Q & A - Ep. 04
We asked our followers on social media what questions they might have for our host. Russ answers those questions in this episode, plus a few more from trade shows and our sales team!
What is your favorite trade show?
Russ: All right. Today’s mini episode is gonna look a little bit different than what we’ve been doing. We asked our listeners on social media to submit some questions that they had about me. Gosh, that could be dangerous. Ag Leader or just precision ag in general. I’m gonna be answering those for you today.
So I’m gonna start off with, when we got on social media, and this is probably gonna be the lengthiest one and that’s what is my favorite farm show and why, if I’m, to be brutally honest, and I don’t have any reason not to be, I don’t know that I necessarily have a favorite one, but there is something from each of the places that I get to go that I enjoy.
I, I think that’s probably why I’ve stayed around Ag Leader for over 25 years is I just find something in each place that I really enjoy and for the territory managers out there that I work with, if I don’t mention your particular show, don’t think that I don’t enjoy doing it if I did that, I’d, well, we’d have to have a third and fourth season of just me blathering on about trade shows.
So we, the National Farm Machinery Show, is one that, that comes to mind in Louisville, Kentucky. If you’ve never been to that, you really need to go. It is four days of the largest indoor farm show in North America. It’s incredible. I think the only thing I’ve been to bigger than that is a Agritechnica, and that in and of itself is incredible.
Most importantly probably, if you get to know me, is Louisville, Kentucky. Well, shoot, that’s, that’s bourbon country. So, you know, you don’t have to try real hard to get me to come there. Western Farm Show is a, is a more regional farm show that we do in Kansas City. Obviously for me again, the trade show’s great, but there’s good barbecue and if you happen to make it down there, you’ve got to go to Tom Foolery’s in the plaza and have a dirty dump truck.
Well, that’s a dirty dump truck that is literally a Tonka truck filled with ice cream and crushed up Oreos, and it just looks like a dirty, it looks like a, a truck full of garbage and it is phenomenal. Another one that comes to my mind is Commodity Classic and really that one is unique because it, it goes around to different cities and usually in warmer weather.
It’s, been in Texas, it’s been in New Orleans. It’s in Orlando. Just lots of really neat places and it’s, it’s a trade show that all the exhibitors there and the attendees, they, they tend to kind of step it up a little bit. Again, from my singular trip to Agritechnica overseas, I, I had to go buy a suit and tie for that.
So while a lot of folks, will dress up in sport coats, it’s definitely a trade shows it’s a bit more formal, but it’s a formal and a fun way. It’s just a, it’s a really great show and they, you get to go to a lot of fun locations for it as well. Oh, let’s see here. InfoAg, InfoAg is one that I really like for two reasons.
Number one, it’s all the latest and gadgetry and precision farming stuff. And at heart I’m a gadget guy. I love electronics. I always have. Again, that’s probably why I found a home for so long here at Ag Leader. But secondarily, and again, I guess as if you get to know me, the place that they have that at is at the St. Louis Union Station, kind of downtown, and it is literally an old train station that they have converted into a hotel, and the main ticketing area and stuff is kind of their, bar or whatever you wanna call ’em it’s a really large, just absolutely stunning area. And during the day and in the evenings, every hour they do kind of a light show on the ceiling with surround sound.
And it’s just a great spectrum. If you’ve never had a chance to go to the Union Station, be sure that you go and they actually just added a, oh, an ocean museum. They’ve got all sorts of fish and stuff like that, just right adjacent to that as well. Just all sorts of fun things to do down in that area. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Farm Progress, you know, the big outdoor show. Again, get to talk to just tons of people from all over the place. Usually get to talk to lots of folks, from South America as well. It’s lots of fun. And with that one, we, you’ve just come out of summer, it’s sweatshirt weather.
Combines are getting ready to roll. It’s, there’s a whole feeling about it as well. And usually, on a side note to that, we do a lot of parking lot grilling at the hotel parking lots, mainly because usually we’ve got a bigger group at that show. And, actually, a lot more fun.
I mean, fun, to be honest. The crew we have here at Ag Leaders like family to me. So hanging out with them after work is a privilege. So, everybody brings a grill or something like that. And we’ll actually grill out in the parking lots of the hotel after for Farm Progress Show. So not only get to talk to a lot of folks, it’s nice relaxing evenings as well.
So that, that’s a whole lot of fun. A show that I get to do in September. One of the shows I get to do in September is called the, it’s called Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. I always call it the most originally named farm show cuz it’s Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. But it is in Woodstock, Ontario, and the area that it’s at is just absolutely beautiful.
It’s rolling hills. It’s just, oh, it’s, it’s really pretty. If you’ve never again, had an opportunity to go, I get opportunity to go to all these places. It’s kind of a, just kind of a great job to have. And again, the folks there are just super friendly and the weather again is just, it’s sweatshirt weather.
It’s my favorite time of year. Right after that, I go right from that show, to a show in Ohio, in London, Ohio, just outside of Columbus called the Farm Science Review. It’s put on by the Ohio State University. Again, another outdoor show. Great weather, great people, and one of my more memorable show days happened there several years back.
The show administration actually called the show because there was a storm coming and we were kind of starting to get stuff tore down. It hadn’t really happened yet, and we looked outside of our tent and you could literally see a wall of rain and wind coming across the expo center towards us.
And even seeing it, we didn’t have any idea how strong those winds were going to be and all of a sudden it hit and things started blowing, like there was a tornado in the tent. Tables were blowing over in our tent. It was something else. And not to tell tales Ryan, but one of us shouted out every man for themselves abandoned the tent.
And, and it was, man, it was something else. One of, one of the more scary things I’d had happen working at Ag Leader. Sunbelt Ag Expo, something I got to do very early on in my Ag Leader career. And then, I took a hiatus from that, and then we got back into it here a few years ago. That is the second largest outdoor farm show.
It’s right up there. It’s in South Georgia, in Moultrie, Georgia, specifically in October. Again, beautiful weather. Although the gnats, the gnats, the gnats, the gnats, I think you have to be from that area. In fact, I remember going out with some friends one night and our waitress didn’t believe that one of the guys was with us, were from the South, just listening to him and even though he could explain exactly what the gnat line was.
So if you don’t know what the gnat line is down that area during a certain time of the year, the gnats are se bad. Now, a local, would just, yeah, they just kind of breeze it away. But a Yankee like me, that alone would keep me from wanting to be there, even though the rest of the year is completely beautiful.
But again, that show is huge. I did have my initiation to boiled peanuts there as well. Again, as a Yankee, I just can’t get on to boil peanuts. Sorry. It’s probably sacrilege, but, it’s a lot of fun to do that show because in the Midwest I’m used to Ag Leader being more of a household name and there are lots and lots of folks who know who Ag Leader is in that area.
But I still get to talk a lot more about where we came from, cause not everybody knows, about how Ag Leader came to be, and so that’s a lot of fun to talk about that. So anyway, what’s my favorite farm show? Well, as you can tell, I find something fun at every one of ’em. I don’t really know that I have a favorite one, so, I guess I don’t know if I really answered that or not. Next question is, electric drives for insecticide. Anything coming soon? Root rooms are nasty. So I asked about that. Saw looking down the road to see what we’ve got, and unfortunately I don’t have anything to really talk about in that realm, right now.
What is your favorite Ag Leader product?
Next question from social media, what’s been your favorite Ag Leader product or feature over the years? New, old, and why. Well, I don’t know of the first example. I have two examples. The first one, I don’t know if I would call it my favorite product or not. However, years ago we had a product called EZ-Boom and it was a sprayer control system.
And the reason I bring that up is one of my favorites isn’t anything other than something that happened one year. We were doing some grower meetings in Western Canada and I flew up there and in my luggage I had an EZ-Boom console in a box that I’d written EZ-Boom on. And in hindsight, writing EZ-Boom in a box in my luggage that I loaded onto an aircraft was perhaps not my, not my smartest move.
And so I’ve enjoyed telling that story a few times, and it always gets a big laugh. Nothing bad happened. I didn’t go to jail or anything like that. Again, in hindsight, writing something that was easy to boom on a box in my luggage going on an airplane was perhaps not my most well thought out plan.
Outside of that, I suppose one of my more favorite products has always been SMS. I’ve always enjoyed the desktop software and just how powerful it is and everything that it can do, all of the analysis functions and just all the stuff that the desktop software does. So I suppose that would probably be, my favorite product would probably be our desktop software.
Are electric drives for insecticide coming soon?
Next question is, electric drives for insecticide. Anything coming soon? Root rooms are nasty. So I asked about that. Saw looking down the road to see what we’ve got, and unfortunately I don’t have anything to really talk about in that realm, right now.
What does the future of SMS look like?
Here’s a really good question.
Considering that I just told you SMS was one of my favorite Ag Leader products, what does the future of SMS look like? Will it remain or will AgFiniti takeover? That is an excellent question. And simply put, they will probably always be separate. What I mean by that, there’s a few reasons. Again, here a few weeks ago, we finished the National Farm Machinery Show, and I was getting lots of desktop software questions.
And while the majority of folks that use SMS have some sort of Ag Leader equipment, a large segment of them don’t have any Ag Leader hardware, and they just want a simple to use software that’s based on their computer, and there are less and less choices for this all the time. Every software company has gone to a strictly cloud platform, and there are a lot of folks that are just not comfortable with that, whether it be for data security reasons, maybe they don’t have the world’s greatest internet where they’re at, or they’re just more comfortable with a locally based software. So SMS will always be that. It’s the workhorse between AgFiniti and SMS especially, if you look at SMS Advanced. It’s just always been the workhorse of the, of doing for all, doing the data analysis, collecting the data, housing the data, and AgFiniti has just always been the easy button.
Do you wanna see your maps instantaneously everywhere you go on your phone, on your tablet, on your computer? Do you wanna be able to just transform right outta your display, onto your, onto your iPad? You know, that’s, that’s more along the lines of what AgFiniti is. It’s just, it’s the easy button.
That’s, that’s the best way to explain to me the differences between the two. So in my mind they’ll always be separate. We’ll keep adding more stuff to SMS and we’ll keep adding more easy button stuff to, to AgFiniti and allowing it to flow better. One thing I guess on a side note that I don’t talk about enough, or I don’t think we talk about enough as a company, is that user agreement that nobody reads when they put a piece of software on their computer or phone or whatever the case might be for AgFiniti, for our cloud-based stuff, something that we do differently is that we specifically state that we don’t aggregate folks’ data. So there is value to your data whether you’re using AgFiniti as the easy button or whatever. And we don’t have access to that data, and I don’t think that’s something that we talk about enough.
What was your most embarrassing Ag Leader moment?
So next question from online, most embarrassing Ag Leader moment? Well, let’s see. That’s a really good question.
I think actually there is a trade show. In Regina, Saskatchewan called the Western Canadian Farm Progress Show, and there was a year, of course, one of my job requirements is getting all of the trade show equipment ready for a particular show and loading it in the truck and trailer and heading it to wherever we’re going.
Well, for the show in Regina, we didn’t truck stuff up there. We would palletize it and let a trucking company take it up there in one year the pallets got stuck in customs and actually never made it to the show. And this has been many, many years ago. But I showed up. The booth was empty, it wasn’t going to be there, so I just took the little sign down in the back of the booth so nobody knew whose booth it was, and I actually went out and just visited dealers.
So it didn’t turn out terrible, but it was kind of embarrassing that I failed at my job to get the darn booth to the trade show. So, I suppose that would be the most embarrassing thing that had happened, as far as that goes.
What would you be doing if you weren't working for Ag Leader?
So if you weren’t working for Ag Leader, what would you be doing?
Goodness. I thought about this for a long time because I really do enjoy what it is that I do. I mean, I get to go and talk to folks from all over the country and in some times all over the world. I get to travel, I get to go to all sorts of fun places. But if that had never happened, and the sky was the limit, you know, I think we’ve talked about this in the past.
I have a bad habit of collecting old junk cars. I would love to. To just build old muscle cars, either in a more traditional fashion or with some sort of mix of tradition and technology. I just love old V8 engines, so that would be something, you know, I’ve always enjoyed politics. You know, you gotta be careful what you talk about that.
But politics have always been fun for me. I always call politics, my sports. I don’t know a heck of a lot about sports, but, that’s kind of great interest to me.
And honestly, even though we’re doing it right now, I have pushed for Ag Leader to have a podcast for years.
And I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’m very interested. In this genre of communication. And if I thought I could make a go of it and Ag Leader wasn’t a thing, I would love to have a podcast.
So I guess here we are, we’re kind of doing one of those things. So that would be a couple of things that if I had never, had a class my last semester and, met a guy that worked at Ag Leader who said, Hey, we’re looking for a salesman.
If those stars hadn’t aligned and none of this came to. .Yeah, I’d probably build cars, maybe get into politics, podcasting, and hopefully maybe I could fit some cigars and bourbon into that as well.
What are the steps to be a successful, sustainable company?
So, okay. Here’s a, here’s another one that we got from social media. What are the steps to be a successful, sustainable company?
So there’s a couple of different ways that we could go at this. I hope I answer this in the, in the way that it was intended. There are a lot of things. First and foremost, Ag Leader is a privately held company. We’re own, you know, you guys heard, podcast in the first season where I interviewed, Al and Mike and because we’re a privately held company, we’re not beholden to investors. We, we can do the right thing for our customers without having to worry about , the investors, the shareholders and that sort of thing. Ag Leader is fiercely independent. If any of you have ever heard Al talk about that, you know that. There’s just no question about that.
More recently, we’ve put ourselves in a position where the folks that I work with are like family to me. We all pitch in, there’s no, that isn’t my job. And, and what that gets us is sustainability. And what I mean by that is an example, again, in recent years, in 2020, we were having trouble getting product out.
You know, having enough people to build cables, for example. And so everybody, I saw Mike Myers in here, myself, my supervisor, just everybody was in here working, putting together cables. Even though that wasn’t necessarily the job that I was hired to do, it didn’t matter. So by creating an environment where folks, well, they give a shit, for lack of a better term, working hard on being part of this family allows us to be sustainable regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic or not. So another thing that that Ag Leader does really well is just now they take care of your folks. Right. So, in recent times we’ve had a lot of inflation and I know from talking to other friends of mine that aren’t Ag Leader employees that a lot of their companies aren’t addressing that.
And Ag Leader has done a very good job of, bumping up our pay, just due to the inflationary stuff, absorbing other costs so they don’t cost us more. And just doing it, not because they have to, they don’t have to do any of that. It’s just cause it’s a good company. And what that does, it breeds loyalty, again.
I’m a perfect example of that. I’ve been here for, it’ll be 26 years in May. So, you know, we’ve got, 400 employees, worldwide at Ag Leader. But it feels like a family. It’s just a great environment to work with. So, those are somewhat a little bit more intangible.
Another example would, we still work on and repair equipment that we’ve made still back since 1992 when the company started. That kind of puts a little loyalty you with our customer base as well, knowing that as long as Ag Leader can get parts for whatever it is that they’ve got, it’s not something that they’re gonna have to put on a shelf because it isn’t working.
If we can get parts for it, we’ll fix the darn thing. Developing a sustainability as far as our product line goes, we developed a very easy to use product line, and again, part of the reason that is strangely enough, the folks that develop, test these products, there’s a good number of ’em. I don’t know if it’s a majority or not, but they are actually farmers. So when I get somebody that comes into a trade show booth and says, man, your equipment’s easy to use. How do you guys do that? Well, honestly, it’s because the guys that work on ’em and develop ’em and test them, actually use them. I’m sure that, a few folks out there have popped the hood open to your pickup and go, I’d like to meet the engineer that designed this and ask him how in the heck I’m supposed to do this. Right. With Ag Leader, it’s not really a thing because, like I said, the folks that are building this stuff are using it. It’s a, it’s a great place to be.
So, I did get asked also what are some things that I get asked frequently at trade shows? Again, a big part of my job is doing trade shows and just getting to travel all over if it isn’t a trade show, we’re doing conferences. I’ve probably met many of you at grower meetings as well. And of course, recently, especially in the past couple of years, is somebody would ask me, what’s the ETA is if I order a new product today, and without question again, because we manufacture here in central Iowa, we design product in central Iowa.We’re very nimble. We’re a smaller company compared to some of the other major producers out there. So we’re able to make changes quickly and adapt to what supplies we have available. So when I tell them, oh shoot we’re 15, maybe 20 working days out, even right now, it surprises the heck out of people. Of course, that puts us in a better position than a lot of the other companies out there that are a lot more beholden onto third party providers.
What is your cheapest light bar?
Another question I get, and we all joke about this is I’ll have folks come in and the first question they ask me is, what’s your cheapest light bar? And usually you try to unpack that a little bit and see what folks are looking to do, and you end up talking, okay? Yep. You’re talking about guidance and steering, but, you know, what do you want to do in another year and a half, two years?
Because these displays that Ag Leader makes are meant to be expandable. They’re meant to have really long lifelines and you know, there are a lot of other electronics things out there that you buy that you know that you’re gonna only have it for a year and it’s gonna be, you know, dumpster technology, right?
So when we start unpacking that a little bit, okay, well, are you wanting to maybe put this on your planter and just do something simple as map hybrids or this, that, or the other? And you start to see their eyes open and go, oh my gosh, I can do all that. And yes. And so just being helpful and asking the right questions when you get asked, you know, a very direct question, is something that’s a lot of fun and very rewarding for me to do.
How accurate is Ag Leader's steering?
Here’s a good one. How accurate is your steering? I get asked that a lot and it’s an interesting question because the accuracy of the steering has to do with the signal that we feed to the steering. Meaning what type of a GPS system am I running?
And the best explanation of that I have is if you’ve got a television set and in your television set, you plug in over the air antenna into it, you’re gonna get over the air antenna TV shows, right? If you plug in your Blu-ray player, you’re gonna get whatever’s on your Blu-ray, you plug in your cable tv, you’re gonna get that.
You kind of get that right? So if I plug in a gps that’s WAAS, I’m gonna get six to eight inch accuracy. If I plug in something that’s, TerraStar, TerraStar-Pro, RTK, I’m going to get that accuracy, barring anything major wrong with the piece of equipment that we’re gonna be on. So when somebody asks me, well, what’s the accuracy of my steering?
Well, it’s not just as simple as a yes or a no type of question. It kind of depends on what signal we’re feeding to the steering system itself. Obviously, when you come and talk to me at Ag Leader, I’m a manufacturer, so I’m not selling equipment. I’m answering questions.
Can I move my steering equipment?
Another one I get when we talk about steering is can I move my steering equipment?
And for an example, that would be with our SteadySteer, which is our assisted steering system. And we get talking about that with folks who are maybe not, haven’t adopted a lot of precision ag equipment. And talking about moving SteadySteer from vehicle to vehicle kind of allows me to show folks, Hey, listen, this display that you’ve bought to do steering.
Yeah, it does steering, which is what folks think about first a lot of times. But hey, let’s put this, in your combine and get your yield map. What’s your yield map? That’s your report card at the end of the year. Let’s put it on your planter. We can, we can map your hybrids so you know what hybrids you planted where.
We can take and check the health of that planter. It skips double simulation. You know, we’ve got obviously all the high speed planting equipment, hydraulic down force, you know, if you’re doing fertilizing, we can do all of that. So you can take this one display that you bought for steering and you can ask me, Hey, how easy is, is it to move?
It’s real easy to move. On top of that, think of all these other things that you can do with it. Cause if you can take and spread the cost of that display out, do all these other things. It makes that upfront investment in this technology seem a little bit, easier to take and swallow. Right.
Who owns Ag Leader?
Who owns Ag Leader?
Well, we kind of covered that. Ag Leader is a privately held company, owned by Al Myers, and he has owned this company for over 30 years now, and I’ve been fortunate to be a portion of it for 25. Now, it’s interesting, in the past, I haven’t even asked these questions much recently, but one of the questions I have been asked, and I used to get asked a lot more in the past is I would have discussions with people and I say discussions in a friendly way.
I have actually argued with people that thought that Ag Leader was owned by Company X or Company Y, and I would tell ’em, listen, I get a biweekly pay. And I know that biweekly paycheck says is, Al Myers says Ag Leader on it. But a lot of folks have assumed that there’s no way a company like Ag Leader that’s privately held can survive this many years on its own, you know?
How long do you think Ag Leader’s gonna be able to keep going? Well, I hope for a long, long time, because we have a unique product and a unique perspective in this industry, and I hope that we’re able to keep bringing product to the market. It’s something that, that happens, you know, who owns Ag Leader?
And it’s still, it’s tough to believe it in this day that you can have a company is awesome to work for and as successful as Ag Leader that’s privately held and like I said earlier, not beholden to, to anybody else that isn’t directly in the business.
Can I call the factory for support?
So, another question I get asked a lot is, can I call the factory for support?
And if you take, say one of the big three vehicle manufacturers, you’re generally not gonna call those guys if your check engine light comes on, right, you’re gonna go to the dealer. Well, Ag Leader does this a little differently. We actually have a team of product support specialists.
Are able to help you out with all your questions on your in command display or your SteadySteer any of these products that we sell today, you can call here and you can actually get a factory tech to talk to you on the phone. So that is something that makes us unique. And another thing, again, we kind of talked about this earlier, is having the ability to still repair products from 30 years ago. Now we’ve all got electronics that we’ve stuffed on a shelf out in the shop that we’ve bought five years ago that we can’t get parts for. Imagine being able to send in a piece of electronic that was 30 years old and still being able to get it fixed.
That’s something that makes us unique, I think.
How easy is it to upgrade my display?
Another question I get asked again. Hey, I’m, I’ve got this older display. I’m thinking about upgrading to an in command display. Am I gonna be able to do it? And the simple answer to that is yes. And there’s a couple of things here. Number one, for example, if you have an older insight display, you know that thing might be 15 years old and what we’ve done to kind of help get guys to be able to upgrade to these new displays is a little adapter cable. This InCommand display plugs right into the harness from that InSight. So if you’ve got an InSight and your combine unit yield monitoring, you buy this little cable, plug the InCommand in and it goes.
And what you’ll notice is, well, yeah, there’s a lot more cooler technology in the InCommand than there was in the InSight, because there’s a lot of things that have happened since that time. You’re gonna notice a lot of commonality in the setup as well, so you’re not having to relearn the wheel or anything like that. And it just makes it more user friendly and easier to pick up when you’re learning a new display.
And again, part of that is, again, like I said, the folks that make these things, the folks that test these things, they use ’em. Right? Anyway, there’s just a little bit about Ag Leader. I enjoyed really answering the questions out there today. Hopefully you guys are enjoying this podcast. I’m sure having a heck of a time, a lot of fun doing it. Keep up the questions and maybe we’ll do some more of these in the future, and hopefully everybody’s having as good a time as I am.