Returning the Favor

Pat and I met at the University of Nebraska and still remain very active in many aspects of University life, including our involvement on several advisory boards and in student life activities.  Our family has been season football ticket holders since the days of my grandfather (which, in Nebraska, is something that Cornhuskers brag about).  I have many fond memories of going to football games with my father (more about my mom and dad in later posts).  Just this last weekend, I was able to “treat” dad by returning the favor and taking him to a Husker basketball game.  In the picture, you can see that dad is a retired Marine, having flown 77 missions in the Philippines. We had a great time and he really enjoyed the crowd and excitement.  I have been so blessed. 

The Modern Farm



When you think of a farm, what types of tools come to mind?  Many of us are likely to think of machines such as tractors, trucks, combines, and balers.  We might think simpler still - of pliers and barbed wire, old knobby fence posts and leather gloves.  These tools are sure to be present on most farms, sure.  Depending on the farm, however, there may be many other tools in use that might surprise you. 

On any given modern day farm, you’re likely to encounter other tools – computers, smart phones, GPS units.  If there is a retail or manufacturing component to the farm, you’ll find even more tools - design software, marketing resources, accounting platforms, advanced telephone systems, and so on.

All farms share the central characteristics of being places where crops are grown and harvested.  On many of these farms, however, you’ll find a surprisingly complex infrastructure at work.  Today’s farmers are trained to work the land, but also to be smart businessmen and marketers. 

The next time you get a chance to visit a farm in your area, I encourage you to do so.  You just might be surprised at what you find.     

Staying out of the Way

In the new Oxbow video I recently referenced (which you can watch here), I was recorded saying that I try to hire good people and stay out of the way.  When we first showed the video to our employees at a recent all-staff meeting, some of the audience chuckled at this line. 

“Hiring good people and staying out of the way” might be oversimplifying things a bit, but it’s a principle I really do believe in.  My employees are all experts in their own fields.  From the Oxbow production line to the sales department, from marketing to accounting, my employees all work hard and take pride in their contributions to the company and all of our goals.  Trusting these talented people to do their jobs creates a healthy, productive work environment. 

Think of your own day to day experiences.  In what ways do you “stay out of the way,” and how does it benefit you?   

Farmland

“For all of man's supposed accomplishments, his continued existence is completely dependent upon six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”-Old Proverb

One look outside my office window this afternoon reveals a flat countryside blanketed in white.  There are no majestic mountains to be found here, no national forests, and certainly no oceans.  “All” that the eye perceives in my neck of the um…woods is mostly flat farm land, the only trees along the creek beds and where birds left the seeds over the years. 

The presently-hidden land, while not quite majestic in the eyes of some, is noting short of magical when you really stop and think.  The earth that looks so barren this time of year is capable of yielding so much.  Year after year, the topsoil supports unbelievable amounts of life in plant form.  These plants, with a little care and a more than a little luck, provide grains, forages, and vegetables to feed thousands of humans and animals alike. 

I think often of the proverb posted above.  We’re all guilty of getting caught up in the latest fads and technological advancements.  At the end of the day, however, Mother Nature and her simple recipe of rain, soil, and seed are responsible for sustaining life all over the world. 

Majestic as the mountains, forests, and oceans may be, it’s the farmland that will always be most beautiful to me.  

Lights...Camera...Oxbow

If you had been around the Oxbow farm a few weeks back, you probably would have encountered some equipment that was out of place.  We have lots of equipment on our farm – tractors, balers, forklifts, trucks, trailers – not to mention all of the machines that allow us to package our products.  The equipment that was here a couple of weeks ago, however, consisted of items I’m not used to encountering in my daily activities….cameras, stage lights, microphones and more. 

I’m happy to announce that we recently finished production of an Oxbow company video.  It’s not the first company video we have made, but it’s the first we’ve made in a number of years.  The production company (Reliant Studios of Lincoln, NE) spent several days on site, recording the stories of Oxbow employees and shooting footage of our day to day activities.  I was sure what to expect, but now that I have seen the video, I must say that I am very impressed.  They perfectly captured the feel of Oxbow – our history, our farm, our culture, and our people. 

I hope you’ll take a chance to watch this video and learn more about the Oxbow story.  It’s one that we’re very proud to tell, and work every day to continue writing.   

The Customer Experience

I’ll let you in on a secret.  I look forward to offsite meetings.  (When you work in the country, most meetings are “offsite.”)  Sure, I enjoy taking part in meetings with partners and attending meetings of various boards on which I serve, but there’s another, more selfish reason I enjoy meetings.  Once a meeting is over, before I merge onto the Interstate to return home, I almost always make a pit stop…to my favorite coffee shop.  There, I pick up a large cup of my favorite coffee to enjoy on the drive home.  It’s a small ritual by any standard, but sometimes it’s enough to make my day. 

When considering our regular experiences as consumers, the concept of “relationships” might not be the first that comes to mind.  For most of us, though, there are many relationships we engage in as consumers.  I buy my coffee from a particular location because I like the coffee, but also because I like the staff, location, and the ritual of going to the same location for a particular product.  Together, these factors make for an enjoyable experience…and one I will drive a few miles out of my way to repeat. 

The same is true in the pet industry.  Oxbow is fortunate to have many loyal customers who have been with us for many years and, we hope, many years to come.  Likewise, many of these customers have favorite retail stores when they purchase their favorite products.  These locations become favorites as a result of superior service, products, and the overall experience they provide.  We are thankful for both our customers and our partners who help put our products in their hand, time and again, by providing an experience and relationship people appreciate.

Whether it’s coffee or rabbit food, there’s no denying the power of a positive customer experience.      

Stasis

The winter months lend themselves easily to reflection.  For farmers in particular, the energy of harvest stops suddenly each year and is replaced by a quieter, colder, more deliberate atmosphere.  The endless moving parts of harvesters come to a stop and are tended to in preparation for the next year.  Machines are winterized, repaired, and put away for a period of hibernation.

Winter is a seasonal stasis in many ways.  In the context of the animal health industry, the term “stasis” has negative connotations.  Stasis within an animal’s body can be very serious and life-threatening.  In other aspects of life, however, temporary stasis can be positive.  Taking time to slow down (or even stop) and reflect is important.  The constant motion we are all accustomed to this day and age takes its toll on mind and body.  Like the harvesters repaired by farmers during the stasis of winter, we can all benefit from taking a little time to reflect, recharge, and even repair.     

History



I love history of all kinds – world history, American history, local history, and, perhaps most of all, family history.  Some history is passed down in print, but much of it (especially family history) is passed along in the oral tradition over time.  I have always cherished the stories of my own family history.  Many of these stories have informed important decisions and moments in my own life.  Passed down to me from my parents, I’ve passed them along to my children in the same manner.  I like to think this will carry on for many generations to come.   

One story that I have always enjoyed telling is that of the development and evolution of my family business.  I am proud of the way the Oxbow has grown over time, and I enjoy sharing our history, our story with those new to us.  The photographs that hang on the walls of our office hallways show the physical changes that have happened over the years.  Barn to office.  Farm to family business.  These changes will continue to occur over time.  Our present, and even our future, will become history for those to come.

Think about your family history and stories.  Which are most important to you?  Which will shape your future, and the future of those yet to come?     

Fall Beauty at Oxbow



It seems strange to start a post titled “Fall Beauty at Oxbow” by praising cell phones, but that’s what I’m forced to do.  You see, without cell phones we wouldn’t have this beautiful photo which was taken a few mornings back by our Marketing Operations Manager, Melissa.  I just love the contrast between the changing leaves and the dark, rain-filled sky.  Thanks to her handy cell phone, Melissa was able to capture a perfect image of fall at Oxbow, just moments (that’s what it felt like, at least) before the leaves disappeared.  Soon, the landscape around Oxbow will undoubtedly be blanketed in snow and fall’s beauty will seem like a distant memory.  When that happens, I’ll be thankful for this photo (and cell phones).  

Special Guests



We recently had some very special guests at Oxbow.  The President and Chief Officer from our Japanese distributing partner made the very long journey to spend several days with us.  In addition to spending time at Oxbow, our guests were able to take in the local culture in the form of a country music concert at the brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, as well as a Husker football game on Saturday.  Before the game, we spent some time at a tailgate at the Governor’s Mansion as a part of the Nebraska Passport Weekend – an event aimed to celebrate the partnership between Nebraska diplomats and businesses.   

At Oxbow, we cherish and value our relationships with all of our business partners – domestic and international.  We take great pride in working with talented, dedicated individuals to help distribute our products all over the globe.  Without the assistance and commitment of these partners, we would never be able to make our presence a world away.  Our international customers and their pets rely on our partners to make our products available.  We are extremely thankful for their commitment to Oxbow.

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