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By Clinton Griffiths

Q&A: J.J. Grow, Verdesian Life Sciences

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J.J. Grow

Title: CEO

Education: B.S. in agricultural economics, University of Florida

Years at Verdesian: 2

One book every manager must read: “Fundamental Issues In Strategy,” by Rumelt, Schendel and Teece. The main focus of the book is how firms behave. It also gives great insight into the role of headquarters for firms and businesses and into international expansion.

Business leader you admire most: Jack Welch. Mr. Welch is a stand-up guy who speaks his mind. I’ve always pictured him as sort of a John Wayne business figure. He always surrounded himself with smart people, and then he pushed them to greatness. He has zero tolerance for bureaucracy. 

Favorite leadership quote: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” —Sam Walton


Did you grow up in agriculture?

My family has deep roots in agriculture on both my mom’s and dad’s side. I grew up in a small, rural agricultural county in Florida and was very involved in 4-H and FFA. My projects always included raising swine, heifers or steers for our local fair as well as participating on as many FFA teams as possible. After graduation, I was elected to serve as a state FFA officer.   

Why has Verdesian chosen to focus on plant health as a key component of its business?

We believe plant health is really the area of agri-science that will allow farmers to increase yield on existing acres. From the 1920s to the early 1990s, lots of yield enhancement came from seed, pesticides, mechanization and farming practices. The yield trend has slowed considerably over the past decade. We break plant health into three technology platforms: crop health, nutritional technologies and signaling chemistries. 

Can you characterize your leadership style?

My leadership style is one of lead and not manage. I always tell people if I have to micromanage you, I probably don’t need you. I believe in letting our people know what’s going on in the business. My goal is for our executive management team to create the vision and make people passionate and energetic about it.     

What is Verdesian’s top challenge for 2015?

Our biggest challenge is ensuring that we fully integrate the six companies we have brought together into One Verdesian since September 2012, while staying true to our high standards of customer service.  

As a father of four girls, have you been able to apply any life lessons to running a business?

People have asked me what it’s like building and running a business, and I have told them it’s a lot like a raising a child. You have to pay close attention to the details and provide the guidance that’s needed, or things can come off the tracks. The more time and effort you put into a business, the more it flourishes. That also applies to raising kids. It also helps being married to a wonderful woman.

Do you know a business leader Top Producer should visit with in the future? 
Email your ideas to topproducer@farmjournal.com.

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