Published on Friday, December 29, 2017
This new year will begin a new chapter for two Beck’s employees as they embark on their retirements. These two men have helped Beck’s grow from 25 employees to 606 at last count. Tom Wallace, Fleet Associate, and Terry Shirk, Warehouse Manager, each just celebrated 24 years of service with Beck’s and will retire on December 31.
In September of 1993, Beck’s Hybrids hired Terry Shirk to be full time employee number 25, with the title Warehouse Manager. Just a few months later, in November, Tom Wallace was hired as a Seed Representative for Hamilton County and front counter Sales Associate. Prior to coming to Beck’s, Terry wored as the Warehouse manager for Callahan Seeds, but Beck’s offered a shorter commute and the opportunity to work with a dynamic group of people. Tom grew up on his family’s farm about a mile west of Beck’s headquarters, growing seed beans for them “in the early days”. He went on to lead a successful career with Hare Chevrolet where he sold Beck’s their pickup trucks. Lee Rulon, the first Sales Manager at Beck’s, approached him with this offer; “Beck’s is going to grow and expand and you might fit in well on this adventure with your network in Hamilton County”. So began Tom’s sales career with Beck’s, and it was off to the races for growth in the area. Soon he was promoted to district sales manager for six counties.
Both men attribute their long tenure with the company to working among an outstanding group of people. Tom offered this list of influential people from the early years at Beck’s: “Tom Hooper, Lee Rulon, Ben Grimme, Jim Love, Dorinda Lawson, Rita Butcher, Kyle Smith, Sonny, all the farmer customers and dealers that I worked with and built relationships with over the years- we were a team.” Terry mentioned “everybody helped each other to get the job done-whether in your area or not” before quoting Francis Beck, who said “at Beck’s you never say, ‘That’s not my job’.”
Over time, Beck’s has seen tremendous growth while still preserving the authentic culture from the small company days. Tom said “The culture at Beck’s is a good one and, as I have watched us grow, I am pleased at our onboarding process that plants it in the minds of our new employees—they know what we stand for and who we are.” Terry said that the culture itself hasn’t changed much, except that the sheer number of employees makes it difficult to know everyone personally. Terry’s advice for new employees is “Use the Attitudes and Actions. Those six concepts will make you successful at any job you have at Beck’s”. Tom reminds new employees to “listen to the customer’s needs and wants. Listen 80% of your time and talk 20%. Be strong on your product knowledge and placement. You are not only selling them seed, you are selling them their livelihood. We can’t make a mistake with that. Service what you sell, service your customer and be proactive in your advice to them. Build your relationship – they can last a lifetime.”
Terry’s favorite memories at Beck’s come from working with Sonny on designing the dock- with an innovative concept that allowed crews to load trucks completely inside. The busiest shipping months are those one would least want to work outside- so the new design proved popular. There was also additional space built in to stage loads so that trucks could be loaded more efficiently. That dock design was for doors 1-6, and today the design has been duplicated and mirrored for docks 7-11.
Terry has been known to have a bit of fun with his coworkers and dealers over the years. The best prank he ever pulled was on Kevin Pullen, a dealer who wanted his pallets labeled 1-178. Terry and Tim Whisman (Corn Seedstock & Warehouse Space Manager) labeled 1-18 in the typical fashion, and 19-178 in Roman numerals (that’s up to CLXXVIII for those wondering). At Beck’s, we treat the customer the way they want to be treated- even if that means they want to pick up one bag at a time, strapping it to the back of a motorcycle, as has happened. One customer drove over from Ohio on a motorcycle with a trailer and he took five bags back with him. Another customer came to pick up ten bags of small plateless seed in his somewhat undersized delivery vehicle: a Ford Pinto. Terry filled the trunk, backseat and finally had to put one bag in the front passenger seat but they successfully shipped out all ten bags that day.
Tom recalls his relationships with customers and dealers, many of whom have become lifelong friends. His favorite selling experience was a sales blitz when Beck’s just started moving into Kentucky. A sales blitz is an event where sales staff from all over the company blanket a specific area, typically a new sales area, for two or three days to help jumpstart sales and build brand recognition. Well the Beck’s sales staff wasn’t all that blanketed Kentucky that week as a four-inch snow fell the night before Tom and his blitzing partner, Steve Gauck, were supposed to start calling on farmers. The Indiana team was more than comfortable navigating through four inches of snow, and it seemed like every farmer in the state of Kentucky was home waiting out the weather. There’s nothing more a salesman could ask for than to have everyone be home when he comes calling. Tom can’t recall a time that folks were more hospitable and more open to hearing the Beck’s message. Tom and Steve were invited inside to warm up and, along the way, they laid the foundation for sales success in the area.
Beck’s and the industry have certainly changed in the past 24 years, but Tom and Terry’s dedication has remained the same. Terry estimated that Beck’s ships about 50 times more corn today than when he started here, and 80 times more soybeans. The shipping department has grown from two dock doors located where the safety department is to 11 loading docks in Atlanta, with additional warehouse space across our marketing area. During his time here, Tom witnessed Beck’s sales territory grow from a strict 90-mile radius around Atlanta to an eleven-state region.
“Tom did a great job of helping us to stay more closely connected to farmers in our community” said Scott Beck upon reflection of Tom’s service. Tom plans to enjoy more time with his wife of 48 years, Lynn, their son and daughter and six grandsons. Retirement is their opportunity to enjoy warmer weather in the winter by extending their visits to Florida.
Scott Beck had this to say of Terry: “Terry helped to form the culture of our shipping team which is known for being friendly, helpful and going above and beyond to serve the farmers and delivery drivers coming to Beck’s.” Terry plans to take up golf, spend time with his six grandkids and spend more time going on trips on his motorcycle. No word how many bags of seed corn he plans to carry around with him for old time’s sake.
Author: Samantha Miller
Categories: We Are Beck's
Tags: Beck's, Attitudes and Actions, Samantha Miller, We Are Beck's, Tom Wallace, Terry Shirk, Retirement