Create a program that you must follow daily. Example — I am going to work out twice a day, doesn’t have to be intense, for 45 minutes and one of those must be outside. So, call it an outdoor walk if you want to keep the intensity down. Your human nature will begin over complicating this from the start, don’t just walk, do pushups simple stuff. All of this is supposed to really just be inconvenient and repetitive.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Green of Purple Ribbon Seeds. Ben is a 1st Generation, Independent Seed Company Owner, Producing Corn, Soybeans and other Agricultural seeds to Farmers in the Midwestern United States. He entered into an industry that is being consolidated heavily into a handful of multi-national seed genetics and traits company because he felt the industry needed to change. Farming is becoming a heavily data driven Industry and he wanted to couple the seed side of the Agriculture industry with his background in data management and information technology to help farmers collect and use data on their operations and make smarter product placement decisions. He sees a future where many things in farming become a bit more automated and using data to help farmers reduce input costs and pesticide and fertilizer usage.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Iwas raised in rural Indiana surrounded by farming and agriculture. When I was figuring out where I would go to college and what I would do for a living, it was the time leading up to the .com bubble. Naturally, because Agriculture was seen as somewhat of a dead-end career path at the time and because I have a short attention span, I decided the IT industry was the place for me. So, I went to Purdue University and got a Computer Technology degree. I spent 10 years or so in an IT startup which is probably where a lot of resiliency was built. I got my MBA somewhere in that time frame, and realized I was going to be most fulfilled trying to do my own thing. I don’t believe in coincidences so when a chance meeting happened with some seed company owners, that ultimately lead to the transition from the IT industry into the seed industry and owning my own seed company. It is a crazy shift, since I have no formal education in agriculture, agronomics or plant breeding, but with a lot of hard work and mistakes I found my footing and here we are!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our company stand out in our industry is that we are humans and we care. The entire team has spent a lot of timing developing on and working through our core values and building our culture. How we act and how we help our customers and really anybody makes us who we are. Most people that interact with our company, don’t expect what we bring. We are here to help people, that is our main goal. If we aren’t helping farmers in some facet of their operation, then we aren’t doing our jobs. It is a help first, money later mentality and we grew into this by accident. Like most businesses, you do have to turn a profit and sell something in order for the business to operate, but being from a different industry completely, I didn’t know how to sell things so to speak. So, we didn’t do a good job of that the first few years. Sales were more down than up. It was a frustrating time, so much so, that I decided to just give up “selling” and I started just talking to farmers about their technology. After helping a few of them, we started actually “selling” some of those services and the seed naturally followed. From that moment on, the direction of the company was who cares about selling. Help people in any way you can. If we can do that and do that well, the sales will happen. Now we have built an entire sales model based off of that period where I didn’t feel like I could sell anything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have many people that have helped me along the way in an Entrepreneurs group that I am a part of but in particular, Andy Frisella has helped me immensely. He has done a great job of helping me understand the emotions associated with business ownership. Everyone talks about the tactical stuff associated with finances, selling and marketing. No one does a great job of explaining what it feels like to lead, to lose, to win and emotions associated with large numbers coming into a business and leaving. I think most people underestimate how their emotions will play into their business.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I like to keep definitions simple. Resilience to me is this, never stopping taking steps forward. For example, if you are walking across the US, you keep taking steps even when your muscles are sore, your feet are bloody, you trip, you fall. Whatever goes wrong, you get up and you keep walking forward to the finish line. Never quit.
Resiliency is a skill and many of the characteristics that people who have resilience can be built. I have found that people that naturally like to continue learning new things and those that are curious are naturally resilient. Learning requires failure and resilience is the act of continuing to learn and grow from those failures.
The characteristic of drive which is required for resilience is built stronger by continuing through small failures to get to a goal that feels like a win. So, becoming addicted to winning can also help build resiliency, but I don’t think that is nearly as efficient and effective as someone who just likes to learn new skills and accomplish new things. Those people become resilient naturally.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
David Goggins. If you haven’t read his book, then you won’t understand it. That guy should have never accomplished what he did in his life. When he decided he was going to pick himself up and change, he never stopped putting one foot in front of the other from that moment on. He has had many physical setbacks and has kept on going. He proves just how resilient the human body is.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Yeah, that time I told everybody I was leaving an IT startup, selling my house and moving my family and buying a seed company. The story is still being written, but it’s going pretty well so far.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
A couple years after buying this company, we went through a string of bad hires. They were bad cultural fits, they over promised their skills and abilities and each one cost the company some serious money. Worst of all, I didn’t catch any of that up front. I really felt like I just wasn’t capable of hiring good people to join our team. After the last hire and fire, I really sat back and thought, you can’t mess this up again. It was at this moment when the core team that was here really solidified our core values and created our purpose. It changed how we looked at bringing people into the team and it changed how I led the company. At the time, those three consecutive bad hires seemed like this was the precursor to my inability to grow a company and lead a team, but ultimately, without that string of events and bad hires, we would have never created the culture that we have that has allowed us to become who we are. I still cringe when I go back and read my journal from that period of time in the company, but I am really thankful that I experienced it at a time when the company was a lot smaller than it is now.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I lived in Rural Indiana in the middle of nowhere. Our nearest neighbor was about ¾ of a mile away. We didn’t have cable TV or anything that helped keep us entertained. The heat in our house was from a wood burning stove in our basement, so we spent a decent amount of time splitting and hauling wood. Even at a young age. It is repetitive and hard, but had to be done.
My first job was detasseling seed corn. If you haven’t walked through a cornfield in July in Indiana, then you need to sometime. We did it all day long and it was always cold and wet in the mornings and hot and humid in the afternoon. When corn leaves get dry they can be like razer blades. It was probably the worst job I have ever done. Now I bought a seed company that raises seed corn…..kind of ironic really.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I have found the best way to build a lot of the characteristics that will make you successful in business, such as resiliency, is through physical fitness. Being physically fit, will also help your mental and emotional state, but the processes required to be successful in both, are similar. Also, it is much easier to control just your actions and not the actions of multiple people. So, using physical fitness as the method to teach yourself resiliency, you have no one to blame except yourself when you fail.
- Create a program that you must follow daily. (Example — I am going to work out twice a day, doesn’t have to be intense, for 45 minutes and one of those must be outside. So, call it an outdoor walk if you want to keep the intensity down. Your human nature will begin over complicating this from the start, don’t just walk, do pushups simple stuff. All of this is supposed to really just be inconvenient and repetitive.)
- Create a meal plan that you must follow. Mine is macro based. (Example — I am going to fit all my meals into my macro goals, no fried food, no alcohol allowed, etc. NO CHEAT MEALS!)
- Force yourself to drink one gallon of water a day.
- Read 10 pages per day of a self-development book
- Do this for 90 days. If you mess up a day, you start over. You must complete these tasks for 90 days straight, otherwise you have failed and must start over.
The above plan requires you to walk in rain, snow, sleet, heat. It requires you to do things that you don’t want to do and probably don’t feel like doing. It requires you to execute when you don’t want to. You will be uncomfortable, sore, tired, hungry, etc. You will try and negotiate with yourself daily and probably even curse the guy who told you to do it. “Seriously, he doesn’t know what he is talking about, I am going to do it this way….” FAIL. Don’t let your unconscious mind control your body and actions.
If you accomplish a 90 day run of these types of things with no compromise, you will have built resiliency and mental fortitude way beyond anything you can comprehend. It will change your life. It is something I do, once a year.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would call my movement the #LoveOthers movement. It is really simple, love and care about everyone else more than yourself. The world would be a drastically different place if we put each other first. Suddenly, religion, politics, beliefs, race, etc don’t matter.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Jocko Willinck. Why not? This is a discussion about resilience. He can write the book about it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!