Living Our Practices Submissions: August 2022

Thank You for Joining the Conversation!

“Living Our Practices” contest explores our Cultural Pillars and Practices

In August we asked:

  • What does Customer Focus mean to you?
  • How could strengthening Customer Focus impact Wilbur-Ellis or your team?

A big “thank you” to everyone who submitted in August’s contest. Check out the responses!

Russ Stowers (Agribusiness)

What does Customer Focus mean to you?

  1. Be available when needed and not needed.
  2. Anticipate customer requests prior to customer requests.
  3. Exercise high core values in customer dealings, both internal and external.

Chris Mazza (Corporate)

Regarding Customer Focus, first I would like to posit that “customer” doesn’t entirely represent the relationship that we want to have. I believe that “business partner” is a better reflection of that ideal relationship. On the surface it may seem just a matter of semantics, but when we really think about it, we want to develop, nurture, and grow a true partnership with others – both co-workers and other stakeholders internal to Wilbur-Ellis and also externally with other companies and organizations. Everything that we do, in all of our various roles, and regardless of how significant or mundane the task may appear, should be done with the objective of improving that partnership and relationship, and making things better for that person, group, or company. For external business partners, our goal should be to focus on growing their business, which in turn will grow our Wilbur-Ellis business. By doing so we can achieve a win-win result and a true partnership.

Anthony Redstrom (Agribusiness)

Question one

Customer focus means to me getting to know your customer knowing how your customer likes to do business, like over the phone or in person. Learning your customer, like places they like their deliveries and time frames they want their products.

Question two

Strengthening customer focus can make a strong bond with your customer that they would only want to do business with Wilbur-Ellis, also tell other people about there experience and maybe able to get more customers.

Steven McQueen (Nachurs)

Customer Focus Sales and Service starts through a discovery process. Understanding your customers current situation establishes a bench mark. We can then focus in closer on how to create value to raise that bench mark to greater success. Spending quality time in conversation, and asking the more difficult questions, like what is working well and what has caused you the most stress, anxiety and time loss over the past season. This will open up the opportunity to create solutions to support your customer in achieving his goals.

By focusing on our customers goals, we will then be able to assist in establishing future targets, which will develop our opportunity for continued collaboration as a trusted business partner.

Barbara Davis (Agribusiness)

What does Customer Focus mean to me? It means really listening to your customer and understanding their wants and needs. It means being diverse in learning and realizing what each specific customer needs and attaining those requests for that customer. All customers want to feel empowered that we truly care for their business. If we can accomplish this we have our customer’s trust and that can go a long way in todays competitive market. Listen to your customer and then deliver what they want and need. Making people “feel” like they matter is very important.

Kara Schut (Agribusiness)

Customer focus is the key to our success and should be one of the largest focus areas we have. We need to continue to look for new and innovative ways to work with and for our customers and provide them with products and services that not only help them be successful but also that they can’t find from others in the industry. Regardless of the positions I have held it has always been key to seek what their greatest needs are and to ensure that we are doing everything we can do to help guide and walk along with them as well as make sure they understand how committed we are to working together.

In my current team where we have the opportunity to look at new products that hold the potential to be the next key in allowing our customers to economically and effectively produce the best crops but also providing our sales staff with tools and knowledge. The customer focus is extremely impactful to our team and will help us gain the current wants, needs and understand the challenges facing our customers. We actually have our fellow employees as our customers as well as our WECO producers both of which have the challenges each season and we can be a better support if we focus on what the needs of each group are and continue to enhance the rate on which information is shared and new products are developed. All of these things are crucial for our team and will make us that much more advanced as compared to our competitors.

Gary Dempsay (Nutrition)

What does Customer Focus mean to you?

Customer focus is where you consider how a business decision or customer interaction will affect the customer. These interactions and decisions should assist the customer to achieve their results, makes them better, helps solve their problems, etc. in an effort to be a partner with the customer. The old adage of “customer first” is still important today as it was yesterday, take care of the customer and your business will succeed as well, a symbiotic mutualism relationship.

Jay Rajgor (Connell)

What does Customer Focus mean to you?

  • Know : Knowing who is my customer – that can be internal (within organization) or external
  • Evaluate : Evaluate every request coming from customer, assess its implications, business need and then make an agreement to serve
  • Serve : Make 100% sure to serve as per promised agreements and keep customer updated about the progress.
  • Communicate : Always answer any query, request or complain, communication has to be fluid, honest and transparent.

How could strengthening Customer Focus impact Wilbur-Ellis or your team?

Being customer focused puts us in a better position to help our customers, in an honest way. Our customer will sense that we are making an extra effort to understand the situation at which they are and to really understand them to be better able to help them get where they want to be. This builds Customer Loyalty and trust which directly proportionate to healthy business growth and longevity, and this will give us ultimately an edge over our competitors.

Dan Willey (Corporate)

What does customer focus mean to you?

To me, customer focus means to look at everything we do as a company from the customer perspective, whether it’s consulting with the customer on the sales side, processing an order, delivering the product or service, sending an invoice, or even making sure everyone’s computer system runs reliably. Ultimately the customer is the reason we do these things, so everyone’s contribution matters in the customer’s journey with us.

What does strengthening customer focus mean to you and the W-E team?

I think strengthening customer focus for the team puts all of what we’re doing, or should be doing, in the right context. If we look at everything we do with a focus on how it helps the customer, it will help us make better choices around what we should prioritize and work on, and what maybe doesn’t have the biggest effect on the customer experience and shouldn’t be worked on.

I also think it will inspire people by understanding how their contribution fits into the ultimate purpose and goals of the company–after all, if it wasn’t for customers we wouldn’t all be here! Being able to put the customer in the room with you, figuratively, will really help everyone understand how their actions affect them.

Mallory Robert (Agribusiness)

We strive to be very customer centric at our location! Without our valued customers, we could not be a successful agricultural distributor. Part of ensuring the success of our business is we cater to the requests of our customers through the utilization of technology. We step outside our normal tasks to build spreadsheets and to compile data to better serve our customers. Through the use of BI, reports, and tables, we are able to generate information similar to what our competitors provide our customers. The extra steps on our part help meet the wishes of our customers and ultimately keeps us in line with those who are trying to sell to our customers.

Anne Furukawa (Corporate)

What does Customer Focus mean to you?

Customer focus means working with your client/customer in a manner where everyone involved are communicating to a level where all parties are aware that the problem or solution is known. This is especially important where the issue may be more complex, after research and analysis, and the intricacy of the issue is communicated. Also, it’s not about doing the task fast, but doing it correctly.

How could strengthening Customer Focus impact Wilbur-Ellis or your team?

I believe strengthening communication will help strengthen Customer Focus. If everyone communicated on a timely manner (meaning within 24 – 48 hours or at most 3-4 days) whether it is to acknowledge an email, give a high-level explanation, or even negotiating a deadline, this would more than likely stop the frustrations of a customer from continuously following up or contacting several people to get a response.

For my team, we all try to at least acknowledge emails that are sent to us, both individually and as a team. This allows us to communicate to our clients that their issue or suggestion is on someone’s radar. Yes, sometimes email get missed, but from what I have experienced this is rare. Also, my team looks at the problems from as many angles that we can – discussing it amongst ourselves or collaborating with another team to get different perspectives to determine what may be the best solution to assist our clients with their needs. On the flip side our clients need to also understand that sometimes a non-solution is a solution or if they want a task done and done correctly we will ask for more time, and they need to be able to accept that. Again, this comes down to communication.

John Figura (Corporate)

If you like this enough, I can do a video, but wanted to respond before I forgot!
This question I am particularly passionate about!

What this means to me is simple it means every person in the company regardless of role or position can influence or impact customers. When I managed a sales team, I always preached that everyone on the team is part of the sales team. Many of my best salespeople were in customer service and logistics. When I would visit customers, I would often hear praise for the customer service team. Often, they interact with the customer more than the salesperson would!

I think the key is every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to enhance the relationship. Some examples I have seen:

  1. I have had drivers let operations know of issues competitors are having that helped us improve our offering and increase sales.
  2. Logistics support developed relationships with customers. This is huge. When the customer likes the customer service logistics person, and they have a relationship they have developed personal capital that helps smooth over mistakes or delays.
  3. When visiting a major O&G account we had out supply manager join. In the meeting, he developed a relationship with their supply chain manager that helped us develop business.

My key point is no matter what our role is we are all here to service the customer and can each make a difference and help further that relationship.

BRETT GUEHRN (Agribusiness)

What does customer focus mean to you?

I would say that Customer Focus is a key in our world today. Customer Focus is when we pinpoint exactly what the customer is trying to achieve and we as a collective group in cohesion with the customer help them achieve their goals.

How could strengthening Customer Focus impact Wilbur-Ellis on your team?

By strengthening Customer Focus it allows us as a group to have an active role in the accomplishments of our customers through our collaborative effort. This in turn creates a culture of successes and pride with my team.

Joshua Hansen (Agribusiness)

To me, Customer Focus is about framing everything we do by starting with the customer. Keeping them top-of-mind informs the decision we make and the products and services we offer so that we can continue to better serve the customer. Strengthening this focus ensures that we stay relevant and add value to their operation for our shared success.

Annette Puvaloski (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus means that our customers are very important to our business, therefore they are each treated fairly and respectfully. Our daily priority is our customers and each and every customer is different, their expectations of service could be very different. We must ask the right questions and identify the specific needs of the customer we are working with. I feel that follow up is very important after a recommendation or sale. Confirming the satisfaction of our customer is imperative for future sales and solidifies our relationship.

By strengthening our customer focus we can improve team awareness of that customers specific needs. We must become aware that every customer has different needs and provide the level of service needed to that customer. Always remember we are not able to be everything to everyone. Overall, as a team we must work together to have many touch points to our customers as possible. We have our ad min to communicate and answer questions regarding billing or financing, our operational staff to assist with supply and delivery and then the salesperson that would have the infield or on farm contact.

Our customers are changing and we must realize the changes and adjust.

Jessica Naumann (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus means to me that you are considerate of what the customer wants and needs.

Customer Focus can impact Wilbur-Ellis and our team by creating a good bond with the customers so that they will continue to purchase through us. If we don’t have Customer Focus they could potentially purchase through somewhere else.

Julie McBane (Nutrition)

Customer Focus to me means putting the customer first by understanding and fuling their needs and developing a strategy for current and future satisfaction, while building the relationship providing superiors customer service that exceeds that of competitors, continuing to provide the quality product that is expected with every order.

Strengthening Customer Focus can and will impact the future of Wilbur-Ellis. Customer Focus will help grow the organization and gain new customers while still supporting current customers gaining their trust for future growth. Customer Focus should be a company wide approach!!

MARTHA LOPEZ (Agribusiness)

Customer focus to me, means concentrating more on how to interact with a customer and fill their needs and gaining each others confidence to become one and not focus so much on the business but the integrity of how we represent the company and breaking down those barriers.

Strengthening our customer focus would be beneficial to Wilbur-Ellis because by providing great customer service would likely make a lasting impression that will be invaluable. I think for us to go out of our way to make our customer experience special would not only help our team but also the business itself; these customers would likely return and by word of month we would become more successful.

Russ Stowers (Agribusiness)

Q -What does customer focus mean to you?

A – Put customer needs first, both internal and external. Show up everyday, and exercise extreme core values.

Smita Shetty (Connell)

What does Customer Focus mean to you?
Customer centricity is all about keeping the customer in focus. For me it is all about listening & understanding the customers needs & wants from us. We can have excellent products, service or plan for the customer, but if that is not aligned to their needs then it is of no value. Constantly showing the value we bring in & “what’s in it” for the customer’s goals & vision is very important factor for me for being customer focused.

How could strengthening Customer Focus impact Wilbur-Ellis or your team?
Being Customer focus will help as below: a) Extend the customer lifecycle b) Make us preferred partners for all things that matter(innovation + Growth) c)Build a strong customer centric brand where we get referred as “Go to people”.

Sylvia Dsouza (Connell)

1) For me Customer focus means placing customer interests above everything & ensure customer satisfaction.

2) Strengthening customer focus will impact the team & the company to develop and sustain productive customer relationships and contributes towards business growth & success.

Angelica Estrada (Agribusiness)

Customer focus for me is always putting our customers’ needs first. Wilbur Ellis is dedicated to enhancing customer satisfaction and building strong customer relationships, along with maintaining them with existing customers. In the past two years, I have witnessed this with my co-workers at the Wilber Ellis Warden Branch. They always go above & beyond to meet each customers’ request, even though each service varies from customer to customer. Warden has a great team and I am so proud that I am part of this company.

Julie Magnuson (Nutrition)

Customer focus can mean many things. From listening to your customer about what their needs are to providing products and timely service to meet those needs. I believe “focus” equates to a deeper level of service and showing the customer you truly care.

  • How do you engage with them? What is your tone in your message?
  • What is/are the method(s) they prefer to communicate? Phone call, email, text, in person?
  • How often do they want to be in touch or hear from you? Daily, weekly, monthly, etc.?
  • Are you proactive or reactive to their needs?
  • Are you making them feel important and showing them that they are because without them you could be out of business?
  • Who are your customers? Not only are the people who purchase from us our customers but consider this … suppliers, other vendors, co-workers, and other internal stakeholders in the company can be considered the customer.

Bottom line, who you serve, how you serve and in the manner in which you serve are all important.

And finally, something to me that is most important to remember in business and in life stems from a favorite quote of mine and very applicable when you think about customer focus.
“I’ve learned that people may forget what you say, people may forget what you do, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Dennis Devitt (Agribusiness)

What does customer Focus mean to me:

We are looking out for the customer’s business before my own, bottom line. We can do that by investing time with my customer and asking questions. I need to invest time learning their business to ask good questions. This allows me to understand their pain points regarding logistics, profitability, supply timings, labor issues, etc…

Once I know their pain points, I can now work to create a solution to lessen or even remove those pain points.

To sum it up, I put their business ahead of my own. That is the difference between being a trusted advisor and just being a salesperson. After being a Wilbur Ellis Customer for 30 years, the reason I chose to work with Wilbur was simple – my consultant was looking out for my business before his own. It is that simple! We are doing the same thing in the Yakima Valley and with this strategy, we are winning.

Amy Jo Kjar (Agribusiness)

Customer focus to me means making the customer feel involved. I feel that they want to know what is going on with their fields, when you will be spraying for them, and so are even interested in the planes themselves. So why not take an extra minute or two to visit with them when they ask questions or you see them eyeing the airplanes. Some customers come in personally to pay their bill instead of mailing it, because they might want or need that human interaction that seems to be getting lost in the world today. Everything goes out automatically or we get phone calls from robots reminding us of an appointment we might have. Some of the older generation farmers still need and want to know what is going on with other people. Customer focus to me is putting the customer first, making them feel like they are our only customer. I try to do that when ever I answer the phone or when someone walks into the office.

PEGGY SALING (Nutrition)

Customer focus to me is putting the customers needs first if possible. Listen to what the customer needs and wants and do your best to comply. When you are working, make sure and ask is this the way I would want to receive this product?

Strengthening customer focus could help Wilbur Ellis become a top supplier. Would help the company be a better company. It would help my team and I be better and more reliable workers.

Daniel Groves (Agribusiness)

What does customer focus mean to you?

Note- I was not driving while taking this video! Parked in my driveway

John Hoyle (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus to me is a dedicated effort to form a true relationship with a customer. Focusing on not only a good business relationship, but also develop a friendship with them and family. This makes work more enjoyable for me personally, but it strengthens that customer bond. This not only helps with return sales throughout the year, but it also strengthens the tie to Wilbur-Ellis. Good service from sales and operations both create a good customer experience and that truly impacts the bottom line when you have a lot of this kind of business relationships.

DAVID BLYTHE (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus means trying to help the customer to fulfill their needs in a timely manner and providing answers to their questions. Supporting the customers business as if it was an extension of our own.

The impact of a branch team is the quick response to the customers needs. Which, brings back the business and builds a great relationship between the customer and their branch team. It takes every person in the branch, working together, to create a atmosphere of truly trying to help the customer succeed in their business adventures.


Customer Focus means that every decision and action made by our employees is looked at through the lens of our customer to ensure that we are meeting their needs. Questions we need to ask ourselves might include the following:

Are we delivering clear & compelling value to our customer?
Are we making it more convenient for the customer?
Are we saving our customers time?
Are we making it easy for the customer to do business with us?
Are we differentiating ourselves from our competition?
Are we building lasting & loyal relationships with our customers?

All of these things need to be taken into consideration so that we continue to make decisions and take actions that are customer-centric and not just for our own internal needs or wants.

Strengthening Customer Focus means developing loyal customers that actually become advocates for the ALPINE brand. These kinds of loyal customers can actually be our best sales people in the marketplace.

TOMMY MARTINEZ (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus to me means giving the customer what he wants and needs. Making sure we are making the customers feel comfortable with our service and products.

Strengthening Customer Focus would help us keep the customers we have and also bring in new customers when they hear through the grape vine that we really value our customers through our customer service and products.

Michael Chappelle (Agribusiness)

Customer focus is creating a relationship with a customer that allows us to connect with the customer on a level that creates trust. it creates a culture of trust, learning and growth. Customer Focus means loyalty to the customer and in turn the customer is loyal to our company and team.

Amy Torres (Agribusiness)

Customer Focus to me is keeping the customer on the forefront of all decisions and business processes that are being implemented or amended. Continuously thinking about how, why, when and where will these processes or decisions affect our customers should be the main topic of discussion to keep the focus on the customer.

Adam Balk (Corporate)

Customer focus means working to meet customer needs every day when coming to work. Without the customer, we wouldn’t have a business and so their needs must be kept in the forefront. Being a part of the support staff makes this a little more challenging as my goal is to make sure we do things in a compliant way. Sometimes that can make customer support and focus more difficult for a location. However, when the support teams can work with locations to come up with sustainable solutions and keep customer focus in mind, we all win.