Q&A with Scott Harris, Vice President of North America, Case IH
Company: With headquarters in Racine, Wis., Case IH is an agricultural equipment company with a network of more than 4,900 dealers and distributors that operate in over 170 countries. Case IH was founded in 1842 and is today a brand of CNH Industrial. The company’s lineup includes combines, tractors, sprayers and floaters, planters and seeders, tillage equipment, specialty crop harvesters, balers and hay tools, and precision farming technology.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in applied technology, Western Illinois University
Favorite leadership quote: Vince Lombardi said: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” I like to shorten it to: “Work ethic almost always trumps IQ.”
Business leader you admire: Warren Buffett. His investing principles are very simple. He’s humble, generous, philanthropic and wildly successful—and he’s stood the test of time.
Favorite business book: “The 5 Levels of Leadership” by John Maxwell has been really insightful to me. MaxweIl says initially people follow you because they have to, since you’re the boss. Then you go through different stages until ultimately people follow you because of who you are and what you represent. I found it to be great reading and recommend this book to anyone in a leadership role.
What has been your career path?
I grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago. After college, I taught high school for a year. Then I went to the automobile industry, and I spent more than 20 years in various sales and marketing leadership roles. About 13 years ago, I made a really meaningful change and joined the ag industry to run CNH Industrial Capital, which is our credit arm for North America. That role gave me tremendous insight and exposure to our company, our industries and how we go to market. After about five years, I was asked to lead the parts and service business for all brands in North America. I did that for about five years, and then I was asked to lead the Construction business for CNH Industrial in North America. I ran this business for a couple of years and finally made it home and am now privileged to lead this iconic brand, Case IH, in North America.
What are your key responsibilities at Case IH?
I’m responsible for the direction and the leadership of the Case IH brand in North America. Globally, North America is the strongest region for Case IH. As we go, the Case IH brand follows suit globally. I’m frankly humbled by this position when I think about the leaders that have gone before me and the legacy this brand represents in the agriculture industry. We are responsible for carrying that legacy forward and ensuring that our products reflect Case IH’s commitment to innovation for North American farmers.
What are some of the best business practices you've learned that farmers could apply to their operations?
Embrace change, particularly when it comes to technology and data. If you talk to any member of my team, they'll tell you I use this phrase routinely: “I don’t want to have data-free discussions about our business.” What is the data telling us? Then we augment this knowledge with the anecdotes, our feelings and what we're hearing. But it always starts with the data.
What are some of the top challenges Case IH is facing?
Trade, commodity prices and farm income are my three biggest near-term challenges. We face the same challenges our customers do. Trade today is a challenge, and it feels like it will get worse before it gets better. There's tremendous pressure on the ag industry as a result of our current position on trade with China. This is impacting commodity prices, which certainly puts downward pressure on farm income. When there's downward pressure on farm income, our farmers struggle and they're not looking at making major capital purchases.
What is your leadership philosophy?
If you surround yourself with the right people, you don't need to have all the answers. If you listen, engage and empower good people, they will do amazing things. Case IH has a tremendous team. As a matter of fact, a significant number of our employees are farmers themselves or come from farm families. My job is really to communicate and to set direction and empower this group who knows exactly what the North American farmer needs.
What key trends and technologies do you see on the horizon for farm machinery?
The functional automation that we're building in machines today is tremendous and something farmers can get excited about. For example, one of the things farmers face is a lack of skilled labor. The automation and the technology Case IH is putting on the machines today can really help farmers. Today, machines are reading their own settings and current conditions for soil, crops, weather and adjusting on the fly. This technology can take inexperienced operators and allow them to handle our equipment at a level that very experienced operators can. In 2016, we showed the autonomous tractor. I think we’re a ways away from that being the norm, but we're investing a lot in that type of technology. The day will come when we see certain parts of this market operating with autonomous machines. We're also looking at alternative ways to cleanly and efficiently power our machines.
In its series “View From the Top,” Top Producer explores business ideas from company leaders both within the ag industry and outside of agriculture.Have an idea for someone to spotlight? Email Sara Schafer at [email protected]