More Football and Farming

More excerpts from our interview with Jason Schwab.

By Jamie Cole | Photos By Greg M. Cooper

On a diverse upbringing:

Jason Schwab with the guys in the break room at his dairy.

Jason Schwab with the guys in the break room at his dairy. Over his shoulder is a memorial photo of his brother, Tim.

Yeah, I wasn’t brought up a 4H kid. I wasn’t brought up an FFA kid and sometimes—I mean this is a very hard thing to say in the agriculture industry, but I know that’s what made me today as a business man, because I wasn’t into it the whole time I was growing up. It wasn’t shoved down my throat. I was into racing, playing ball, doing things that were very highly competitive. Learning how to deal with people on a different basis. I don’t criticize the FFA at all in fact I’m a supporter of it today, but we just weren’t brought up that way.

On his brother, Tim:

He was a hardworking kid. He always tried to figure out what he had to do to be number one. It took him two years at school before the coach actually even looked at him… And he became a starter and a leader on the team. The coach, before the accident happened, would call him and they’d dialogue all the time together, and he was just the type of kid that you miss for two years and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Man this kid’s pushing the whole team.” He was a very good leader, quiet, gentle and yet the meanest, most tenacious [guy] you ever met in your life.

On competitiveness:

We were bred that way. We were bred you go to the racetrack on a Saturday night to win. Anything you do in life, you go to be successful at no matter what you have to do. If it’s surrounding yourself with other people to make yourself successful, if it’s alone you do it successfully, you do it correctly and you do it right.

On growing the business:

We are very careful of that the next expansion doesn’t lead us to unprofitability. We stood here with blue prints yesterday afternoon talking the same thing. When do we start making investments that are minimally returned? Are we at a point where we can make an investment because we know it’s the right thing to do, but it may not show massive return? We’re going to continue to expand our business. We’re going to continue to adapt people and bring people in that can make the business more successful.

On leadership:

I find it a challenge in driving people to help me achieve goals rather than doing it on my own. I enjoy taking somebody and giving them ownership of it. I enjoy employing people. I enjoy watching them grow and evolve. And I’d rather have the articles written about those guys rather than me. Just watching them grow successfully, watching them be that way.

Success is achieving production levels, achieving the goals we set. At the same time, being able to keep some kind of demeanor within the staff. A successful day to me is Dave selling 60 loads of gravel and then coming up to the office with a smile on his face, grabbing a beer out of the fridge. Nat shipping 100 pounds of milk, and saying “Hey, we shipped 100 pounds of milk!” And at the end of the day taking five minutes to [celebrate] it. Not running out the door. That’s success to me.

On learning from tragedy:

I had the best family going, had the best thing in life that anybody could possible imagine and it was stripped from me in (snap) two hours. I have the best dairy running possible that you can—performance-wise it’s the best in the industry right now—and it can be gone that fast.

I had everything going for me when my brother was here. We had gotten over the death—not gotten over it, but we had gotten used to the fact of not having my father around anymore. We were an indestructible team. We were building it. We were going and flying and it was taken apart in an hour. I mean, I was having lunch with my brother three hours before he was pronounced dead. I don’t live my life fearful of anything happening, just recognition. That’s in the back of my head all the time.

On planning:

I preach it all the time: know what your succession plan is. It’s just people don’t want to talk about dying, right? I mean, you get a pride-stricken farmer that’s got a kid that’s 40 years old, that’s still in the barn milking cows because he’s not going to let him take a bite of anything or make a decision by himself. I mean, I want to jack the farmer right in the head.

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