Recipe for success

Shelli Manning
Now Media Group

Accomplishment. Victory. Winning. Triumph. No matter how you say it, success feels great — especially when you've worked hard for it.

You finally completed that DIY project, got your degree, paid off that loan, lost the weight. Whatever it is, it's your moment to shine — you've earned it.

When it comes to success in business, the celebration doesn't usually take place in one moment, but continual rewards delivered by continual effort. Oftentimes, your success depends on the success of others.

So what about that? Just because you do it the right way, doesn't mean your team will. Is success scalable? How do you elevate others so they can see the goal as clearly as you can?

Dale Miller, ANIMART's Northeast Regional Sales Manager, knows a little something about that. With nearly 35 years in the dairy industry, he's made a career out of helping others succeed.

Dale has a plethora of experience to draw upon. For starters, he was born and raised in dairy, by way of a small farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While he chose to pursue a path not tied specifically to farming, he did stay within the dairy industry. He got his professional start working in sales for a regional molasses distributor.

It's there he says he developed some core skills, such as time management and the ability to prioritize – tools crucial to any business, but especially so when the success of customers depends on your ability to meet their needs. He credits his successful start to the valuable coaching he received.

Quality mentoring aside, Dale also brought natural insight to the role though, as evidenced by his customers' reaction when they learned he was going to Sandler School of Business: they were insistent that he 'not let school change him.' While his employer may have saw fit to develop his acumen, his customers appreciated the qualities he naturally brought to the table; namely his straightforward approach, responsiveness and most importantly, his honesty.

Dale eventually took his skills, both natural and learned, and moved on to other roles and learning opportunities within the animal health industry. He held various positions in feed and nutrition, participated in Cornell University's Dairy Nutrition and Management Short Course and spent nine years as a territory manager with AgriLabs. It was his latest role, though, that took him from helping customers succeed to helping territory managers help customers succeed.

In September, 2015, ANIMART, LLC acquired Pennsylvania based Animal Medic, Inc. The goal of management when combining the two organizations was to preserve what was best about each of them, while ultimately bringing the best value to producers.

As the work began to bring the two companies together, there was need for an experienced leader with a passion for the industry to guide the sales team, particularly as they transitioned from the old way of doing business, to the ANIMART way. Dale's name was at the top of a very short list and since the day he came on board, the management team has felt fortunate to have him forging the way for newly established ANIMART Northeast Sales Team.

That brings us back to the question: 'How do you translate your success into the success of others?' Dale had been helping producers find success for many years, but how would he translate that into the success of his team, while navigating this change in terrain for both the territory managers he's now responsible to lead and customers who have long been accustomed to the way things were?

With the same straightforward, responsive and honest approach he's been using all along.

Miller says the most important tool in his toolbox is listening. Not hearing, but listening. Customers want their needs met. They have a lot to think about on a daily basis, so while anyone can show up on farm, hear what they say and take the order, what Dale demonstrates is listening.

Asking the right questions and really paying attention to the answers can help territory managers become more responsive and adept at anticipating producer needs, therefore becoming an asset to the farm, rather than just an order taker. 'Put yourself in the customer's shoes,' Dale said, 'and offer a non-partisan view on products. Educate them on their choices because at the end of the day, they just want the very best value for their money.'

Even with good advice and positive reinforcement, change can be hard for employees and often requires a unique approach. He tells them not to worry about the things they can't control, but encourages them to see not only what is (or was), but what could be. He said, 'You know Wayne Gretzky, the hockey player? He has a quote that goes 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' That's what we need to do. That's what ANIMART is doing – moving to where the dairy industry is going to be. That's what I tell my team: change is good, move towards it.'

As a sales manager coaching folks through change, he tries to create the vision of what it is they're moving towards. Sometimes that means encouraging them to keep their eyes on the lighthouse, not on the waves. Some challenges are met with a group approach, while still others require one on one guidance, and Dale is willing to help his team in any way he can, most often leading by example.

When working to mitigate potential unease, he focuses on the positive points of change: 'As economics drive breakthroughs in the dairy industry, the days of showing up on farm and taking orders have passed. Producers are becoming more and more educated, operations more sophisticated, so it's up to us to manage the entire scope of their animal health. That's the benefit of ANIMART; as defenders of choice, territory managers are free to focus on educating and providing solutions that help producers succeed, rather than just 'making the sale.''

When Dale's not helping territory managers and dairy producers succeed, he and his wife of 36 years, Annette, enjoy making the most of the Juniata County, Pennsylvania home they share with a handful of pets. They spend as much time outdoors as possible; enjoying activities like kayaking, spending time with friends and family, or just watching the wildlife that frequents their personal paradise. Dale lives life with a philosophy that 'every day is a bonus.'

Sounds like he's found the recipe for success at home, too.

ANIMART's staff writer, Shelli Manning, works to share the human interest side of individuals in production agriculture and communicate their passions which contribute to our unique American Story. She is the published author of Little Fish, as well as a motivational speaker on women's issues and an advocate for the reduction of domestic violence.