Our trip to Brazil with the AFBF PAL Class 7 has shown us a lot of different things. There are numerous similarities between our two countries: land size, diversity of crops raised in different regions, the feeling of being over regulated. But one critical lesson learned was, despite our similarities, there are differences in the two countries and cultures from which both countries can learn.
On our last day in Sao Paolo, we spent the day with John Deere, a very recognizable name at home in the U.S. At their corporate offices in Indiatuba, we met with Greg Christensen, an Iowa native who has seen the benefits of going outside his comfort zone and working for his employer in a foreign country. Though not fluent in Portuguese, Greg is thriving in this foreign environment. Most international companies, like John Deere, require upper level managers to speak English, making the transition easier for Greg. He’s been able to pick up enough Portuguese to order us the delicious lunch we ate while visiting John Deere, but more importantly, he’s brought the expertise of being an American-trained employee to this developing country and expanding market.
John Deere has been in Brazil less than 20 years, yet it holds the #1 market share in combines and sugar cane harvesters – not too bad for a relative newcomer. Where they are in unfamiliar territory is in the tractor market. In the U.S. “green paint” may be enviable, but in Brazil tractors are referred to as “Masseys,” the obvious market leader. Regulations are a major reason for this deficit in the tractor market: 60 percent of all components of a tractor must be produced within Brazil. Additionally, they are lagging behind the U.S. market in sheer size of equipment they can offer, another by-product of government regulations. Brazilian farmers want bigger equipment, and John Deere is trying to meet that demand as quickly as possible.
We also visited the new John Deere factory outside of Campinas. This facility was so new that we were the first group to tour it. There we met with another American, Chris Chitley, a John Deere veteran from the Dubuque Iowa plant. Chris has been in Brazil for two years making this factory a reality. The new plant is brightly lit – including skylights – a vast difference from the Iowa facility. It is a relatively small facility, so all components are brought in as needed so extra parts aren’t cluttering the production lines. According to Chris, they don’t try to excel at everything, but instead focus on three core competencies at this facility: large scale welds, painting and final assembly.
While we were visiting, a group of employees from the U.S. were training their Brazilian counterparts. Although there are a few language barriers between the two groups, the trainers said they were having no problems teaching their students proper procedures. John Deere has been able to find local talent to perform the work at this plant, so they won’t need to move anyone new into the area.
While Chris is getting used to his life in Brazil, he said there were plenty of differences in the office compared to the U.S. Here, everyone is much more laid back, and he starts every morning by walking through the facility, shaking everyone’s hand and talking to them. If he were in the U.S., he would start his day by walking straight into his office and getting to work. He says the cultural differences have led him be on the production floor more and, in turn, have made him a more accessible boss.
Americans, by nature, think we do everything the best way, and in some areas we may. Our regulations, while at times bothersome, are minimal compared to other countries. As farmers, we are the envy of other countries because we have access to the most advanced equipment. We also produce this equipment in a timely manner so it is available to the masses as opposed to a few. But Americans have a tendency to stay in our little comfort zones. We keep our heads down and begrudgingly get the work done. Brazilians, on the other hand, travel to the U.S. for school and to experience life outside their country. They take that knowledge back home and put it to use. Brazilians enjoy their workday by enjoying their fellow employees. There’s a lot to be said for both strategies, but the truly successful will find a way to mesh both ways of life together!
Joy Davis and Adam Hinton are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Joy is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher in Texas, where she and her family farm wheat, corn, grain sorghum, forage and produce cattle. Adam and his family own a farm supply business, coffee business and an insurance agency in Kentucky.