservation Practices
July 28, 2016
Crop farmers in a growing number of states may be eligible for financial assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Read More
Management2016 CTIC Cover Crop Survey: 33% Report ROI From Cover …
July 28, 2016
Insight from 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and—for the fourth year in a row—found Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesStudy: Fall Weed Controls Can Make Significant Impact O…
July 28, 2016
An article published in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science shows that adopting harvest-time and post-harvest weed controls Read More
InsecticidesSyngenta: Beware Of Early Stinkbug Threat To Soybeans
July 28, 2016
With the record warm temperatures this past winter and confirmations from early entomologist reports, Syngenta encourages growers to monitor stinkbug Read More
Peanut field
Crop InputsVerdesian Introduces New Inoculant For Peanuts
July 28, 2016
As planning begins for the next growing season, Verdesian Life Sciences adds Primo Power CL, a new liquid inoculant, to Read More
Soil Young Corn
Crop InputsSmithsonian: 5 Things to Know About New GMO Labeling Bi…
July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesSpecial Issue Of Weed Science Explores Human Aspects Of…
July 27, 2016
Weeds that evolve resistance to herbicides are a serious threat to global agricultural production. In this Special Issue of Weed Science, Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100CHS Businesses In Washington, Idaho Combining For Great…
July 27, 2016
As full-service ag retailers, CHS Primeland and CHS Farmers Co-op collectively serve farmers and other customers in 15 counties in Read More
Storage Tanks at Nachurs
Crop InputsNACHURS Joins Field to Market
July 27, 2016
NACHURS announced today that it has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a leading multi-stakeholder initiative working Read More
Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Ag…
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
Kochia
Crop InputsNufarm Launches New Herbicide for Resistant Kochia
July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More