Iowa Soybean Association CEO

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Executive Insights: Building a culture of innovation

June 28, 2024 | Kirk Leeds

Over the last few years, it became clear to the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer directors that an expansion of our office building in Ankeny was needed due to growth in the soybean industry and work of the association.

The 12,000-square-foot building and renovation project was completed last month. On June 19 the board celebrated its completion with an open house and reception for guests, including key industry leaders. It was an enjoyable evening as I reflected on the new space, the renovation of the existing building, the growth of the organization over the last 30-plus years and the incredibly talented team I get to work with every single day.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear British author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek share his thoughts on building a winning culture in any organization. One of the quotes I took away from his talk was, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.”

While I hope we don’t see blood, I know the ISA staff I get to work with bring a lot of sweat and tears to their work. This is a passionate team of professionals who always remember who we work for and with — Iowa’s soybean farmers.

I recall returning to the office late one afternoon a couple of years ago after a stressful external meeting and being simply blown away as I walked back into the office. I saw many members of the team working together on a host of challenges well past “closing time.” In last year’s employee culture survey, 99% of our team said that “they would recommend ISA as a great place to work.”

Why is this important?

A positive and winning culture leads to innovation. Innovation drives value to the farmers we serve. As we continue to celebrate ISA’s 60th anniversary in 2024, the expanded office provides the space needed to collaborate on innovative solutions in research, farmer engagement, policy advocacy, demand building domestically and internationally, reducing trade barriers and improving soil health and water quality. Also, conservation, consumer engagement, finding new uses for soybeans, transportation, soy foods, aquaculture, ecosystem and carbon markets, identifying and supporting our future leaders and a host of other areas.

I invite you to join us as we work on these issues (and plenty of others). These are exciting times in the soybean industry and at ISA. We are farmer focused and driven to deliver and we need you. Come be part of our innovative culture.