The Road Warrior of Agriculture

I recently traveled to Glenwood, Iowa to visit ECI, a very successful agricultural computer software firm. Gary Kruse, the founder and CEO, has been a good friend for more than 15 years.

After spending time with Gary to celebrate my birthday and speaking with his 20 member staff, I began to reflect on the qualities that have made him a successful, yet sustainable, small businessman. Perhaps some of these attributes can be utilized in your personal business.

First, he started out with low overhead. His first few years he operated out of an old gas station. Later, as the business grew, he renovated an A&W Root Beer stand. His software firm is now the largest business in Glenwood.

Second, he operates his business out of a small city that has a lower cost of living and a population of only 5,000 people. Remember: Lifestyle drives the business model. However, Glenwood is close enough to Omaha to attract highly qualified employees.

Third, he hires and retains good people. Marilyn, his administrative manager, has been with the business since its inception. Additionally, many of the high-tech workers have over 10 years in the service.

The business has thrived on advertisement via word of mouth. One cannot forget that the agricultural community is a close-knit group of people.

Gary was not intimidated by international service. He has software with 2,800 agricultural lenders throughout the world.

This business has also progressed to the next level over time. He delegates responsibility and accountability to his very capable staff. Recently, he took a three-week vacation to Canada. Gary indicated that the business appeared to run smoother without him!

Mistakes are part of the learning experience at ECI. Gary’s firm is sometimes on the bleeding end of the leading edge. He makes calculated decisions and does not dwell on the negative, but instead learns from failure.

Gary listens to his customers! It is amazing how he will listen to the users of his software. In addition, his staff is very involved in operational decisions.

The balance of family and business is a top priority for Gary Kruse. He insures that he spends quality time with his wife, Lori, and that he has time to shoot a few ‘hoops’ with his children before dinner.

ECI deals with the local bank. Gary believes in giving back to the community and supporting other businesses and networks.

Think about this small business person and how some of his practices could be adapted to your business model.

My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

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