Iowa Soybean Association CEO

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Executive Insights: Building relationships

May 31, 2024 | Kirk Leeds

After more than 43 years of marriage to my beautiful wife, Kim, one might expect that I’ve successfully developed into something close to an expert in the art and science of building and maintaining relationships. However, any such suggestion would be met with a strong rebuke from that same wife of 43 years.  

Earlier this year, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Board of Directors approved a new strategic plan (see story on page 8). It establishes organizational priorities, which helps focus energy and resources and improves operations. The plan ensures employees and partners are working toward common interests, while providing credible and meaningful ways to measure progress. 

I’m excited about the new plan and look forward to working with our dedicated and professional staff to develop and present detailed funding proposals for farmer directors to consider as they work on the 2025 budget. 

Fundamental to the new plan is our continued focus on understanding and meeting the needs of Iowa’s soybean farmers. A key imperative will be to enhance and deepen relationships with farmers across the state. 

Formed in 1964, ISA leaders have always recognized the importance of maintaining strong relationships with the farmers we serve. What, therefore, is new about the focus in the strategic plan? 

From my perspective as CEO, building relationships with farmers requires ongoing and proactive processes to reach each farmer with the relevant connections, content, and benefits for them, at the right time and in the right way. The idea of building relationships is not new. Rather, it’s having a clear understanding that, without these relationships, we will not be able to reach each farmer with relevant content and benefits in the place and time most beneficial to them. 

So how do we do this? It starts with making more personal connections — farmer to farmer, and with our growing number of dedicated staff who have boots on the ground statewide. These professionals bring expertise to farmers on a host of topics including agronomy, conservation, water management, soil health, analytics, data management, leadership development, biodiversity, advocacy, policy, transportation, carbon and environmental markets, biofuels, new uses and international trade.  

We will also invest in innovative technologies to better facilitate these relationships, ensuring we are providing the information you need when and how you want it delivered. And we’ll develop more efficient ways for farmers to provide feedback on our progress so we stay on top of the challenges impacting your bottom line.  

Doing both will ensure ISA remains driven to deliver today and for the next 60 years.