New book reveals secrets of John Deere’s success

From being listed among Business Ethics magazine’s 2004 top 10 best corporate citizens to earning the 2002 title of “Most Trusted Illinois Company” from Crain’s Chicago Business, John Deere appears to be doing something right.

Author and journalist David Magee attributes much of Deere’s success to current chairman and chief executive Robert Lane. Magee chronicles the “secrets” behind Lane’s business formula in his book The John Deere Way: Performance that Endures, to be released in April.

Much of Magee’s book focuses on Lane’s leadership lessons, some of which are:

  • I will not put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.
  • If we don’t improve our products, others will make them in our place.
  • Always maintain integrity.
  • Concentrate on areas where you have a clear competitive advantage.
  • It is more important in business to listen than to lead.
  • It is more valuable to link than to leverage.
  • It is better to be lean than laden.
  • In a rigorously competitive market, virtue is necessary for sustained value creation.
  • It is important to build a business as great as your products.

The extent of Lane’s leadership is also told in Deere’s $20 billion in annual sales, 46,000 employees worldwide and product sales in 160 countries, according to his executive biography.

The Deere CEO has been with the company since 1982, after a career in global banking. In joining the equipment company, Lane managed various operations within the worldwide construction equipment division, and later served as president and chief executive of Deere Credit. He then joined the worldwide agricultural equipment division, where, as senior vice president, he directed much of Deere’s international equipment operations before becoming company president.

Magee’s book on Deere follows similar approaches with Nissan’s “Turnaround” and Ford Motor Company’s “Ford Tough”. This is the first business book examining Deere.

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at