View From The Top: Q & A with Tommy Jones, CEO, Krone North American

January 27, 2016 02:17 AM

What is your connection to farming? 
I was born on my family’s Arkansas farm, but my parents moved away when I was young. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were still on the farm. Everyone was in the beef-cow and hay business back then. My uncle had a dairy for a little bit. Many years later, I migrated back to agriculture from the banking side. I quit college for a while and went into banking, then went back to college. Ultimately, I ended up at John Deere and did my MBA at Drake University in Des Moines while working. Having grown up in rural areas, working in ag ended up being a nice fit.

Company: Krone is a hay-and-forage equipment manufacturer focused on innovations for the livestock, dairy and custom-harvesting markets. Its Big M—the industry’s only self-propelled mower-conditioner—won Product of the Year from Agri Marketing Magazine. The business, based in Germany, has had a presence in the U.S. for about 30 years. In regions where the manufacturer is well known, such as the Southeast, it has in excess of 50% of the market.

Education: MBA, Drake University

One book managers must read: “Raving Fans,” by Ken Blanchard. “This is an older book, but I still think it’s very relevant, especially in the ag market.” 

Favorite leadership quote: Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” My country-boy way of saying that is, “I’m smart enough to know I’m just not that smart.” I think that’s extremely important. None of us has all of the answers. You need to talk to customers and dealers.

What are your key responsibilities as president and CEO of Krone North America?
I am focused on serving our dealers and our customers. I’ve been here 2½ years now, and a lot of customers have my cellphone number. They can call me direct. How do we better serve them? How do we ensure we’re ultimately meeting their needs? One of our biggest customers popped his head in my office today. He’s here for training on our newest equipment. His dealer brought him to us, saying, “Let’s jointly train that customer.” 

How has Krone responded to commodity prices?
We are paying very close attention to what’s going on out there. We work with the beef and dairy segments, and they have not been too bad recently, especially the beef side. Both of them are starting to come down some now. Our customers, for the most part, are still looking to upgrade some of their equipment. We also work with a lot of custom harvesters. As long as they’ve got customers who have to have crops chopped and hay baled, they have to have replacement machines. 

What trends are driving innovation in hay and forage equipment? 
For hay and forage, the quality of the material going into the silage pile has a lot more focus today than it has in the past. It all gets back to the question, “How does that machine help me make money?”

I think the Premos 5000 is a really good example of the innovative concepts that our engineers in Germany focus on. It won a gold medal at Agritechnica, an international farm machinery show, in November. The machine pelletizes hay on the fly. The excitement this concept machine drew has led our engineers to move up its prioritization to bring it to market. 

What issues are facing your dealer network? 
Probably the biggest change is that we were more of a hay company, manufacturing implements such as hay rakes, tedders and disc mowers. Support for those machines is not as challenging as support for a self-propelled forage harvester operating at 1,100 hp. 

As we’ve added commercial-grade machines including large-square balers, I have challenged my team to improve parts availability, service and in-field support.

One customer explained his Krone machinery purchase to me this way: “I buy a half-million-dollar investment, and I’ve got six weeks out of the year to pay for the machine.” That brings a little different perspective to the support that is required for that customer versus the 100-cow producer who’s raking hay. 

Depending on the situation, the dealer can provide training to customers or we can provide it. We do training at our Memphis, Tenn., headquarters and also at our distribution center in Reno, Nev. We have product specialists out in the field who go out with dealer-salespeople one on one to do that training and help customers understand the machines, as well. 

What are Krone’s competitive advantages relative to other ag machinery manufacturers?
Most of the true innovation in farm machinery today comes from specialty manufacturers. The majors talk about tractors and combines. The tractor, especially today, is more of a power unit. It’s not really the machine that’s doing the work or producing the bale. 

Our competitive advantage is that we are a family-owned company that has been around for 110 years, and we focus our efforts on improving the performance of our hay and forage customers. Our two key strengths are the durability, reliability and innovation of the equipment itself; and also the quality of the output of the machine. 

An independent animal nutritionist did a study for us that looked at the quality of forage coming out of our harvester and found our machines performed at a higher standard than anything else, and way above the industry average. That’s a big focus for commercial producers who are looking to maximize their profitability, whether through fewer additives needed for feed rations or more bale weight packed onto a truck. 

What is it like to oversee North America operations for a Germany-based manufacturer?
It is unbelievable. There are very few weeks out of the year that we don’t have someone from Germany here in the field with dealers, customers and employees really focused on what we’re doing. Our worldwide head of engineering was just here in November. We’ve got three to four engineers coming to the World Ag Expo and the National Farm Machinery Show this year.

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Spell Check

Viborg, SD
1/29/2016 10:41 PM

  I run 5 krone balers we cover 5-7 states every year doing commercial baling krone has great balers for which I am thankful because I only have 2 dealers for support sometimes I feel like a mobile parts store for what I stock to make sure I don't have to make a700 hundred mile trip to get a part you really need to improve on this !,e14c41


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