Meet Steve Massey, CEO of TractorExport and TractorTec – Part 1Juan Aldaz
This is the first of three parts of my conversation with Steve Massey, founder and CEO of Tractor Export. Come learn more about their company, its roots, and how it plans to grow in the future to significantly improve agricultural systems in developing countries.
By: Raquel Garcia
Developing countries all over the world desperately need to improve their agricultural infrastructure in order to step up to the health and nutrition requirements of an ever growing population base. Whether by constraints relating to trade imbalances, transportation, dependence on oil exports as a sole source of revenue, or overpopulation, the basis of economic development is built on a strong food and agricultural system. Access to agricultural equipment, mechanization, skilled mechanics, and parts to keep farmers in business; especially the small to medium sized farm is imperative. The existing equipment infrastructure has historically been limited to a centralized dealer system that focuses on sales of new equipment; with inadequate support in the after-market. This model is approaching, or in some cases, has already become obsolescent in developing countries. Farmers need a better choice and more access to service-based support for their equipment.
President, CEO, and founder of Tractor Export LLC, Steve Massey, has designed a system which has stepped up to this challenge…and the numbers are coming in to prove he’s right on track. Built on providing high quality, preowned agricultural equipment; and then integrating a reliable infrastructure of service and parts networking, the number of farmers who can afford to bring modern equipment technology is increasing substantially. With a focus on cost to the farmer, preliminary estimates have shown a reduction in equipment expense between 30 to 50% for machines and attachments; while maintaining 85% availability; and in the end, generating a 20 to 30% aggregate increase in crop yields.
Consistent with this mission, Steve’s team has recently rolled out a new tool for the export market, namely, TractorTec® , TractorExport’s on line maintenance program; networking and connecting third party service providers with small to medium size farmers and agricultural cooperatives. The recent launching of http://www.tractortec.com along with their international, http://www.store.tractorexport.com parts store is another step in the right direction. Fortified with a Blog site for ongoing transfer of technology from reliable unbiased sources, TractorExport is utilizing the internet and direct contact with the farmer to play a significant role in helping developing countries create and implement truly sustainable food systems.
This article takes the reader along a journey with Steve Massey from his work in China, to his identifying the gaping need to address an underserved global market in Agricultural Mechanization, to creating a niche that built robust business relationships in South Africa, Gabon, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Peru, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay, Jamaica and more. There are __ parts to this interview that we will publish over time and you can view the article in its entirety hereà (insert page hyperlink)
Part I: The Ultimate Entrepreneur
A clear blue Miami sky colors the view atop Steve Massey’s tenth floor office window in the heart of the Coral Gables business district. The Tractor Export president and CEO sits comfortably behind his ample Indian Oak desk in a white striped button down and jeans. He is searching for inauguration day coverage online while commenting on how top news stories seem to have one dark commonality-grim reporting.
But Massey doesn’t see the world that way. His cheerful and relaxed demeanor debunks the stereotype of an international executive negotiating deals globally with governments and multi-national corporations to solely to satisfy their own financial gain as the press might portray them. Massey and executives like him, are seeking solutions to some of today’s most troubling conundrums…how to fight famine in under-developed countries while cultivating trusting business relationships while negotiating along the appropriate politics of trade.
A Duke Magna Cum Laude graduate and seasoned entrepreneur, he built his business based on 30 years of experience gleaned from serving as an exporter in China; a corporate lawyer for one of Miami’s top firms; a CPA, financial advisor, and investor. With experience as a computer programmer and author, he notes with great nostalgia…”and a Rugby player”.
Raquel Garcia (RG): “How do you see farmers around the world?”
Steve Massey (SM): “I see farmers as the ultimate entrepreneur around the world. They basically are always trying to figure out a better way to do what they are doing. They have to contend with production, inventory, cost, continual mechanization, personnel, marketing…the issues that we all face as entrepreneurs the farmer has all of them..in spades. In addition to that they’ve got huge uncertainties including weather and market prices to deal with. Improvements in using the internet for such things as online ordering and delivery of parts; cloud based information systems have not yet penetrated this market. At TractorExport we think we can change this paradigm.”
“Tractor Export (TE) started eight years ago as a solution for large farms in need of dependable heavy agricultural equipment at a fair price. Today, we not only sell quality equipment, we provide the necessary parts and service solutions, and the necessary consulting to help farmers increase crop yields. Our most recent expansion is focused on satisfying the needs of the small to medium sized farmer.”
From China to the World
While selling Chinese trucks to South Africa, and being the first company to pass their safety inspection requirements, Massey discovered that China had not developed this sector to where they could support the sale with the necessary parts and service network that is so important. This is when Massey, then CEO of AutoChina Ltd, discovered this underserved global market niche.
Raquel Garcia (RG): “How did Tractor Export come about after your experiences in China?”
Steve Massey (SM):
“We wanted to create a business where we could support whatever we sold after that experience in China. Tractor Export’s initial focus was the sale of used, United States manufactured, large ticket, agricultural and industrial equipment. We knew that equipment class could be supported and we could participate in that process. Now, when someone buys a combine or a large 250 horsepower agricultural tractor we can stand behind those products with parts and service programs, including on-site maintenance and parts inventory planning.
We do this either by working with their internal team; bringing in our own; arranging for agricultural consultants experienced in our specialized markets to come in and put together staffed maintenance programs; or a some combination of these options. We can also resolve issues on an emergency basis no matter what the brand.”
“While traveling abroad, I quickly learned that American companies carried credibility and trust around the world; often times more so than even the local agri-businesses operating in certain areas. This reputation of following up and delivering on their promises motivated me to seize that opportunity.”
With quality Midwestern-proven machinery and reliable US technology to back him up; he went to work developing local contacts and established friendly business relationships with that premise in mind. To deliver on your promises.
“Three years ago we were asked by a subsidiary of Olam International in Gabon to come take a look and bring back their fleet of 250 Komatsu Bulldozers sitting idle in the jungles. They were basically non-operational due to the inability of the local dealer to support the machines. Within seven months we had the fleet up and running at 85% capacity level which was extremely difficult especially in the jungle environment where the machines were located. Our customer told us that no one else in the world would or could have done this.”
By integrating cloud technology with localized, on-the-ground resources to keep the equipment in top condition, interest in many other countries is growing…and the fact that the equipment they are shipping is 30 to 40% cheaper than what the large centralized dealers can offer is just the tip of the iceberg. This efficient business model has spawned interest from clients in in Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Mali, Gabon, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Peru, Guatemala, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Ecuador are all calling on TE for help.
In our next Segment we explore how Steve and his team took this massive project and turned it into a repeatable success story in other areas of the developing world.