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Episode 49: The Power of Core Values with Brian Ricker and Sandy Musgrave

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of agriculture, having a clear sense of purpose and direction is essential. This is where having a strong set of core values can come into play. Core values serve as the guiding principles that shape culture and drive success for any organization.

After recently rolling out a new set of core values and a refreshed mission and vision statement, AgCredit knows first-hand the importance of having core values and how they can provide a solid foundation for a unified work environment. 

For Brian Ricker, President and CEO of AgCredit, the process of getting to a set of renewed core values was essential. “It’s that collection of attitudes and beliefs and those behaviors that really define the work environment,” Brian explains. “It was very important that we get it right.” 

With employee participation in the process, AgCredit identified a set of seven new core values, including relationships, respect, integrity, service, accountability, teamwork, and courage. “These core values are our root beliefs,” Brian says. “They help guide us and help us to understand how we interact with others. Ultimately, they’re the foundation of our success.” 

For Sandy Musgrave, Chief Human Resource Officer with AgCredit, core values also foster collaboration and a strong sense of purpose among employees. “They are why we exist as an association. This is the way we want to operate with one another, with our customers, and with our communities.” Core values provide a sense of purpose and focus for not only your organization but for employees as well. 

According to Sandy, core values should permeate every aspect of your business. By actively living and emphasizing your core values, they serve as a rallying point for employees, especially in challenging times. 

As Brian puts it, core values are like a compass that can help you navigate through business. When faced with uncertainties, indecision, or tough choices, referring to your core values can help you make sound decisions that align with your organization’s principles. 

Just like in business, farm operations can incorporate their own set of core values into their day-to-day. Core values can help define your business’s identity, guide decision-making, and set the expectations for how your business operates. By taking the time to identify your core values, you can cultivate a strong, collaborative work environment and build trust with your customers and community. 

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [00:46] Brian shares the process of creating AgCredit’s new mission, vision and core values.

  • [05:53] Introducing each core value, Brian starts with relationships.

  • [07:18] Sandy explains the core value of respect. 

  • [08:22] Brian talks about integrity.

  • [08:59] Sandy shares the service core value.

  • [09:44] Brian explains the core value of accountability. 

  • [11:17] Sandy talks about teamwork. 

  • [12:17] Lastly, Brian shares more about the courage core value. 

  • [13:53] Sandy and Brian share the new mission and vision statement and why they were slightly changed. 

  • [17:03] Sandy and Brian explain why it’s important to have a set of core values. 

  • [20:22] Brian demonstrates how their core values align with the cooperative business model.

  • [23:12] Brain shares how farm operations can incorporate core values into their businesses. 

  • [25:15] Going into the new year, Brian shares the successes and changes AgCredit has experienced. 

 

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Email podcast@agcredit.net

Transcription

Voiceover (00:08):Welcome to AgCredit Said It. In each episode, our hosts sit down with experts from all parts of the agriculture industry to bring you insights and must-have information on all things from farming to finances and everything in between.

 

Libby Wixtead (00:29):Welcome back to AgCredit Said It. I'm Libby Wixtead, and today I have with me Brian Ricker, our CEO and President of AgCredit, and Sandy Musgrave, Chief Human Resource Officer with AgCredit as well. Welcome, you guys. Glad you're with us today.

 

Brian Ricker (00:43):Thanks, Libby. Great to be here.

 

Sandy Musgrave (00:45):Thanks for having us.

 

Libby Wixtead (00:46):Yes, absolutely. We are going to talk about AgCredit's new set of core values, a new mission statement and vision statement that was recently rolled out to our team. Can you tell us how this came about? Brian, we'll start with you.

 

Brian Ricker (01:01):Oh, thanks, Libby. Yeah, actually it goes back quite a ways. Several years ago now, we started to have some questions pop up from our team about our culture, and we were having some transition. We've had retirements. We've had new employees come onto our team. And I think some of our team members were saying, "We really like our culture here at AgCredit," and so we want to be able to share that culture and explain it more to our new team members and we want to carry that on.

 

(01:40):And so I think it started with that. And I know we had different things that we were doing at that time to try and explain our story and explain what our culture is all about. Culture is important. It's that collection of attitudes and beliefs and those behaviors that really define the work environment. And so we did different things, kind of a time of discovery a little bit. We did the word clouds and had people try to describe what they think the culture is here. And that was helpful, but it wasn't the full thing.

 

(02:23):It wasn't the full story that we really needed. So ultimately, we reached out to our team and we asked them, 14 or 15 of them, we asked them, "Will you help us to figure out what our culture is?" And so a part of that process then is you got to get to the core, you got to get to the foundation of some of the things that are important to the business and to the association, and that starts with our mission, vision, and those core values. And so like I said, we formed this team.

 

(02:58):They got together five, six times, and they did a wonderful job. And I know for me personally, it was very important that we get it right.

 

Libby Wixtead (03:11):Absolutely.

 

Brian Ricker (03:11):Yeah. I know for me, when I first started working for AgCredit, those core values were very important, the ones that we had. And that's what I know got a lot of people excited to want to work for AgCredit when they read our core values. We knew we needed to modernize them.

 

(03:32):They were long and a little wordy, and so we wanted to simplify that and brush the dust off of them a little bit. Anyhow, that was the beginning of it. And then along the way, Sandy came on board. And so that was a great way, I think, for Sandy to come in as our new chief HR person and for her to put her mark on everything as well. It was good timing.

 

Libby Wixtead (04:08):Sandy, do you have anything to add to the process of getting to these new core values and mission statement and vision statement?

 

Sandy Musgrave (04:14):Sure. I think the process was fantastic, having employees actually contribute and direct that process. They're your core values. I mean, they're mine too, but for everybody. It just didn't come from Brian and I or the executive leadership team. It came from the association employees, so there's buy-in. And you know you have to stand for something.

 

Libby Wixtead (04:39):Yes.

 

Sandy Musgrave (04:40):It's important that we stand for something and everybody needs to stand for the same thing here. So I think the process worked. I think we came out of there feeling really good about where we landed, and we didn't change them that much. It's not like we did a complete and total overhaul and now we're standing for something new. We're still standing for the things we always did before. We're just doing it a little more contemporary, I guess.

 

Libby Wixtead (05:04):We just made it better. And I was honored to be one of those employees that was on that committee, and I think there was a lot of passion. Everybody that was on that committee was very passionate and was very honored to be able to help our company get to our new ideas and, just like you said, modernize our mission, vision, and core values.

 

Brian Ricker (05:26):Libby, if I could add, through that process, we did revamp the values as we talked about. And then most importantly, or just as importantly, we also formed a culture vision statement, some behavioral expectations. Some of those things are more internal to us as a team, but I think definitely some good happened from that as well.

 

Libby Wixtead (05:53):Yes, that vision behaviors, I think that really helped us as employees really gain ownership and know what is expected of us and how we would like to act. And that was a fun process to go through as well. I know there was a lot of passion in that as well. Why don't we go through our core values and we'll just talk about each of them? The first one is relationships. We value and build genuine, long-lasting partnerships. What is important with this value and why is that a value of AgCredit?

 

Brian Ricker (06:29):Well, relationships are really everything about us, everything about what we do as a business. It takes that type, I guess, of a core value to really move the needle for us. We are in the business of lending. And agriculture, it has its ups, it has its downs, it's cyclical, and you need to have that relationship, be able to have that communication back and forth, whether it's internal between us employees or the folks that we serve. And having that two-way communication is so important. And that's core to our success.

 

Libby Wixtead (07:18):Absolutely. We really pride ourselves on our relationships with our team members and even, not even, with our customers. That is very important to each one of us. Sandy, let's talk about respect. Everyone is included, treated fairly, and with dignity.

 

Sandy Musgrave (07:34):Certainly, when you come to work every day, you want to be respected. We all do. We also need to respect one another. So it's not just all about us, it's how we treat each other, and our customers as well. But internally, how we interact on teams. If we have a disagreement, how do we handle that? We're not going to agree about everything, that's for sure, right?

 

Libby Wixtead (07:56):Yes.

 

Sandy Musgrave (07:57):It would be kind of a boring place if we all agreed all the time. It wouldn't be much fun. But I think that respect is core to conducting business, conducting ourselves professionally and appropriately, and being tolerant of one another, understanding our differences, our perspectives, our backgrounds, and treating people with respect, and being treated with respect is a big part of how we operate every day.

 

Libby Wixtead (08:22):Yeah, absolutely. We have a very diverse team and customers as well. Brian, let's talk about integrity. We are committed to being honest, reliable, and hard-working.

 

Brian Ricker (08:33):Yeah, integrity is core as well. I don't know who it was, but somebody said integrity is doing the right thing when nobody else is looking and watching. When we're dealing with financial information and just the importance of everything that we do, that has to be right up there for us, and it is, and that's key to our success.

 

Libby Wixtead (08:59):Yes, absolutely. Let's talk about service. This one was one that was added after we had some other core values and we realized that we were missing one. So service, we actively and purposefully help others. Sandy, would you speak on that one?

 

Sandy Musgrave (09:18):Sure. Being a servant, and having a servant attitude is really important in what we do every day here. In my position, I serve the association employees. I'm not customer-facing outside, but I have internal customers. And we have to have that mindset to do our jobs well and to set the stage for the way we want the work environment to be here.

 

Libby Wixtead (09:44):I think you have a different attitude when you think about serving others. And I know with a lot of our team members, that is so deep in our hearts. That's why we are loan officers because we love to serve others, and you guys, and our corporate office love serving us and supporting us and seeing us grow. And that to me, I'm so glad we added service because it is very important to our company. Brian, let's talk about accountability. Each of us is responsible for our words, actions, and results.

 

Brian Ricker (10:22):This is one that at the end of the day, we need to get the job done and we need to be timely. And whether that's internal with getting the process or whatever, the next step to that person and making that happen to making sure that what we said or what we told our member and our customer actually happens.

 

(10:53):And so that accountability piece is very important to our business as well. And we got to live up to that. Obviously, we're human and there are times when we're going to make that mistake and we just need to live up to that and just try to do better that next time and reflect on that and keep pushing forward.

 

Libby Wixtead (11:17):We're here to hold each other accountable and take ownership of any mistakes or any mishaps that we have. And that's a very good core value to have to live by. So Sandy, let's talk about teamwork. We achieve the best results when we all work together.

 

Sandy Musgrave (11:35):We all bring something to the table. We have a set of skills. We have a background. We have experience. We have our own perspective, but we don't have everything. We need a team. We need to be surrounded by people who are good at things that we're not good at. That's why it's a team effort. None of us work alone.

 

(11:55):We all have a team around us, and that's what makes us successful. The projects are big. The projects include a lot of people, and it takes that perspective to get the work done and to do the best thing and to have integrity and to do the right thing even when people aren't looking. All of the things that we stand for, we couldn't do it without a good team around us.

 

Libby Wixtead (12:17):And I think on the committee when we were talking about this core value, I think we realized that our team is so much bigger than who is in our office, and that we are really acting as a team of teams within our company. And that's exciting because again, we're all here to serve each other. And so it's neat to see. You touched on it, how all of these core values are working together with each other. This one I have to say is my favorite one is courage. We embrace challenges with open minds and positivity.

 

Brian Ricker (12:52):Every year there are challenges in any business. Whether it's our personal lives or in the business, we all are faced with those challenges, but it's how we react to that. It's our attitude towards that challenge. Are we positive? Are we going about it from our own mind in the right way? And just being open-minded towards that. I like this one too. It was a little unique in some ways.

 

(13:22):But at the same time also from a courage standpoint is, do you have the courage to communicate and share your thoughts with others? You don't want people to not feel like they can express their view on something. Having that openness to share and explain and talk about your point of view I think is so important for a successful business of the future.

 

Libby Wixtead (13:53):Yes, absolutely. And I don't want to overshadow our mission statement that we changed slightly, so I'm going to read what that is. We create lifelong opportunities for our customers and employees by striving to be the premier cooperative lender and employer in our rural communities. Sandy, do you want to talk about just the little tweaks that we made to the mission statement to modernize it?

 

Sandy Musgrave (14:19):We added employees, first of all. Customers have always been very important and always will be very important to us, of course, but we thought we needed to include our employees in our mission. That not only do we want to provide great service and have high integrity with our customers, we want to do that with our employees as well. So we were looking inward a little bit as well instead of just completely looking outward. And I think our language is a little more modern if you compare it to what we had in the past.

 

Libby Wixtead (14:50):Yeah, I think my favorite word in there is being the premier cooperative lender. That was a nice touch that we added to that. And our vision statement just changed very slightly. We inspire growth in agriculture and our rural communities. Brian, I think that was really important to the community to add to our rural communities as well. Can you talk on that a little bit?

 

Brian Ricker (15:13):Sure, yeah. Rural communities, of course, is who we serve and we want to emphasize that. Our rural area, it can be challenging out there with infrastructure and different limits there. We love living in our rural area. We love our rural community, and we want that to be as successful as we can get. Agriculture, of course, just happens to be a big part of our rural community and we serve that as well. We want success for agriculture and then that will overflow into the rural community and make us all prosper.

 

Libby Wixtead (15:58):Yeah, and I think having our mission fund really serves that, supporting our rural communities. Our area this year in Mount Gilead, we had a lot of money come back, and those organizations were very, very thankful for the improvements that they're going to make with that fence. We are going to take a quick break, and we'll see you guys on the other side.

 

Voiceover (16:25):Make your year-end equipment purchases easy with Farm Credit Express. Through a partnership with AgCredit and participating dealers, Farm Credit Express is designed to provide you with competitive rates, flexible terms, and the conveniences you're looking for in an equipment finance program.

 

(16:40):Apply for Farm Credit Express financing at a participating dealership. Take advantage of manufacturer cash discounts and enjoy the benefits of cooperative ownership, including AgCredit's Patronage program. Visit FarmCreditExpress.com for a list of participating dealers or contact your local AgCredit team for more information.

 

Libby Wixtead (17:03):So we are back and we are going to talk about why it is important to have a set of core values. It doesn't really matter the amount of values you have, but just why is it important to have those core values for AgCredit or for a business?

 

Brian Ricker (17:27):In my view, these core values, they just help us to demonstrate what sets us apart as a company, as a business. And these core values, they're the root beliefs, I guess you could call it, that us as an employee, they help to guide us. They help us to understand how the business interacts with others. Ultimately, they're the foundation of our success. I guess I've used our core values during challenging times. And when you're unsure of direction, you can read those core values, and a lot of times they can lead you down the right path on a good decision.

 

Libby Wixtead (18:22):Sandy, do you have anything to add?

 

Sandy Musgrave (18:24):Yeah. I think that they are why we are here. They are why we exist as an association. This is the way we want to operate with one another, with our customers, with our communities. And I think it's important that we share that with employees and set that as the expectation that that's the way we do things here at AgCredit. Without that, then everybody kind of does whatever they want.

 

(18:50):This way we can focus on our purpose, and our purpose is to be servants in our communities, to be servants with our customers and with our employees, to be collaborative and have a great strong team environment, hold each other accountable, all of the things that we say we're going to do. And I can attest that we do that pretty well. I mean, I'm the newest member of this group at the leadership level, and you talk about your core values, but we really live them here and I believe that.

 

Libby Wixtead (19:24):That is I think the importance of you can't just have them on a piece of paper. You have to be actively living them every day and emphasizing them. And it's not just a piece of paper that hangs in the break room.

 

Sandy Musgrave (19:38):I like what Brian said about drawing on them in tough times. That's when the rubber really hits the road. Do we do what we say we're going to do? To me, that's what integrity is. We talked a little bit about integrity is you do what you say you're going to do. And when times get tough, you have to dig deep. And that's a great place to go is to review the core values and remember why we are here every day and what our purpose is.

 

Libby Wixtead (20:04):They ground you. They ground you when you're lost. I love our core values. I think a lot of us employees resonate with them, and they are some of our personal core values as well.

 

Sandy Musgrave (20:20):Absolutely.

 

Libby Wixtead (20:22):So how do these core values fit in with values of being a cooperative business?

 

Brian Ricker (20:31):When I think of a cooperative business, we are member-owned. So the folks, our borrowers that we do business with, they own us. We are also governed by our members as well, and that is part of the cooperative way. And ultimately, the profits that we make, we return a portion of those back to our customers through Patronage. So that's the cooperative way of doing business. And so I do feel like there are a number of our core values that really resonate well with working in that fashion of working for our members, having common goals.

 

(21:19):We obviously would want our borrowers, our members, the folks that we do business with to succeed, and vice versa, they would want us to succeed as well. So there are some common goals there. I see just teamwork as one of those core values that relates so well. We need to work together as a team. We need to work with our borrowers closely to ensure success. Relationships goes right with that too. We talked about that a little bit earlier and its importance. And I think from a cooperative model standpoint, that just resonates all the more.

 

(21:59):And then service, the one core value that took a while for us to figure out, but we did add that. You got to have that service as well. And I think cooperation, working together, those are three, I guess, and you could probably relate the others very closely too to our cooperative model, but those were the three that I guess for me, I could relate very well to the way we do business.

 

Libby Wixtead (22:30):Yes, absolutely. Sandy, do you want to add anything?

 

Sandy Musgrave (22:32):I was just going to say that the relationship piece of that puzzle is what resonates with me when you think about a cooperative business. It's different than businesses that are all about profitability, and all of that's internal profitability. But because of the strong relationships in our model, that's what sets us apart. Cooperative or not, that sets this organization apart from other organizations. It's a successful place to work. We do good work here, but those relationships are truly the foundation. And that's what cooperative means to me.

 

Libby Wixtead (23:12):I know we are very generational with our customers. Those relationships are so long-lasting from each generation, and that is very rewarding. And that to me shows what a cooperative is. Okay, so let's move to how our members' operations can benefit from having a mission statement, core values or other written principles, and also just individually living. Sandy, we'll start with you.

 

Sandy Musgrave (23:43):Well, I think they give you purpose. They give you a focus and a why. They're not easy to necessarily quantify sometimes. They're more about how you feel and how you act and what you do. And I think that if you have a collective group of people, a small business, a big business, a big operation, a small operation, it doesn't matter, you've got your team together and you all want to be singing off the same sheet of music.

 

(24:17):And that's what I believe core values do. It gives you some common ground. And we aspire to these core values. None of us are perfect, right? We're all humans, as Brian said. These are aspirations. This is how we want to be every day, and we have to work at it sometimes, for sure.

 

Libby Wixtead (24:36):Brian?

 

Brian Ricker (24:37):Yeah, I would agree with all that. In a lot of our farm operations that we work with, they're family operations, so you're building more alignment with your own family in many cases. You've got the larger businesses too that would go beyond family. But that alignment and understanding that purpose I think is very, very important. It's kind of that having an introspective, I guess, view or look at your operation and how it wants to do business. And that's just key.

 

Libby Wixtead (25:15):Yeah, and I think you may not have necessarily written core values, but you have values that you're acting on whether they're written down or not. As your business is growing, as your farm operation is growing, it might be a good thing just to write down those values that you want to live by as you add employees and keep going. Lastly, what can our members expect from AgCredit going into the new year 2024?

 

Brian Ricker (25:45):Well, yeah, we're wrapping up 2023 here really quickly. And I guess a couple of things that come to my mind as we see the year-end, we've been fortunate to have another very strong financial year. So we're looking forward to that. And that means Patronage. We're looking forward to a very good Patronage year again. A lot of success out there for many of our borrowers. This will be, I think, the 36th consecutive year that AgCredit has paid Patronage. And so we're really proud of that.

 

(26:25):And I guess in a world where there's so much uncertainty out there, whether it's geopolitical or interest rates continuing to go up and uncertainty there, we feel like we have some stability in some ways with how we do business. In the cooperative model, there's a lot of stability there. And then being able to say that 36 years of Patronage, I think that adds and shows stability as well from a financial standpoint.

 

(27:00):I think we, AgCredit, are one of the associations across the system that's probably paid Patronage the longest. I don't know all the numbers, but 36 years is a long time. It's probably more years than the age of a lot of our employees. I'll just say that.

 

Libby Wixtead (27:20):That's what I like to tell my customers.

 

Brian Ricker (27:24):It's a long time. So that's one thing. And then I know technology, as we enter the new year, we have certainly had our technology changes in 2023, and there are always challenges with technology. I know whether you're a farmer who gets a new combine and you're trying to understand how everything works, and for us this year we had our loan system replacement is what we called it. And so we continue to tweak and figure things out there and just continue to modify that, and it's getting better for us.

 

(28:06):And so I know that will be a priority for the association as well. And then there's going to be more technology. The whole digital banking platform that we put in place, that will continue. We'll continue to add features. That was the plan all along is we got a base and then we're going to continue to add things to that. And then internally, we've got to do what we call a new loan origination system. So that will be for next year, for 2024.

 

(28:38):So all these things will help us in the future, help us to deliver the service, the credit needs to our borrowers that we need to do, and make us more efficient in the long run. It should be a win-win all the way around.

 

Libby Wixtead (28:55):That's why with all these changes that have been coming, especially systems, they have been very challenging, but we've worked so hard to get these core values in place for when, we've talked about earlier, of the tough times to come back to and especially have courage to embrace challenges with open minds and positivity.

 

(29:12):I keep reminding myself of that when we're having some challenging troubles. So I think these core values came out at a great time, and we probably unintentionally maybe got these wrapped up right in time for everything, but it was good timing and sometimes that timing just happens.

 

Brian Ricker (29:33):I have found myself needing to read core values a few more times here lately.

 

Libby Wixtead (29:40):Yes. I have mine right on my computer right in front of me. You just need that gentle reminder sometimes. And we have these little cards that all of our employees do have so we can look at them quickly and remind us. We've done a really good job of pushing these out. And since this is a year-end podcast, I just wanted to remind any of our customers that are listening to this just to get your year-end balance sheets sent to your loan officers or offices as soon as possible. Please state those as 12/31.

 

(30:13):That's really important, so we can provide a very good service to you of looking at your financials from year to year, and you'll hear that from us over and over again. That wraps up another episode of AgCredit Said It. Join us for our next episode to kick off the new year. We will be sharing advice on things to look into for 2024 to set your operation up for success. We'll talk to you next time.

 

Voiceover (30:42):Thank you for listening to AgCredit Said It. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. While you are there, leave us a review to help others find the show. Let's talk ag in between episodes. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @AgCredit. For more tips and resources, visit agcredit.net.