Seed World

How Brutal Honesty Helped Us Move Our Business Forward


Mark is a farm boy from Treherne, Man., and went to the University of Manitoba where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. He’s served as Nexeed president for 11 years, during which time he’s marvelled at the pace of technological change in seed processing equipment.

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Ten years ago, I was at an industry event when someone did me a huge favour.

We were talking about forming a business relationship when he told me, “My company doesn’t think of yours as being particularly strong on the service side of things.”

It hurt to hear that sort of brutal honesty, but I had to admit to myself that it was true. At the time, we didn’t have the resources in place to provide strong support. We had two full-time staff members. Service was important for us, of course, but we didn’t have a specialist on staff. It limited what we were able to do for customers.

The industry was different then — and changing.

Fast forward about five years. As business and technology evolved, so did our need for highly specialized skills. As our optical sorter offering grew, we added a new position of optical sorter technician, of which we now have two.

In the process I’ve learned a few fundamental truths about building a team.

Take your time. We didn’t do it overnight. It took almost a decade for us to move from those two lone employees to a total of 10. You may feel an impulse to go on a hiring spree but rushing to add staff is like rushing to build a sports team. You can end up with a team you don’t want that doesn’t function the way you envisioned. This can do more harm than good.

Have a vision. Had we rushed to start adding staff 10 years ago after I had that fateful conversation, we’d have made a lot of mistakes. Yes, we could have immediately started adding new people, but our ability to lead them and help them be effective would have been weak. We’d have been flailing out there. The experiences we gained and the internal processes we developed over the ensuing years helped us add the right people where they were most needed and set up the team to be effective. This is hard – we are still learning every day.

Don’t strive for perfection. Despite what I said above, there’s a certain amount of intuition involved in building a team, as any coach will tell you. There’s no perfect time to hire — it’s when you can afford it and when you feel it’s a good time to fit someone new into the business. Sometimes you hire because you desperately need someone, but if that’s the case, you might be hiring too late and could benefit from better planning. Hire someone early on and you may not have as much work for the new person as you had hoped, but that opens up capacity to do more than you could before.

Hiring new staff is always a bit of a leap of faith, but so long as it’s part of a wider vision to grow your business, you’re on your way to building a better tomorrow by investing in your team today.