Seed World

Q&A with Gene Kassmeyer: What you CAN Handle

After reflecting on great advice given from his grandmother, NuTech’s general manager Gene Kassmeyer ponders over the new marketing in the seed industry.

Seed World: What’s your favorite book on your bookshelf?
Gene Kassmeyer: At the present time, I don’t have a favorite book. I do try and keep up on our industry and the news in general through the internet and the one thing I have been doing in recent years is reading quick hit articles or magazines about specific topics. My current favorite is a sales and marketing management magazine that can literally be read cover to cover while traveling through airports or when you have just 30-60 minutes of time. Those topics seem to be ever changing and any little management or leadership tips I can quickly pick up and possibly apply in business is of tremendous value.

SW: What are you working on right now?
GK: It is that time of year when we kickoff our new sales year while finishing the current year, so there is never a shortage of things to do. That said, one project that I am particularly passionate about at the present time is defining or re-defining who we are in the marketplace. With so many competitors and with enormous economic pressures of lower commodity prices, it’s more important than ever for companies and brands to have clear brand definitions, brand values and brand message to the market. We are a relatively young brand, but we are also a brand that is the result of four brands coming together to create a larger brand. Having everyone, including our customers, understand our brand value is more important than ever. The best thing about this project is our employees, dealers and customers have all responded positively to the work.

SW: Who is one mentor that has affected your work?
GK: I would like to say that there is one clear leader when it comes to a mentor in my business or professional life, but I can honestly say I don’t have one person that really stands out. Part of that is likely due to one of my life philosophies that everyone you interact with in your life has an effect on you, if you choose to recognize that effect. It may be positive (I want to be like that person); it may be neutral; or it may be negative (I don’t like that and will never treat people that way). When I look back over my career, who I am today is clearly a result of conscious recognition of those interactions along with the experience that goes with life and business as you interact with everyone in your life. One of my best personal experiences in life when it comes to working with and coaching a sales team is coaching youth sports. There are so many parallels and crossovers between getting younger people to work together as a team, practice hard and follow a set of rules and managing and coaching a group of adult sales people.

SW: What do you think is your biggest accomplishment?
GK: I could name a number of personal or team success stories when it comes to my career or work life, but without question my greatest accomplishment in life is raising four bright, responsible and successful sons. Now, there is no question that a lot of that success is due to my wife and our teamwork as parents, but there is no greater joy in life than watching your children grow up, find their passion, and create success in their lives.

SW: What is one thing you never travel without?
GK: Besides the basic toiletries and a clean pair of underwear, I would have to say my cell phone. Connectivity to your office, the outside world and your family is critical these days so I don’t go anywhere or do anything without my smart phone in my pocket.

SW: What concerns you most about the seed industry?
GK: I don’t worry about all the mergers, consolidation or new technologies. We will sort all of that out and will be successful if our customers see value. What concerns me the most is the trend away from what has made the seed business such a unique and special place to live and work. Relationships, good products, great service, strong brands and sound advice were all pillars to success in our business. Today, I worry that the gimmicks, the flashy marketing and special deals are confusing our customers and devaluing what we hold so precious in this business.

SW: What’s a motto you use in your work?
GK: My grandmother always said that the “Lord only gives you what you can handle.” That has been and will always be one of my favorite sayings as it has special meaning coming from my grandmother. My response to her was always that “he has more faith in me than I have in myself right now” due to what he is asking for me to handle. One of my new favorite sayings in business is “your future will take care of itself if you take care of today.” I try to live that one every day.