This is the third installment in a series of profiles of the North Bay’s Most Influential Leaders. Nominations are welcome at www.northbaybusinessjournal.com.
Previously profiled: James A. Andersen, Dante Benedetti, Russell A. Colombo, David I. Freed, James B. Keegan, Brian Kelly, Thomas B. Klein, Gary D. Nelson, Steve Page, Lawrence Simons, Matt White, Jim Adams, Rachel M. Dollar, Rob McMillan, Al Coppin, Daniel J. Duckhorn, Mark Idhe, Stan Mead, Dave Siembieda and Iver Skavdal
Company: American AgCredit
Company address: 200 Concourse Blvd., Santa Rosa 95403
Residence: Santa Rosa
Professional background: Agricultural teacher, American AgCredit CEO for 28+ years
Education: B.S. dairy sciences, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; M.S. general ag science, Cal Poly, secondary teaching credential, U.C., Davis
What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Continue to be a positive visionary for the company and lead by example
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry? Over my career in agriculture I have seen significant changes in commodity products in the region and what agriculture brings to the economy, specifically the development of tourism and the growth of the reputation of the area. Within the Farm Credit System I have seen tremendous consolidation and the need for our bank to remain well-capitalized to meet the needs of our stockholders/borrowers. In this same way, there are fewer fruit orchards and dairies, as many have converted to vines or consolidated with other farms.
What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Have patience and continue to hone their leadership skills.
What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment? Don’t venture outside your area of expertise and avoid leverage.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years? A lot depends on the agricultural industry economy, which is driven by commodity prices and exports. Strong prices equal stable businesses. In regards to the Farm Credit System stricture, I see consolidation leading to significant change in the system.
What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it? Approving a loan with significant risk that led to a financial loss to the company. Your first loss is your cheapest loss.
What is your most memorable business experience? Being the driver to get a billion dollar tax refund for the Farm Credit System.
What is your greatest business success? Building American AgCredit from $50 million to $4.8 billion. Building a team of great executives that have made American AgCredit what it is today.
What was your toughest business decision? Severing people in the merger/consolidation process
What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? I am pretty much an open book.
First job: Milked cows at 14
Most admired businessperson outside the company: Jim Cirona and Crawford Cooley. They are both dynamic businessmen with high integrity and have the ability to make good, quick, sound decisions.
Current reading: “The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever.” An account of the legendary 1913 U.S. Open, in which amateur Francis Ouimet beat the great Harry Vardon – details this famous competition match and the strategy involved
Most want to meet: Gen. Schwarzkopf – Because he’s a smart strategist and solid thinker. I’d like to ask him what was behind their choices during Desert Storm and get some insight.
Stress relievers: Relaxing at the ranch
Favorite activities outside work: Golf, hunting, fishing and running a cattle business
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