In Memory of Robert Walas
This week’s Shining Light company is John Deere (Symbol: DE). Headquartered in Moline, Illinois, and founded by a blacksmith named John Deere in 1837, this company has grown into a household name. Committed to delivering “products and services to support those linked to the land,” John Deere has always intended to create products that will provide more efficiency and ease for farmers who make their living on the land. While John Deere has grown into a valuable company for investors and farmers alike, its commitment to integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation has never wavered.
Blacksmith turned manufacturer John Deere started the company bearing his name in Grand Detour, Illinois, after hearing of farmers’ concerns that their plows designed for the sandy soil of the eastern United States were not shedding the thick prairie soil typical of Illinois. As a result, Deere fashioned a highly polished steel mold board from a broken sawblade. The success was almost instantaneous – Deere built 10 plows in 1839, 75 plows in 1841, and 100 in 1842. The company was born!
Ten years after relocating the company’s headquarters to Moline, Illinois, Deere passed the business operations to his son, Charles, who led the company toward growth and prominence for 49 years. In 1863, the company launched the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator, its first implement adaptor for riding. And in 1864, Deere received his first patent for the molds used in casting steel plows. Both were significant in securing John Deere’s place in the farming industry.
In 1876, Deere registered the leaping deer trademark with the U.S. Patent Office. It is the longest continuously used American trademark among Fortune 500 companies. It is remarkable that this logo has remained consistent to this day.
Founder John Deere passed away in 1886 at the age of 82. He would cast vision over the way in which the company has continued to conduct business when it was said, “during his long life it was great consolation to him to know that he had never willfully wronged any man and never put on the market a poorly made article.” This would become the true trademark of both John Deere the man and John Deere the company: ethical practices and excellent products.
Core Values and People over Profits
John Deere has an entire page of their website committed to laying the foundation for their “Core Values” – integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation. The company emphasizes the “How” of doing business. It is critical to their success. The company says that these core values are recognized in how they “operate every business, every day, and in the ways we treat employees, customers, suppliers, dealers, and other stakeholders.” While the company states that they conduct business in a fair and ethical fashion, it Is important to hear from employees as to how the company operates.
“Great culture,” “Excellent career development,” “Clear leadership direction,” “Good benefits.” These comments characterize employee reaction when asked about their experience working at John Deere. The company obviously realizes the importance of rewarding employees with raises and benefits. John Deere does more than just talk about fostering an environment of excellence. The environment is tangibly felt with employees and customers alike.
A critical aspect of a Shining Light company is a commitment to ethical business practice, and John Deere passes that test with flying colors. The company also values its employees’ contributions to the mission, and it shows in their excellent rating. John Deere operates with intentional values and places emphasis on people, rather than standard dollars and cents.
Philanthropy & Service
Another key cog in the Shining Light company belt is a commitment to service. John Deere has partnered with a vast number of organizations to provide solutions and assistance to issues such as world hunger, education deficiencies, and community development.
John Deere is leading the charge in finding creative ways to provide food for those in need. They specifically support projects in the areas of farmer training, value-chain enhancement, and microfinance services through various partners working in the field. Innovation is a key value to John Deere, and this plays out in their support for better education. The company’s website states that they wish to “inspire youth to reach their greater potential by improving secondary school graduation rates among at-risk young people in our home communities.” They are specifically targeting youth interested in pursuing engineering, IT, and agriculture degrees because this is John Deere’s wheelhouse. John Deere understands the vast economic impact the company makes in home communities. The successful business does not underestimate the difference it can make in creating rich and diverse opportunities for economically strong, vibrant, and resilient home communities. They also list partners in this cause – United Way, food banks, and the American Red Cross.
Generosity is a defining mark of a Shining Light company, and John Deere has proven to be greatly interested in making a difference beyond tractors and plows.
John Deere has a rich history of product innovation and creativity, but their commitment to philanthropy, service, and people is what makes them a Shining Light Company. Companies like John Deere show that investing can be a worthwhile affair when supporting companies that make a difference beyond factory walls.
DISCLOSURE: Shining Lights companies are those companies we have identified as exemplary companies living out the Golden Rule and exhibiting the virtues of Integrity, Humility, Diligence, Caring and Courage. This is intended for general information purposes concerning only the values, corporate culture and business practices of the companies being spotlighted. It DOES NOT incorporate any analysis of the companies’ investment merit based on intrinsic value, fundamental analysis, etc. This must not be construed as investment advice or a buy/sell recommendation. These companies may or may not be included in our LightPoint Portfolios at any given time.