An Outside Perspective

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During a recent presentation at an ag dealership, the manager of the business presented several daily challenges faced by the outlet, best put in the form of questions:
  • How do we serve different kinds of growers, according to our day-to-day needs and the long-term value to us as an agribusiness?
  • What kinds of things can we do for our grower-customers that help sensitize them to stewardship issues and avoid any concerns for consumer acceptance of what they grow?
  • How do we charge for our agronomic expertise — knowledge that holds great value for grower-customers, but is difficult for them to understand?
  • Is it possible to manage employees in a way that enables them to continually evaluate our service process without feeling that they will be inviting criticism or even dismissal?
  • What can we do to further assure that our employees and growers take the time to employ the food safety and environmental stewardship systems that are needed to ensure the sustainability of our businesses?

As ag dealers and readers of CropLife® magazine, these subjects sound all too familiar. The surprise may be that this was a presentation I experienced at a dealership in the Sinaloa state of Mexico, an area known for production of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and the white corn used in tortillas.

Challenges Across Borders

Yes, it seems that crop input dealers in Mexico share some of the same challenges we have in the U.S. Pro Agro, my host for the presentation, is a high-quality operation, well-deserving of its designation as Latin American winner of the World of Respect Award for 2006, sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection and conducted by CropLife and Farm Chemicals International magazines. The company is proud of the designation — a huge banner hangs high on the warehouse, visible to all who pass by.

Pro Agro is a rapidly growing business that has made some drastic, yet essential changes to ensure the future of its services and employees. As with our business, change has been somewhat frightening. However, the leaders of Pro Agro have, I think, focused on the most important of all things: providing security for its good employees. It seems to be the kind of security that leads to everyone being able to focus on what needs to be done without fear about what will happen next to their employment. It is a flat organization with the intent of encouraging its people to make the right choice to serve the customer.

Cosme Cota of Pro Agro, who presented the Pro Agro story to us in English, shared with me that the struggles of change were much easier now that the company has adjusted its focus. I must admit, after seeing the facilities with their wonderful emphasis on environmentalism, and hearing of the business intentions, I am impressed.The visit to Pro Agro was both educational and flattering. It’s a great facility and yet it was as if the company wanted us to provide some answers that weren’t yet obvious to it. Had the company representatives only known that I learned much more about business from them in the few short hours of our visit than back home over the past few years; seeing someone else’s crop input business in another country offers a different and refreshing perspective.

Deerkop is area manager for The McGregor Co., Garfield, WA, and the national winner of the 2006 Environmental Respect Awards.

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