Jim Schweigert President, Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

Growing a business is hard. Hiring the right people, making the right capital decisions and countless other obstacles can stand in the way of an expansion strategy. Chief among them is, “Do all the employees understand and share the company’s vision for growth?”

This is one of the more overlooked elements of growing a business: getting employees comfortable with the change that comes from growth and contributing to the overall goals of the business. Some may wonder how a growing business could have challenges with employee relations. Company growth is good for employees, right? Fact is, even the most successful businesses have employees who wonder, what’s in it for me? It’s an understandable question.

Explaining the Why

Sales growth charts, better margins and major capital improvements are great for the company’s future, but do employees believe it helps their future? Many of metrics a business uses to measure success aren’t shared by employees. They focus on wages, job security, meaningful work and being appreciated. “Explaining the Why” means connecting the company’s vision to what the employees value. Making this connection means giving it more than lip service. It means truly showing employees tangible, personal improvements to their jobs and lives.

It also means showing them how their efforts help create company success. Describing to employees how unique projects have been the key to bigger opportunities encourages them to take on those new projects. When employees are motivated, by purpose, to go beyond standard expectations, the customer and company benefit.

Without this connection, company success can be seen as more of a negative than a positive. Company growth can translate to less time with family, more stress and not being appreciated for their contributions to the business. Connecting the company’s growth with direct benefits for employees like job stability, opportunities for advancement and better pay will help employees support the company’s expansion efforts.

When employees know that company success means personal and professional success for them, the results can be overwhelming.