Employee Spotlight: Andy Pederson
Today’s blog post is featuring the man who started it all, Andy Pederson. Andy started Pederson Seed in Services in 1998 and it has since grown from a one-man operation to employing 6 full time individuals. Andy’s passion for agronomy and customer serviced has left its mark on the landscape of agriculture in Brown County. Pushing cutting edge technologies and practices has always been a passion of Andy’s and has changed the way Pederson Seed does business. Join us as we sit down to talk about Andy’s motivation and vision for Pederson Seed, as well as what Andy enjoys doing outside of work hours.
Rachel Stevens: What motivated you to start Pederson Seed and Services?
Andy Pederson: My desire to break away from a structured agronomy business and get out on my own and also the opportunity to figure out a way to get Wendy to stay home with our kids. The motivation wasn’t just financial. I wanted more flexibility and the opportunity to help people at a different level. At my former job, I felt very confined. Everything was associated with the Universities (which is not a problem) but there are so many things going on in agronomy that the field is often ahead of the Universities in certain aspects. I wanted to get outside the box and help growers produce in the fashion I felt like we really had the opportunity to do here.
RS: What aspects did you feel was limiting you the most?
AP: When I was working there, we were really confined by completely internalized thinking. We were expected to ask like a bunch of mushrooms, kind of in the dark. When you would bring out-of-the-box thinking to meetings, sometimes they would get very critical. The people in Brown County are so accelerated compared to that, that I wasn’t leading them, the customer base was leading me. I did not feel like that was a good position to be in as an agronomist. I’m not saying you should go off the deep end and put whatever hairbrained idea that we come up with after going to meetings, but I do think you need to try new things to learn. I wanted to get to a place where we could accelerate our customer base’s profit generation and give me the opportunity to excel in that position. Which is really what I set out to do. To try and make it different. Change is motivation for me.
RS: Is where you are at now where you envisioned you would be when you started out?
AP: No, not really where I envisioned. I personally thought the seed and scouting business would not be as big. As far as the service level we are at, I envisioned us being able to provide a higher level of service than what was available locally, which we have definitely done. I personally did not think there would be as rapid of adoption to precision ag. I didn’t think that we would be using things like imagery. When you look back 20 years, absolutely not where I thought we would be.
As far as still on that leading edge of helping our customers learn, grow, improve profitability, thinking outside the little box, then yeah. I’m exactly where I thought we would be. Pushing the limits.
I didn’t honestly imagine managing people. While that has got challenges in its own right, being able to provide for multiple families is something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do. And while extremely stressful, its also very rewarding to know that we are at least providing a viable place for people to live and operate.
RS: What is something you are looking forward to in the next 10 years of Pederson Seed and Services?
AP: I am hoping in the next 10 years we can help advance ag as much as it has been advanced in the trade territory we work in. I am looking forward to what changes are about to occur. I am nervous, but also excited for watching the next generation get involved in ag in Brown County. I do hope that as an entity we can help push our customers to the next big goal. We used to pursue 300 bushels and I think we are going to have to start chasing 400 bushels out of production fields. And when I say that, its probably more about production because unfortunately we are in a volume game. We have to produce volume. We can talk economics, and the law of diminishing returns, and while that is real, it still takes bushels to go through low prices. There are no exceptions. You can cut your costs to the point where you cut your yield and you are at net zero. You didn’t handle any more money but you also removed the opportunity to market at a better price for more volume.
RS: What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
AP: I enjoy watching my fellow teammates success. I enjoy the process of trying to get back to a more consultative approach to how we do things. That process of trying to get you as a team to grow. I enjoy that a lot. I really enjoy watching on the agronomy side, the progress of the crop in the field. The process of the planters and the combines. I enjoy that my job does change year-round. I don’t always like the amount of work there is, but that comes with the territory. More of the joy that comes for me is watching you guys change.
RS: In your time outside PSS, what are some of your favorite activities?
AP: I like to go jeeping. I like my boat because there is no cell phone time. Cell phones are used for music on the boat. I like that. I enjoy quiet time on the patio as well, with the kids and Wendy, just talking. No TV. No overstimulation. I love to travel, love to go places, love to see different things. Lately we’ve been watching a lot of volleyball, watching Sydney play. I would tell you that its been an interesting journey because I always enjoyed football. Football is my sport of choice. There is so much within football that is like business. It’s a team. Its kind of like a marriage. Everyone has to do their own thing and not point fingers at each other. Do your job. It’ll all take care of itself. Even if you are loosing. You are still doing your job and it’ll still take care of itself. And as I watched volleyball this last year, and this year particularly, I watched that group of girls from Highland and Hiawatha come together. What’s been stunning is to watch them grow as a team. So dynamically I’ve enjoyed that quite a lot.
RS: What is an item that has been on your bucket list?
AP: I thought about this one a long time. I want to see my grandkids. That’s not something that’s on everyone’s bucket list. I have been so blessed to be able to travel. Ever since I was a young man, the opportunities I’ve had and the people that I got to meet have been a blessing. I’ve been more places in my life than most people will ever get, as of today. I don’t really have a dream to travel the world. I was even asked here in the last week, “What are you going to do when you empty-nest?” Well Wendy and I are going to go have a good time for 5, 6, 7, 8 years. But after that I want to be that grandparent that has the toys and the kids come to have fun. By the time I’m a grandparent, my bucket list is to be able to go have some fun.
RS: What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?
AP: Oh, my goodness. That one is ridiculously hard because I have so much more than I ever thought I would have.
RS: I asked Wendy that question and she said she would pay for college for the kids.
AP: I can see why she came up with college. The difference we had, and this is way back, but we came out of college very close to zero debt. We had our first house paid for before our friends could even buy one. That has changed even the way I am able to operate and manage this business. So, getting our kids started right would be nice. I would like to get them out close to zero. If I won the lottery, I don’t want anything. That is honestly part of why I never buy a ticket. I don’t want that pressure.
I suppose if I won the lottery, I would like to give back to this community through education or a rec center, or something. Our success here has been defined not by myself or by you guys. Its been defined by the customer base that has been willing to be supportive. So, giving something back to their grandkids is what I would want to do.
RS: What food do you wish had zero calories?
AP: Oh my. Cookies. Particularly chocolate cookies and monster cookies. Oatmeal raisin. I could name them all. Peanut butter. Cookies in general. I am blessed that I don’t have a lot of problems with that. It would be a good added bonus though. If you asked me that 10 years ago, I would have told you ice cream. But I gave up ice cream about 10 years ago. And when I say that, I have ice cream about once a year. With my medical history that comes through my dads side, I knew I had to make some changes. My dad had his first heart attack at 42 and his dad had his first heart attack at 40. So about at 35, whether you like it or not, that pops in your head. I guy I knew had always eaten ice cream every night before bed. Always. He gave up ice cream and lost 25 pounds. I became aware of his choice and I thought, you know what, if that guy at his age can give up ice cream, so can I. And I love ice cream. I can tell you, homemade vanilla there is nothing finer. But cookies would definitely be the answer today.
RS: What is your favorite TV show that you, Wendy and the kids have been watching?
AP: Currently, our kids are in to friends which is very bizzare to us. As it turns out, I enjoy that show now more than I did when I watched it when it was popular. Honestly, I prefer movies. By the time we wrestle basketball and football and national honor society and church, I like movies. I particularly like Marvel movies. Avengers, Iron Man, etc. Part of that is you can watch them and if you get up from it, it doesn’t matter because you’ve seen it 5 other times. For me, I like that. My favorite would be Avengers of any kind. I like the Avenger side because it is an example of 5-6 different individuals or entities coming together to do something that is extraordinary. All working together.
RS: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?
AP: I honestly don’t know. Someone away from me would be a better judge of who that might be. The one thing along those lines is, I would love to sit down with Steven Spielberg. I would choose him to direct it. Part of what is interesting to me is the range of movies that he directs. And the intensity of those movies and the thoughts that are in those movies. Spielberg can be the guy that casts who would play me.
RS: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us…
AP: Again, I don’t know how to put this into words. I think you would be surprised that I am not motivated by money. I like to have enough to live but I don’t do most of what we do for money.
Also, you might be surprised to know, I am not comfortable in a public setting.
RS: Like public speaking?
AP: I love public speaking. I hate being at a party. Now once I’m there, I’m good. It’s the getting there that I have a terrible time with. Sometimes I would rather just stay at home. And that has gotten worse with age.
RS: Would you label yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
AP: I put myself out as an extrovert but more in the middle. I’m self-motivated. The thing for me is that I have no problem talking in front of people. I have no problem going to meet pure strangers. I don’t necessarily like to meet pure strangers in a group though. That’s where it gets more difficult.
RS: Where is your favorite place to eat?
AP: Gram and Dun on the Plaza. I really enjoy the atmosphere there. That and Chophouse would be very close. Really, my favorite place is anywhere the food is cooked and I don’t have to cook and Wendy doesn’t have to cook. I also like Sabetha Mexican a lot.
RS: Where is one place that you would like to travel to?
AP: I would like to go to South America to see the agriculture infrastructure. And see how that system works or doesn’t work.
RS: Okay, last question. Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster?
AP: I know who I am and who I would rather be. I think I’m a giant hamster cause I’m always on the go. I think I’m more on the “giant-hamster-go-like-hell-on-the-wheel” side. But I’d rather be a tiny elephant that would be methodical and predictable and reliable and steady. With age though, I am migrating towards the tiny elephant. I learned through the journey of where I’ve come from, people make their own decisions. When I was younger, I thought I could control everything. That’s why you need to take the “tiny elephant marathon” approach. The matriarch is looking for water. That water hole has been there for 30 years and you are walking out there through this bone-dry desert. But eventually they find water. I am migrating towards the marathon. This business is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We will keep getting up and we will just keep going and see where we are in 10 years.