I grew up in the country. Both of my parents were farmers and both of them were die hard John Deere fans so when I got the chance over Thanksgiving to visit the John Deere pavilion in Moline, IL I jumped. I figured I’d get to go see some cool pieces of equipment and see some neat prototypes. I never suspected that inspiration would strike.

As an entrepreneur and start up marketing exec however, it’s hard to overlook stories like John Deere’s: overcoming challenge, laser beam focus on quality and defining the future. I walked out of the pavilion with three lessons every start up should take to heart and that are in fact worth noting for any business person as the values are still the guiding principles for the company today.

Lesson 1: Never give up

The whole story started with a debt that John Deere the man needed to repay. In fact it’s arguable that without the debt, the plow and the iconic company may have never been.

After losing his father, young John became a blacksmith to help his mother provide for the family. With a loan from an investor he started his own blacksmith shop. Unfortunately, the shop burned down and the investor came looking for his money back. Young John had two options: either face debtors prison or find another way to earn the money to pay his debt. So John headed west from Vermont to Grand Detour, IL to see if he could make another go of blacksmithing. It was here that he would see opportunity in challenging farming communities around him and develop the self-scouring plow.

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Lesson 2: See opportunities in challenges

When others see a problem, successful entrepreneurs see an opportunity. That’s exactly what John Deere did when he saw farmers in Illinois struggling to plow the nutrient rich soil with their cast iron plows. The dense soil would stick to the plow and the stewards of the earth would inevitably lose time having to clean off the plow. John saw inspiration in a steel sawmill blade and thought that polished steel would handle the sticky soil much better than cast iron. He was right, the sticky soil slid right off the plows. The rest, as they say, is history. Farmers loved the plow and a company was born.

Lesson 3: Keep moving forward and shape the future you want

John saw a future where farmers didn’t lose time cleaning off their plow. A debt was repaid and a company was born because of it. Throughout the early history of the company, time and time again growth came because John Deere company kept moving forward, imagined the future and shaped it. Today, they’re following those values. From prototyping machines that walk through the woods instead of driving so the machines don’t disturb the ecology to lawn mowers that mow lawns by themselves. John Deere continues it’s tradition of innovation and integrity in the founders name sake securing the company’s future.

Four values ring out from John Deere the man and provide the foundation for John Deere company’s mission going forward. Too often companies overlook starting with values and mission. Values? A Mission? That’s fluffly. Right?? Wrong.

These guiding principles led John Deere to success and have built a global company with a bright future. Without the foundation, what would have been? Now, if only I could find that old tractor from my childhood.

What values and missions have you seen lead to success around you?

A version of this post original appeared on Ryan’s Blog.

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