When Farmers Are Your Business, What Does Your Business Meeting Look Like?

February 1, 2010

CEO Hugh Grant addresses an audience at Monsanto's recent shareholder meeting.

It’s not the first annual shareholder meeting I’ve ever been to and it won’t be the last.  This one was a little bit different for me – it was the first one I’d been to since joining Monsanto.

My previous experiences with annual shareholder meetings at a previous job were fairly formulaic.  There are specific things that are required and a specific process through which that needs to be done.  Votes to be tallied and input to be received.  They were dry and I was hoping this one would be better.

I asked my colleague who was organizing the meeting if she needed any volunteer help.  Knowing all the cool jobs were likely taken, I braced myself for something like running between buildings.  Somehow other people’s schedules had changed and I got the chance to help host some of our farmer customers, including two brothers I’ve known for years!  Score!

That was the first difference from other annual meetings.  There was a concentrated effort to bring in several farmers to experience the shareholder meeting. I certainly was glad to find farmers were a near constant part of the meeting!

Farmers were integrally involved in this meeting from the moment our CEO & Chairman Hugh Grant took the stage and talked about it having been a growth year, to the Q&A.  The only exception was a brief pause for the “official business” of voting on directors, approving auditors, etc.   I found myself listening closely to speakers and tweeting parts of what was said.  (You can read a brief tweet transcript here if you like.)  I also watched the reactions of the farmers I was seated with… there were nods of the head, smiles and real interest in what was going on.

As the question and answer period was closed and the meeting adjourned, I leaned over and asked farmer Ray whether he had ever been to a company’s shareholder meeting before, he said no.  He said it was really interesting and that he’s really glad they made the drive up that morning. He told me there is a lot going on both for us as a company with new technologies and genetics in the pipeline, and for his family as they strive to produce more and conserve more.

Yep, farmers are our business and it shows in our annual shareholders meeting.  I may have to volunteer again next year!

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