The CEO should understand that our customers’ needs are the first step in marketing. Advertising and promotion are supporting activities incorporating the customer’s needs. We had an opportunity to present our new retail product, Gardener’s Choice, to a major big box store. Although the retail outlet was impressed and supportive, they weren’t buying. Retailers look for products with an established name and customer base to pull foot traffic into their locations. Although the innovation and novelty were acknowledged, those attributes alone would not generate the foot traffic they looked for. Foot traffic was their need.
Timothy A. Peach has over 20 years of finance and operations experience working with both public and private companies from the development stage through significant revenue generation. His track record includes successful IPO and bond offerings, mergers, and acquisitions with resulting integration and profit improvement. In his role as Chief Executive Officer of BAM Agricultural Solutions, Mr. Peach is heavily involved in day-to-day operations and forwarding the Company’s objectives relating to the sale, distribution and business development activities of BAM-FX, the Company’s flagship product for production agricultural, as well as its derivative products. BAM-FX consistently demonstrates and delivers enhanced biomass production, root development and plant vigor response, improved yield, and germination rate and disease resistance. His oversight also involves investor relations, operating improvement, filing initial registration and ongoing financial reporting with the SEC, SOX certification as well as closely interacting with the Board of Directors of Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc., BAM Agricultural Solutions, Inc.’s publicly traded parent company. Tim began his career with Price Waterhouse Coopers with a broad diversity of clients, which ultimately led to his involvement in a multitude of fields including medical manufacturing, software engineering and integration, telecommunications, natural resources, and innovative technology. Tim received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. Tim volunteers his efforts supporting community focused organizations and enjoys consulting with startup businesses on commercialization and operations.
Thank you for joining us Mr. Peach! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this career path?
Iwas born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, where I spent much of my younger years working on local farms and orchards until I was old enough to obtain a work permit.
I dreamed of a career that would benefit the people around me, never giving much thought to a that path that would lead me back to agriculture.
After leaving the University of Pittsburgh with a graduate degree in business, I set out to learn as much about a broad range of companies and their operations as I could in the shortest time possible.
To start, I chose a service industry leader, Price Waterhouse Coopers with its fast pace and attention to detail. During this period, I worked with and became fascinated by startup companies that were introducing innovative products or services in domestic and international markets.
Building on that experience and training, I first applied my financial, operational, and transactional skills in energy, financial, and heavy manufacturing industries. Following my fascination with innovative businesses, I turned my attention to the software, communications, medical devices, and medical services industries.
Five years ago, I was introduced to an innovative agricultural biotechnology company with a new product, BAM-FX. BAM-FX had a universal application with the potential to play a huge role in feeding the world. I saw an opportunity to play a part in driving the technology across global markets. That challenge was extremely appealing, and I was sold on the opportunity with Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
One major challenge I faced, which is a common one, is quickly assessing your resource capabilities and making the best use of those to focus on the customer, understanding the customer, and meeting their needs.
Zero Gravity had patient and supportive investors, however, as an emerging technology company, our focus was moving from a research and development culture to a publicly reporting operating company delivering products to the markets and generating revenue. The Company held a diverse portfolio of intellectual property, including agricultural, medical, and space applications. We did not have the financial or technical resources to pursue all of our intellectual property assets, although we were using resources to maintain them until they could be commercialized.
We had to make dramatic strategic and related organizational changes based upon our expected time to bring a product to market and become self-sustaining. This led to numerous internal strategy discussions. Over time, these discussions incorporated recommendations and suggestions from most of our team, all departments and the Board of Directors. We became laser-focused on the customer’s needs in the agricultural markets by understanding what the customer wants and how they use and purchase agricultural inputs. Resources were then redeployed to product development, process improvement, and customer outreach. It is an ongoing process that requires constant attention. Many of these changes and the execution strategy were a direct result of recommendations and feedback from our team and interaction with potential customers.
The lesson learned is to actively and regularly engage in conversations with your team and your customers, solicit feedback, understand what is said, and apply that to a strategic plan of execution.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Let me answer a slightly different question that is: What are some of the factors that you believe will lead to your eventual success? My success is the financial success of Zero Gravity and meeting the expectations of its stakeholders by bringing products to market and sustaining growth. Zero Gravity is on the path to success; however, it is still an adolescent on the adult stage.
Satisfying our customer’s needs is critical. When we have identified and met or exceeded customer expectations, I will have been successful. We expect to provide our customer with a significant return on their investment while making our products highly accessible for them to obtain, use, and manage. That’s our value proposition leading to success.
Equally important is our team that delivers that value to the customer. My success comes from working with qualified, motivated, and enthusiastic team members and integrating and maintaining those qualities. As Zero Gravity walks down the path of success, the team’s quality and motivation are critical. Our enthusiasm and professionalism should be evident to our customer with every touchpoint. I am grateful to each and every one of our team members who are building and will share in our success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
- The CEO should understand that our customers’ needs are the first step in marketing. Advertising and promotion are supporting activities incorporating the customer’s needs. We had an opportunity to present our new retail product, Gardener’s Choice, to a major big box store. Although the retail outlet was impressed and supportive, they weren’t buying. Retailers look for products with an established name and customer base to pull foot traffic into their locations. Although the innovation and novelty were acknowledged, those attributes alone would not generate the foot traffic they looked for. Foot traffic was their need.
- You must keep communications simple, to the point and one issue at a time, especially in a written message. I’ve found few people read an entire message; they are just too busy. Generally, reading stops when the reader believes they understand the point of the request. On numerous occasions, I have sent an email with two parts, both including an action item. I usually receive a response to the first item and only sometimes, the second. When I’ve asked why the answer was partial, the typical reply is that the individual hadn’t taken the time to read the entire message. They believed they knew what I wanted in the first part. I continue to learn to keep written material brief and to the point, one item at a time.
- Your responsibilities will change your life, so don’t get caught up in daily tasks, but keep your vision on the big picture and don’t be cautious about change. The sphere of communication necessary to be successful in a small to mid-sized organization broadens overnight to investors, customers, suppliers, and personnel. The task is arduous. I have been fortunate to have a Chairman of the Board with the gravitas to handle investors. On our domestic front, we had mediocre performance expanding our footprint with new potential customers and product introduction efforts. Hiring an energetic and motivated sales director who is approaching growers in an innovative way completely changed our exposure to domestic growers and potential customers. Although success in this endeavor is still in a work in progress, our expectation is that product adoption on a regional basis will expand to a regional basis. Utilizing these resources provides me the opportunity to focus on corporate alliances and transactions through other revenue sources and develop revenue streams to increase shareholder value.
- Differentiating a new product from competitive products offered in the market requires tremendous perseverance, resource, research, and focus. It’s easy to generate excitement and interest with a new innovative product; however, it’s difficult to understand requirements that can change purchasing and use patterns. The agricultural markets are difficult to penetrate as many growers have been utilizing agricultural input programs and procedures for generations. The product attributes do not sell; it is a significant improvement in yield and profit that sells. Multiple years of replication with consistently proven results turn the skeptic into a potential customer. Unlike most markets that accept a one-time demonstration as proof, we have successfully trialed our product with receptive growers over a number of years. Because crop yields are influenced by conditions, for instance, weather, outside anyone’s control, a one-year success isn’t sufficient proof and three years is a minimum. To break through to a customer, the product attributes must be clearly defined, easily translatable into benefits for the customer, and backed by third-party validated results, which support product claims.
- In a small to mid-sized business, the CEO is in charge of succession planning for all functions. The uniqueness of the work increases the potential negative impact of losing a key individual, which increases overall risk. As CEO of Zero Gravity, I haven’t had to deal with a dramatic loss of a key individual; however, in some functional areas, recognizing the eventuality has required advanced planning for succession. I haven’t dealt with the dramatic impact of an improper successor for a number of years. In one instance, when I was a senior vice president with technology development and manufacturing business, the CEO abruptly resigned. His replacement, a well-educated and highly qualified individual, did not have a background in the industry. He did not appreciate certain new product development concerns that were raised by his senior management team and did not approve allocating the resources required to address those concerns. Without the CEO’s full understanding and support, the team pulled together to fix these potential problems; however, product-related issues caused revenue and operating profits to suffer. Within a three year period from the date, the new CEO took the helm, the company’s underlying assets were sold to competitors.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
My advice is: surround yourself with talent, clearly communicate your goals and strategies, delegate responsibility appropriately, and have confidence in the team to execute. Then, at the end of your day, take a few minutes to assess the accomplishments of the day, note your open items and mentally close the day’s business by doing some physical activity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way.
I have had hundreds of mentors during my career. In my career with Price Waterhouse Coopers, mentorship, and training were incorporated into the employee evaluation process and were embraced within the organization. I am grateful to all of those who have provided guidance and career advice. However, one person who had a memorable impact called me into his office early in my corporate career. Recognizing that I could be rigid in my thinking and actions, he told me that although I might be right in my position on a corporate matter, I could also be “dead right.” He went on to say that it was as essential to prepare and socialize a position in advance to avoid the last-minute disruptive standoff. Understanding the other party’s position and proposing a solution that you believe is acceptable in advance can often avoid unnecessary conflicts and avoid wasted effort.
What are some goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Personally, I hope to carve out the time to be more involved with the family. Career demands shift time and attention to the business world and take away from attending to family. My goal is to use my time wisely for both.
Additionally, I hope to continue to grow and develop my skills through community involvement by becoming a better listener and developing meaningful avenues to give back to the community. My goal is to appreciate the needs of people in my community, not only the neighborhood but country and find ways to contribute to the health and wealth of our society.
I have recently become very interested in the quality of foods we can purchase and eat. Our health and well-being are dependent upon the portion, variety, and quality of our foods. I have known the importance, however, have only recently begun to research and understand the impacts of the quality of food on our society. I hope to have acquired sufficient background and knowledge to guide public discussion on this topic in the near future.
Professionally, my goal is to bring solutions to world markets to help provide nutritious food to a growing global population using Zero Gravity’s BAM-FX core agricultural technology. We know the world’s population growth currently outstrips its ability to feed that population. The crisis is worsening as global and regional climate environments are changing. There are significant adverse geopolitical implications for all societies if the problem cannot be solved. I believe that our global goal needs to address improved soils for agriculture and natural agricultural technology applications leading to providing abundantly nutritious food for society. My goal is to show how our product and the Company’s developing product suite can be part of the solution.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope my lasting legacy will be that I played a significant role in providing society natural agricultural tools to improve agricultural yields and quality, which eliminate hunger.
If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be?
I believe that the United States is a shining example of social democracy for the world. Having stated so, we often overlook citizens in our own backyard. The most dangerous individual in society is the individual with nothing to live for or lose. Therefore, I believe society needs to address the problem of inclusion through education and training. The pace of technology change can make learned skills obsolete in a short time. The formerly skilled and unskilled individual is evident in both rural and urban settings.
I would like to start a movement encouraging lifelong learning focused on both basic and vocational skills. The movement would actively engage by offering training programs to become part of or stay abreast of changes in technology and evolving industry and society needs. I believe such a movement can open doors of opportunity to those searching for a path to success but who have little assistance in setting a confident foot on that path.
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