Though I'm sure that you've got a lot of work to do, I hope you'll take 10 minutes out of your day to read this month's cover story about The John Deere Des Moines Works. Not only does the piece have what I hope you'll find to be some good information, it has also come to mean a lot to me on a personal level.
Back in early November, around the time I first visited Ankeny, Iowa (where the facility is located), I found myself doing a lot of thinking about my Grandpa Little and my Grandpa Ingram (my mom's father). Both men remained in my thoughts as I developed the article, and for the longest time, I wasn't sure why. It was only recently, during a long, solitary, pre-Christmas drive to Western New York, that I realized that it is because John Deere plays a role in two of my earliest—and strongest—memories of those men.
The first involves being at my Grandpa Little's farm with my younger brother watching my dad, Grandpa and uncles bale hay. I couldn't have been more than five years old at the time, but I can still remember sitting in the bed of my dad's battered, green pick-up with my brother, the two of us watching in amazement as the baler cleared the hay from the land and spit out neat cubes of hay into the back of a bale wagon. I'm not sure if the baler was a John Deere product, but the tractor that pulled it was unmistakably so. The highlight of the afternoon was when my Uncle Bob called my brother and I over to a bale of hay to show us the mangled corpse of a garter snake (the result of getting too close to the baler), which we regarded with grotesque fascination.
My Grandpa Ingram, who passed away in 1999, was also a John Deere owner. A retired music teacher, he spent much of his free time maintaining, with tremendous pride, the lawn and garden behind his house. To that end, he relied greatly on his John Deere riding lawn mower. I can still remember sitting on the back porch of his house with Stephanie LaFever, the girl next door, our eyes glued to my Grandpa as he rode his mower around a yard that—at the time—seemed like the size of 100 football fields. Driving that mower for the first time all by myself a few years later (under my grandpa's watchful eye) now feels like a rite of passage.
Since first visiting Ankeny, I've come to fully understand the connection that I have to the John Deere brand. There aren't many companies out there capable of eliciting an emotional reaction from their customers and prospects, but those that do have a powerful tool at their disposal. And in the case of Deere & Company, its “connection" with its customers certainly accounts for much of its status as one of the world's most successful and beloved companies.
As we delve further into 2005, I plan to think about Products Finishing magazine's "connection" with our readers and how we establish a stronger, more meaningful connection with you. At the same time, I hope you'll think about your company's connection with your customers and prospects, as well as ways in which it can be energized.