We are sharing with you this week an episode that we recorded with Steve Sukup while down at the National Farm Machinery Show. Before talking with him we catch up with Kelly Garrett to learn about what is working for him on his farm. We then explore the Sukup family's path to growth in the grain bin and grain handling industry. Steve reflects on his dad's leadership, his time as a politician, and the future direction of Sukup Manufacturing. We hope our conversation inspires you to establish the direction of your farm.
Steven E. Sukup was born in Sheffield, Iowa and attended the Iowa State University with a degree in Industrial Engineering. A Republican, he served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 for Iowa’s 18th district. Steve is now the President and CEO of Sukup Manufacturing.
We don’t get to interview very many guests that have their own Wikipedia page!
Our goal in the conversation today is to help provide insights to our listeners on how they can become better leaders to help them grow and ultimately leader to higher farm or business profitability.
Let’s first roll through a little of the Sukup History – Giving us a starting Point for perspective on this conversation:
Eugene Sukup, a young farmer, found drying to be slow, and pockets of grain began to overheat and spoil.
Eugene began making the stirring augers and he patented the idea for the Stirway® stirring machine, and Eugene and Mary Sukup founded Sukup Manufacturing Co. in 1963. Sukup continued to expand the company to include a full line of grain handling products, including dryers in 1998.
(Nearly 60 years in the grain bin industry as family owned)
After serving as the President of his company for 32 years, Eugene Sukup turned over the position to his son, Charles, in 1995. His son Steve served as the company Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Steve also served in the Iowa Legislature from 1994-2002 and was Speaker Pro Tem of the Iowa House of Representatives.
What did you learn about yourself to balance your responsibilities as an elected official and the family business day to day responsibilities?
What were some key things you learned about your state during your time as a representative?
Eugene held the role of Chairman of the Board, and was active in the business until passing away in July 2018.
What were some of the big characteristics of your dad that made him who he was and led to his success?
Also, what about traits your brother Charles has that led to his success in the 25 years as CEO
In 2001, Sukup took a significant step and began manufacturing the grain bins themselves providing a “one stop shop” for grain storage and handling needs, and becoming an innovation leader in the bin industry with multiple patented features.
On February 1, 2020, Charles Sukup transitioned to Chairman of the Board, and Steve Sukup assumed the role of President and CEO. Much of the family is involved in the company.
What about having family involved in the success of Sukup makes them even more special?
How does your family handle the regular company struggles when working with family?
Do the family dynamics in Sukup resemble those dynamics of a family farm?
Sukup Manufacturing Co. has kept its home in Sheffield, Iowa, the same community where Eugene and Mary founded the company in 1963. It employs more than 600 people.
Ten years after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, there are more than 300 Sukup SafeTHomes® in Haiti, and nearly 400 total worldwide. Sukup partners with non-profit organization GoServ Global to distribute these hurricane-proof structures for post-disaster relief.
Where or who did the idea come from for the safe-t-home project?
Sukup Manufacturing Co. remains the world’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, grain drying and handling equipment, and steel buildings.
Sukup Manufacturing doesn’t get to where it is by accident. There has been some great leadership before you and with your contributions as well. How can our listeners start working on themselves to be better individual leaders for the farms, their families, and their communities?
Q: WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
A: I like to say that moving targets are harder to hit. So as long as you’re making progress, moving forward, make sure you have good information, make a decision, and then work hard to make it a success.
Q: YOUR FAMILY IS ON A FIRST-NAME BASIS WITH MANY PEOPLE IN THE STATE AND ACROSS THE INDUSTRY. YOU’VE BEEN GENEROUS IN SHEFFIELD, AT IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, AND AROUND THE WORLD. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
We enjoy our community. Iowa has been good to us. It’s a great place. I think I’m up to 42 states, and I’ve visited 31 countries, but I live in Iowa by choice and I enjoy it. It’s a great place with friendly people, and everybody’s interactive with each other.
Q: WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?
Q: WHAT IS THE STEEL MARKET LIKE NOW?
Q: WHAT TYPE OF SELF AWARENESS DOES IT TAKE TO GO ON A SEARCH FOR A MEMBER OF YOUR LEADERSHIP TEAM OUTSIDE OF THE FAMILY?
WAS THIS INITIATED WITHIN OR BY A CONSULTANT?
The Sheffield company, which has three generations of family members leading and working in the business, said Wednesday that John Teeple, a non-relative who worked 23 years in leadership roles at Deere, will join the business as chief operating officer.
Teeple most recently led Amazon's worldwide business development efforts in agriculture and was a senior vice president at DTN, an agricultural data company that's based in Minnesota. At Deere, Teeple held leadership positions in manufacturing, research and development, strategy and technology.
Q: WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE SUKUP FAMILY AND THE BUSINESS ?
We have had the privilege to speak with various guests for over 3 years. What are your reflections on the next list of tips for being a great leader?
7 Tips for Leadership Success from Top Companies and CEOs
Anything else you’d like for our listeners to know before we sign off?
What do you know now that you wish you would have known sooner?