S7:E2 Leading with Intention: Grow with Scott Osborne

May 09, 2023


Show Notes

The 7th Field Points series is focused on leadership. Throughout the series, our host Morgan Seger will be joined by co-host Laurel Mann and the Sr. Leadership team from Ceres Solutions to discuss the 2023 Strategic Initiatives. In the second episode of the series Scott Osborne comes on the show to talk about the “Grow” initiative. 

Who is Scott Osborne? 

Scott Osborne is the Chief Financial Officer at Ceres Solutions. A North Manchester native, Scott began his career in the cooperative system in 2013 at North Central Cooperative as the Energy Controller. He spent time as the Agronomy Controller and through the merger of Ceres and North Central became part of the Sr. Leadership team. Scott has a degree in accounting and went on to get his CPA license and his MBA.  

“Once I started working here, learning more and more about the ag space and talking with more people within the company and seeing how passionate they were about what the company does… it got me real excited too,” shared Scott. “My former boss told me, ‘we grow food' and that kind of resonated with him and it kind of resonated with me too, that it's meaningful work.” 

Scott has spent intentional effort learning about his own leadership style and building his skills and strength as a leader. He describes his leadership style as “Servant Leadership” with an acronym for SERVE being: seeing the future, engaging and developing others, reinventing continuously valuing results and relationships and embodying the values. 

What is Grow? 

Grow is one of the four strategic initiatives at Ceres Solutions for 2023. Growth for any company can mean a lot of different things and Scott looks at this initiative from all angles. 

“There's external and internal growth,” started Scott. “So the external part of growth would be the three-legged stool that we talk about where you've got mergers on one, acquisitions on another and organic on the third… On the internal side of it, I think of growth as being, getting more out of the existing assets that we have. So if it's people, equipment, or locations or whatever it might be, we figure out a way to try to get more out of those assets.” 

Its all about being strategic when it comes to growth. With consolidation prevalent in the ag industry from manufacturers to producers, growth helps organizations stay relevant in the evolving marketplace.  

“We’re not growing just to grow and to be big…It’ll help us serve our customers better as we grow because our customers are doing the same thing,” Scott said. “We need to be able to grow with our customers and it allows us to have resources that we may not be able to have if we were smaller.” 

How is “Grow” in Action? 

Employees and customers have seen this initiative in action in several ways. One way this imperative is brought to life is through the investment in technology so things can be automated and more efficient.  

“When it comes to the work that people do, a lot of times people do want more responsibility or different responsibility. And there's two ways I think that you can do it is there's job enrichment and job enlargement. Job enlargement is just doing the same thing, but more of it. Job enrichment is where you make their life easier and you can give them a higher level type of a job,” Scott said. “One of the initiatives we're looking into is accounts payable, and that's trying to automate certain parts of accounts payable so that we don't have people spending their day doing just data entry. And it frees up their time to be able to do more of the data analysis or maybe a higher level type of a job that brings a little bit more satisfaction.” 

Other technologies have been rolled out to improve transparency and metrics. This helps Scott and the Sr. Leadership Team identify areas primed for growth. These technologies include Power BI,  DocuWare, Paylocity, eight by eight phone systems and Ceres Center for employees. These tools track and display business intelligence in a way that allows Scott to maximize efficiencies.  


Scott Osborne (00:00): 

Part of business is allocating your resources and those types of tools to be able to look at the different data points, help you know how effectively you're deploying your resources. And if you need to reallocate 

Morgan Seger (00:16): 

Every day, we rely on food, fuel, and fiber. But how much do you know about these industries we depend on? In this podcast, we dive deep into the production and processes of these everyday essentials. This is Field Points, an original podcast production from Siri Solutions. Welcome back to Field Points. I'm your host, Morgan Seger. In today's episode, we're going to continue our conversations with leadership. In our last episode, we talked through the Elevate Initiative. Today we're going to be focusing on Grow. Our guest for today is Scott Osborne, the Chief Financial Officer with SIR Solutions. Scott serves a multifaceted role where he touches a lot of different pieces of the business. In this conversation, we walk through the technologies that his teams are implementing to improve employee experience and customer experience, and also improve overall efficiencies. He points us to how these improved efficiencies can lead to growth for the organization. I'm joined again by my co-host Laurel Mann, and she adds a lot of great insight in depth to this talk. So let's dive into my conversation with Scott Osborne. 

Scott Osborne (01:23): 

I'm Scott Osborne, the CFO for Ceres. Going on about 10 years here in the co-op system. Started in 2013 with North Central co-op. I was the energy controller there, moved over and was the agronomy controller for a while. And then we went through the merger and I always joke with Jeff that everyone retired and he got stuck with me. I grew up in North Manchester. A couple, what, 20 miles north of here I guess. And I went to Purdue for a year and then I went back home to Manchester University, graduated with an accounting degree and then went on to get my CPA license and my MBA through wg. I guess in the beginning I was just looking to move back home because after I graduated we moved down to Florida and I lived down there for a few years and then transferred to West Chicago and worked there for a while and was trying to get back here to the area. 


And so I ended up applying for this job in particular and I didn't really know much about it when I applied for it and then told a few people about it and they said, oh, that's a really good company to work for. The only way you get in is if somebody retires or dies. And thankfully it was somebody retiring, but once I interviewed with the company and I'd heard other people in the community talk about them, I knew it was a pretty good company to work for. And then once I started working here, learning more and more about the ag space and talking with more people within the company and about how passionate they were about what the company does. I mean know got me real excited too. And my former boss is the former cfo, Doug Bible. He told me we grow food and that's kind of resonated with him and it's kind of resonated with me too, that it's meaningful work, I guess what we do. So 

Laurel Mann (03:01): 

You spent some time overseas too, didn't you? 

Scott Osborne (03:03): 

Yeah, after I graduated from college, my wife and I went over to China for four, four and a half months and that was an interesting experience. But then we ended up coming back. So when I went over as part of a cultural exchange program, but it was teaching English as a second language and I'm not a teacher so I didn't do as great with 

Laurel Mann (03:24): 

That one. You're a numbers guy, not a letters guy. 

Scott Osborne (03:26): 

Okay. More black and white. There 

Laurel Mann (03:27): 

You go. 

Morgan Seger (03:28): 

While we're focusing this conversation around the Grow Initiative, I wanted to make sure we took some time to learn more about Scott's leadership background and what his leadership philosophy is. 

Scott Osborne (03:40): 

Leadership is something that I've actually been focusing on the last few years as I kind of moved into this role. You don't go from being a controller to a CFO in one day all of a sudden. So there's a lot of the heads down day-to-day work that you do as a controller, but then sometimes you got to get your head up and think about the bigger picture when you're in more of that CFO type role. So one of the things that I had done was work with an executive leadership coach that helped me define my leadership style. So I had never really thought about it, and leadership is kind of like a skill that can be taught and learned. So I studied it and I had to think about what my leadership style was and at the time it was really not existent I guess. 


And then did some studying as far as the different types of leadership styles. And then kind of settled in on one that I really thought that I liked, which was servant leadership. And so I'd read a few books, done some research, found out that base, there's an acronym for it that kind of really resonated with me, and it's that serve acronym, so the S E R V E. And that's what I have kind of based my whole leadership style on. Created an idp, which was an individual development plan where I wanted to develop those leadership skills of the servant leadership mindset, I guess. So for the SERVE acronym stands for seeing the future, engaging and developing others, reinventing continuously valuing results and relationships and embodying the values. So I created development plan to develop those five areas. 

Laurel Mann (05:23): 

I have noticed in the years that you've been CFO at Ceres that a lot of time is devoted to numbers and there's a high amount of accountability that you have to the rest of the leadership team to deliver numbers and results and reports. And yet a lot of your time also is spent managing or working beside people and waiting through issues with people. So how much of your time is spent with numbers versus the soft side of your job, which is because you manage HR as well as accounting IT as well? 

Scott Osborne (05:53): 

I'd say the majority of my day is probably spent with people developing relationships with my team and with the rest of the company and the rest of the leadership. And then also a small percentage of what I do anymore is really the numbers, cruncher, heads down type stuff. So I would say that 80% of my job, my day is spent developing relationships with people. And then a lot of it is just trying to get projects done, get people motivated and holding people accountable and getting them to follow through on what they say they're going to do. And I spend a lot of time building relationships with people. I try to have good working relationships with people as much as I can. I think it helps it's influence, I think because if people report directly to you, you can just say, do this, and they either do it or you fire, I guess. But influence is when you can get people to do something for you when they don't necessarily report to you. So I think building relationships has a pretty big impact on your ability to influence other people. So I do spend a lot of time building relationships and having those really good relationships with people so that when I do need help or whatever, that I can go ask someone and they usually are willing to help 

Laurel Mann (07:09): 

The things that we want to get done at a Ceres and the technologies that we want to employ. Your team always has a voice or always has a responsibility area. 

Scott Osborne (07:18): 

I don't know a better way to put it other than I've heard accounting in our department be described as the colon of the company. Cause everything goes through it. There you go. That's kind of what I was trying to say. But it is, I mean that's a lot of what happens is like, hey, we're going to go out and do this, and then someone goes and does it and then it's like, okay, now you got to figure out what to do with it. Yeah, so there is a lot of that, but I mean ultimately it does feel like everything comes through our department or one of our departments. So I do feel like I have a lot of hands in everything. Like you said, I work a lot with everyone on our senior leadership team, whether it's in energy, agronomy, risk and safety. I'm here. 


I mean, working with the executive coach really helped me a lot because being a leader, you have to be intentional about it and it takes time. And that's something I think a lot of leaders, maybe they don't spend a lot of time intentionally thinking about leading people. A lot of people think that if you just get the title, it makes you a leader. That's really not how it works. And I've put a lot of thought and research behind it because again, I do think it is a skill that you can work on that you can become better at, that you can implement. And it starts with being intentional about it. And that was my first step was, well what type of leader am I and what type of leader do I want to be? And then what are the characteristics of that type of a leader? 


And then what can I do to develop those leadership traits that associate with that type of leader I want to be? And that's where that whole individual development plan came into place. That all takes a lot of time and I think it's something that a lot of people in leadership roles don't necessarily take the time to do. And then it also takes time to actually lead and mentor and develop relationships with your direct reports. The book that I read and listened to where it really resonated with me on the servant leadership is called The Secret by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. That was the book that I kind of gravitated towards. And then the other thing that I've always tried to keep in the back of my head is that I try not to ask something that I'm not willing to do myself. And another that really does resonate with me. It may even be a optimist or a rotary thing, I'm not really sure, but there's dignity in every job. 

Laurel Mann (09:43): 

Oh sure. 

Scott Osborne (09:45): 

Yeah. And I've kind of held that dignity with in every job and not asking people to do something that I'm not willing to do. I think it helps keep you humble and grounded. And I just think it's important. 

Morgan Seger (09:59): 

In our last episode with Doug Brunt, the Chief operating officer at Siri Solutions, he shared that the strategic initiatives are things that the organization is working to change or improve. Now, Scott is going to walk us through what the Grow initiative is and how he has seen it in action. 

Scott Osborne (10:16): 

So there's the external and internal growth, I guess. So the external part of growth would be the three-legged stool that we talk about where you've got mergers on one, acquisitions on another and organic on the third. So you over time, we would like our growth to be a third, a third, a third. On the internal side of it, I think of growth as being, getting more out of the existing assets that we have. So if it's people equipment or locations or whatever it might be, we figure out a way to try to get more out of those assets. So one thing that we've done a lot of is investing in technology so that we can automate and be more efficient. Then I've got a list of things we've done Power bi DocuWare, Paylocity, eight by eight Ceres Center. Those are all tools and technology that we've invested in that help people do their jobs better and more efficient so that we can get more out of them. But it also helps on the equipment location side. 

Laurel Mann (11:15): 

We have a long length of service history at Sirius. The average length of tenure is more than 10 years. So people remember what it was like before Power bi and now we think how did we ever do it? And I think that's one of the great things about adopting technology is that's that's the culture of your team and to me it makes jobs easier. So then maybe you can devote more time to the things you enjoy even more than certain tasks. 

Scott Osborne (11:38): 

Yeah, that's one thing that I've thought a lot about too when it comes to the work that people do, a lot of times people do want more responsibility or different responsibility. And there's two ways I think that you can do it is there's job enrichment and job enlargement. Job enlargement is just doing the same thing, but more of it. Job enrichment is where you make their life easier and you can give them a higher level type of a job. So one of the initiatives we're looking into is accounts payable, and that's trying to automate certain parts of accounts payable so that we don't have people spending their day doing just data entry. And it frees up their time to be able to do more of the data analysis or maybe a higher level type of a job that brings a little bit more satisfaction than just sitting there all day doing data entry. 

Laurel Mann (12:34): 

And that kind of explains them why your area is kind of like a pod for promoting from within. I can think of probably six off the top of my head employees who have started at one thing and realize they had an aptitude for something else and they move to that, so then we backfill the spot. That's 

Scott Osborne (12:48): 

What we try to do. 

Morgan Seger (12:49): 

Much of the work being done in this space is directed towards the employee experience. Next, Scott walks us through the implications. This also could have for customers. 

Scott Osborne (12:58): 

For the customers, I guess it would be a lot of what we say is that we're not growing just to grow and to be big. We're growing strategically so that we can stay relevant in the marketplace so that we can stay relevant to our suppliers and have a seat at the table. It'll also help us serve our customers better as we grow because our customers are doing the same thing. They're growing just as much as we are and continuing to consolidate and they're needing more and more from us as a company. So we need to be able to grow with our customers also. And it also allows us to have resources that we may not be able to have if we were smaller. So I know I can't even think in the last five years the number of new positions that we've created that we just wouldn't have been able to do if we were smaller, we wouldn't have had the resources to be able to do it. 

Laurel Mann (13:49): 

Who knew that we would be pulling soil samples with robots and scouting with drones. And so we need operators for that which we didn't need a couple years ago. So to be able to adapt and evolve is what keeps us relevant. And so I think that's when we add positions or take away different positions and re-deploy those employees into something else, I think that that helps us as well stay relevant because we're constantly adapting and changing. 

Scott Osborne (14:14): 

One of the recent examples was on the eight by eight, when we rolled out Ceres access, we were able to create a call group in eight by eight where we had 20 people that were all over the state part of a call group, so that when a customer would call in, it would go to one of those 20 people and the customer had no idea. They would just call one phone number and it may ring in Ute, it may ring in Rensselaer, it might ring in Crawfordsville, 

Laurel Mann (14:40): 

But for all they know they're calling they're Ceres and that's what we want. 

Scott Osborne (14:43): 

They were calling sir, 

Laurel Mann (14:44): 

And the person was trained in the same way. Whoever received the call would've given the exact same attention to the customer as if they were right 

Scott Osborne (14:50): 

Next door. And then we were also then able to pull the data and the metrics from eight by eight to say that we had this many calls come into the help line and we knew how many calls were answered by every person that was in the call group. We knew how long they were on the phone with the person. We knew if it rang and wasn't answered, we knew if it rang and was transferred somewhere else. It was another tool to be able to go back afterwards and look back at, well, how well did we do on that rollout? We thought we did a pretty good job, but I don't know, how did we do? And we could go back and look at real data that said, okay, we had 150 phone calls come in and we were able to answer 'em all. They lasted for five minutes each and we sent it out to 40,000 people when you had 300 phone calls or whatever it was. Right? I think it helped give us an idea of how the actual rollout went. How effective, yeah, how effective was it was. Part of business is allocating your resources and those types of tools to be able to look at the different data points, help how effectively you're deploying your resources. And if you need to reallocate somewhere else, 

Morgan Seger (16:03): 

These constant changes in efforts of growth don't come without challenges. Next, Scott walks us through how the team collaboratively works through the different challenges that come up when dealing with growth. 

Scott Osborne (16:15): 

I would say on that challenge is the first one is just people and the culture and there is a little bit of a culture change. I think for the new employees that would be coming into our organization. Hopefully it's positive for 'em, right? There's obviously a lot of concern over benefits and positions and pay and things like that that you work through. On the HR side, we try to look at our benefits compared to the benefits that had been offered and we try to match up, match those up the best that we can because ultimately we do want to take care of the employees. So there's that. And then on the other side of it is the data side. There's a lot of data accounting systems that we have to map from one system to the other system. And a lot of times we'll have to do some kind of upload from their accounting system in our accounting system. 


So whether it's customers, vendors, items, general ledger codes, right? Financial statements. When we did our Falmouth merger, we had to work with getting the customer equity transferred over and their patronage history and things like that that have to be moved into our system. And then it's just training the new employees on a new piece of software, but then also the new policies and the procedures and things that need to be done. And I think that a lot of times what I've seen in some of the ones that we've done recently is that there is a lot of hunger from the employee group that is becoming part of Ceres that they want leadership or they want direction and they want someone to come in, they want additional resources and help. And it's been, I would say that's probably one of the more rewarding things. 

Morgan Seger (18:01): 

One of the ways the organization has worked through bringing new people in and different organizations together is through creating what they call one Ceres. 

Scott Osborne (18:10): 

Well in the one Ceres, a big component of that is to kind of bring the cultures together. When you do go through a merger or an acquisition, I try to eliminate the US versus them, talk as much as we can. So when you do an acquisition or a merger 

Laurel Mann (18:26): 

Or even a new hire 

Scott Osborne (18:27): 

Or a new hire, yeah, well we do it like this, but they do it like that. And I want to get rid of the US versus them as much as we can and say, I don't care how we do it or they do it, this is how SIR is going to do it. Collaboration is another big thing. It's one of the big words I think I might have heard from you first, and I kind of latched onto it because collaboration is something that I do believe in a lot. And I have a lot of meetings when we do those mergers and acquisitions where we have people from all sides of the company, from both organizations that come together and we talk about a process and how everyone does it and what function they might have in the process I guess. And then what I like to do is try to take the best of everything and put it together and say, okay, now this is how SIR is going to do it going forward. And then I think that when you do it in a collaborative environment, they become part of the solution and part of the process. They've got an ownership stake in it. So then they want to follow that process and be involved in it because they own it, they helped 

Laurel Mann (19:31): 

Create it. And that's so important. And you do that when you gather all the admins together. Everyone in an administrative role at 50 or 60 branches comes to a meeting that Scott hosts and has a meal and a day of both fellowship, but also learning and education. And I think because the most important thing that happens at SIR happens at the branches between the customer and the employee. So what we do in a central office is not seen and it's very behind the scenes. And often your effort to explain to the location staff the why behind some of the change or some of the consistencies that you're promoting has really helped. 

Scott Osborne (20:06): 

I like to try to get out to the branches, do the fixed asset reviews where we get to go out and we'll go through and try to count all the vehicles or tool bars or sprayers. We did some testing with drones at on some inventory stuff. So yeah, we try to get out as much as we can and we try to be as accessible as we can to anyone I, anyone in the company can call. I would say any of our leaders and we'll help 'em talk. It's not a big corporate feel, I don't think. 

Morgan Seger (20:31): 

Scott has mentioned several technologies that they have implemented that are changing the way Siri shows up and goes to work next. Scott is going to walk us through what he thinks the future of work will look and feel like for Siri Solutions. 

Scott Osborne (20:45): 

Yeah, the one thing that we talked about earlier was the one Ceres concept and the whole process of coming up with what the Ceres way will be that gets the buy-in from the employees and all of that. But the other side of it is that it standardizes a process. Once you are able to standardize a process, our next step is to try to digitize the process as much as we can. And if we can get it standardized and digitized, then we can automate. And so a lot of what we've been doing is trying to get from, everybody does things all different kinds of ways. We try to get it to, here's the one way we're going, we're going to do it and then we digitize it and then we try to automate it. I'm just trying to think in the HR and the onboarding side of it, and it was really involved in was standardizing the onboarding process and then we digitized the onboarding process with Paylocity and some of the other digital tools that we have. 


And then the next step is it was to try to automate some components of it. So I know that we were finally recently able to get the active directory piece linked with the Paylocity so that when we add employees that our email lists are automatically updated and synced based on their job title. So if they're a manager, they get put into the manager email address list and if they're an admin, they go into the admin list. And that was something that wasn't happening before. One of our goals, our strategic initiatives, is to be able to do everything digital by 2025 with a customer, with a vendor, with an employee. And one thing that we'd worked on the customer side of it is the Ceres access to help improve the customer experience. But it still hasn't taken away, I guess, from the face-to-face interaction that they would have with the Ceres employees. 


So one of the things I was thinking about is earlier when we were talking about the future of work and how that may change, we talk a lot about that too as far as work from home remote work, how covid changed a lot of people's perceptions on that. One of the weaknesses I think that I personally have and I think others in management have prior to Covid is the ability to monitor an employee's productivity remotely. So if an employee's in a different location physically or if they're at home or whatever it might be, I think that as a manager you're hoping that they're doing what they're supposed to be doing, but it's really hard to know if you don't see 'em. And a lot of times, I would say prior to Covid, we think of someone that is super busy with a lot of paper on their desk that comes in early and leaves late as being a hard worker after Covid or even during covid. 


It's almost like, well, maybe they're just not efficient. I was trying to be careful earlier when I said how productive an employee is versus how much they work. Because if I go into work for 10 hours a day, that doesn't mean that I was productive 10 hours a day. I may have been productive two or three hours a day. Power BI and the data analytics part of the tools that we've put into place help managers manage their remote workers and their remote employees. So Power BI during Covid, we were able to send some of our accounts payable staff home and work from home. We want to know, well, how much work is being done, how productive are they at home versus how productive are they in the office? And we can pull those metrics then out of our accounting system to say, you've processed 50 invoices today and we can compare when you're at home. 


You process 30 or you process 80. So we can do those types of comparisons with data where we can look at a person's productivity in different areas and then decide if working from home is better for that employee or working in the office is better for that employee. But it's another tool for a manager to have to help manage their employee group. And back to what I was talking about earlier, with eight by eight, we've got the analytics and data that we can pull out of our eight by eight phone system so that we know how many phone calls our employees are getting and how much time they spend on the phone. So it's another tool for management where we can look at the data out of our accounting software and the data out of eight by eight data out of Paylocity. There's data all over the place that we can pull in into one data analytic software and see one view of the data that's everywhere and use that as a management tool to help us manage our employees. The big thing on the secret that I was looking for this quote because I liked it, it's actually an MLK quote to pass the baton. The final test of leadership is how your team performs when you're aren't around. If they can't do it without you, you've not been successful in raising up our leaders. The MLK quote is, everyone can be great because everyone can serve. And that's part of that servant leadership. 

Morgan Seger (25:57): 

Scott mentioned that the Grow Initiative is not to grow for the sake of growth, but rather to be very intentional about where and when they're deploying resources to maximize efficiencies and seize opportunities when available. Next, Scott is going to walk us through the type of listening that Ceres is doing with their customers to best understand what their needs are going to be to ensure that they are investing and allocating their resources in the most responsible and efficient ways. 

Scott Osborne (26:25): 

So Project 2040 is where we've identified 12 young producers that are members of Ceres. I think our target was to look for producers under the age of 40, we call it Project 2040, because they should be the customer of 2040. They should still be around still farming. They should be the decision makers and in influence the direction of their farm and what it's going to look like. So Project 2040 was to bring that group of farmers together. We picked two from each district of our six districts. So we had 12 farmers. I think the average age is 35 years old. And the whole point of it was to bring them together and help us as Ceres identify what we need to be in the future to be able to serve their needs, to stay relevant, to stay relevant. Cause we talked about the changing generation and trying to be everything to everyone, but with the consolidation and the way things are trending, we want to know what does that group of farmers think their operation's going to look like in 2040 so that we know how we need to change and what we need to become to be able to serve them. 

Laurel Mann (27:36): 

And I think one of the great things that's come out of that is the fellowship, because I know when you and the co-lead who is Drew Garon, when you come out of those meetings, I think it, it's neat to see how those producers are engaging with each other. It's been neat to have been the conduit for relationships that they're starting to have with each other. And all those side conversations at meals are probably just as interesting as the content. So 

Scott Osborne (27:56): 

Yeah, I think networking is one of the big, I guess one of the results that we were hoping that would be accomplished from putting that group together. And then it's really interesting too, because our program is really only scheduled to be a two year program where we do four meetings. And at our last meeting, which was only our second meeting, there were comments that were of the group that were saying, what are we going to do when this thing's over? How do we keep this thing going? So I'm sure we will do, I don't know where this is going to go in the future if we decide to keep it with the same group, if we'll have a different group, if there'll be some members of both groups, I would assume we will do something. I just don't know what. But I think it'll be really interesting to see if that group stays together some way, maintains a relationship or an annual meetup of some kind, because you almost think that that may be the result of what happens 

Laurel Mann (28:49): 

And that'd be a great outcome. 

Scott Osborne (28:50): 

We wanted to make sure it was a two-way street where, like I said earlier, we were hoping to get information out of them as far as here's where we think we're going to be in 2040 so that we know where SIR needs to be in 2040 to be able to serve them. But we also wanted to provide something relevant to them as well. Sure. So they had to have a benefit to be in the group. Part of that was the networking piece I think we're in, we are able to introduce them to speakers and topics that they might not hear if they weren't part of that group. So we've been able to partner with our regional suppliers and vendors and the regional co-ops that we're members of and use that network to bring speakers on the economy, whether it's global, regional, or local. We've been able to reach out and get someone who can help us in those areas, put 'em in front of that group, share their information, what they're seeing as trends and what they think may be happening in the future. And it really starts to get that group thinking about even if half that stuff comes true, how's that going to impact me on the farm and what do I need to do differently? And then we can tag along on that Ceres can tag along and say, okay, well if you're going to change and do something different, what can we change or do differently? Right. To help serve you. 

Laurel Mann (30:12): 

It's that continuous improvement always. Yeah. I have read that there's three components to success in leadership, and this really feels like it's your wheelhouse, analyze the business, adopt a growth mindset, and then commit to transformation. In the last couple of years, really since you've been at Ceres, that's what your area has undergone. As you have led that area and led a lot of change, how important has it been to be very transparent with your team? 

Scott Osborne (30:38): 

Yeah, transparency is really important. I think it goes back to what you had said earlier about explaining the why. It's not just sitting around making up stuff to do, right? Because we're all busy, we all have a lot to do. But when we talk about why are we doing the different things that we're doing, we need to be completely transparent with our employees, but also our customers on why we're doing the things that we're doing. So as we go towards more and more of the digital type tools, they're a lot more real time data driven kind of tools, I guess. Yes. One of the things that we have really been pushing over the last few years is to try to get our customers build more timely, I guess more quickly, because we don't want that lag of data where we're giving our customers a tool Ceres access to be able to look at their account, look at their invoices, look at their financing, look at their contracts real in real time, but it, it's meaningless to them if we're not current, right? 


And up to date with their information. And the same thing with our internal tool that we have that's Powered bi. It's all, it's a data, it's a business intelligence tool that's based around data. And we're using that data to provide information to our management and to our decision makers. We're doing a lot more data driven decisions. I mean, there's still relationship co piece that goes into right decisions, and there's factors outside of data, but data's one of the things that can help make decisions and help drive decisions. And if that data isn't current and accurate, then you're making decisions on bad data. And when I talk to our board and our senior leadership group, and I talk about IT accounting and hr, I've got a then diagram of all the circles where they all overlap because there's some areas where HR and accounting may overlap in HR and IT or accounting. And then in the center, there's a spot where all three overlap and we all bring it together. And those are the tools that we're trying to build out to be more efficient and to standardize, to digitize, to automate for our employees and our customers. And that's where Power bi DocuWare, Paylocity eight by eight and Siri Center come into play. Those are the core tools that touch it all that we try to all work together to build out for our employees 

Morgan Seger (33:11): 

With servant leadership at the heart of these changes, I'm excited to see what's next for the Grow Initiative at Siri Solutions. Thank you so much for taking time to listen to this episode. And thank you, Scott for joining us on the show. In our next episode, we will be talking about the Amplify Initiative with the chief marketing officer, Drew Garretson.

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