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
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
Latest News
Seed/BiotechDow Details Enlist Trait Stacking Standards
January 30, 2015
Dow says it will allow the Enlist trait to be stacked with advanced glyphosate traits only, and will not allow stacking with the first generation of the Roundup Ready trait. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: IFCA’s Jean Payne on Illinois wat…
January 30, 2015
Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares insight from the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association conference including a chat with IFCA President Jean Read More
ManagementOABA Conference Set To Highlight Trends, Technology And…
January 29, 2015
The third annual Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) Industry Conference is set to take place February 4-5. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute President Jahn Testifies Befor…
January 28, 2015
The committee hearing, "Freight Rail Transportation: Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Commerce," looked at challenges facing our nation's freight rail network created by higher demand, rules and regulations and infrastructure needs. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue University Acquires Technology For Herbicide Mol…
January 28, 2015
Protea's LAESI DP-1000 Instrument System will be used in Purdue's College of Agriculture, the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, for the molecular imaging of herbicide active ingredients and other related compounds to optimize herbicide applications and improve weed management.  Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Hires New Crop Peformance Marketing Manager
January 27, 2015
As Marketing Manager for the Crop Performance division, Usman Khalid will work out of H.J. Baker’s global headquarters in Westport, CT, and will drive new initiatives for the division. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
Exclusive state-of-the art Stueve Construction designed “Vista View” Elevated Control Room.
Eric Sfiligoj2015 Agricultural Market Read: Mixed
January 26, 2015
The agricultural market could look radically different this year, profit-wise, depending upon which segment you do business in. Read More
Edward Chell Biosafe
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Names Ed Chell California Territory Man…
January 26, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the recent addition of Ed Chell as California Territory Manager for the agrichemical division, supporting the crop protection, water treatment and food safety business segments. Read More
InsecticidesBayer CropScience Introduces Sivanto Insecticide
January 26, 2015
Sivanto precisely targets key damaging pests at multiple insect life stages to prevent damage to plants and help minimize the spread of diseases from insect carriers. Read More
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More