Managing people, dealers and ranch life
Q&A with regional manager, J.B. Atkins
Vermeer Regional Manager, J.B. Atkins, from Broken Bow, Nebraska, wears many hats: strategic coordinator, data analyst, communications specialist, the occasional cowboy hat when working cattle on his home ranch, and most importantly, husband and father. What does he enjoy about doing it all?
Atkins first got started working for Vermeer as a territory manager in 2007 and recently transitioned to the role of western regional sales manager. We were able to get an inside-look into life for J.B. and what it is like helping Vermeer forage dealers, over the western half of North America.
How did your past role as a territory manager prepare you for your current role?
“I believe my main task as a territory manager for Vermeer was to represent the interests of my territory and my dealers. But as a regional manager, there is no doubt, I see a little bit of the bigger picture. I’m no longer representing a small group of dealers; I’m representing half of North America. I’m now the intermediary between the Territory Managers who are really developing relationships with their dealers and Vermeer Corporation. At Vermeer, our goal is to always help solve problems for our dealers and customers, so my job is to be able to help solve and communicate those solutions back and forth.
"Living and operating a ranch everyday has kept me rooted in what my customers’ needs are because I’m in the same business and experience the same problems as them."
How have you made the role of regional sales manager your own?
“My philosophy in managing people is: hire good people and let them do their jobs. Since I have only been in this role for a short while, I’ve only hired one of the seven territory managers on our team, but I’m lucky that the previous regional manager hired good people. I try to leave them alone and let them do their jobs while removing any obstacles that may potentially keep them from doing so. With that being said, I spend a lot of time talking to my team, trying to develop a relationship with each one of them. I also value time on the road with the guys. There is nothing like being in the customer’s field that allows you to better serve them. I try to spend as much of my time in the field as possible talking to customers.”
How has operating your own ranch helped you better understand Vermeer customers and dealers?
“Living and operating a ranch everyday has kept me rooted in what my customers’ needs are because I’m in the same business and experience the same problems as them. We can sit here and tell people how to do things and it sounds good on paper but when you go to implement them it doesn’t always work out. Owning livestock has made me a better territory/regional manager because it helps me understand the people I’m dealing with.”
When you aren’t representing Vermeer, what do you enjoy doing?
“Cutting horses – that’s my hobby and passion. My wife and I have trained and shown horses for 30 years, and she runs a horse training business which my daughter is helping with this summer. About once a month, we take off and go to a cutting or watch our daughter rodeo.”
What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
“I’d tell myself, ‘buy better horses and spend as much time with your kids as you can.’ Our kids were heavily involved in a lot of things that we did, but I think we always look back and think we could’ve spent more time with them.”
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