Western Milling is a company devoted to the legacy of its Founder, Otto Kruse, and his motto of ‘Know thy customer and strive for their success’. As CEO of the company, Chad Pinter leads his team in relentless pursuit of customer success – the mission being to become the leading and most diverse agriculturally-based nutrient solutions business in western USA from its headquarters in California. Well on the way to this being the case, Chad’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Having spent 16 years at the company, Chad has only spent a short amount of time in his current leadership role, but he has already left an incredible impression on us, making him stand out as our Animal / Human Plant Nutrition CEO of the Year 2023 – Midwest USA. We speak to Chad to learn more about Western Milling and his successful career to date.
With next-level expertise and operational efficiency, Western Milling delivers bespoke animal, people, and plant nutrition resources. With a core focus on innovation, performance, and relationships, the company’s team of industry professionals are diligent and dedicated when it comes to meeting the needs of their customers.
And they believe strongly in Otto Kruse’s passion for providing quality feeds to ensure the health of animals. As such, the team develops some of the most innovative and nutritional feeds on the market today in an extensive product portfolio that is distributed through trusted retailers. This range includes dairy, broiler, layer, hog, and cattle feeds with more than 1,700 active formulas, varying from textured and pelleted feeds, extruded feeds, base mineral mixes, flaked grain, and commodities.
In addition, the company’s diverse offering extends to agribusiness products, such as soil amendments, planting seeds, fertilizers, and other speciality products to help farmers maximize their investments year on year. It also delivers support services in trucking, rail, and merchandising, bringing creative solutions to customers through an integrated approach. And it doesn’t end there, for Western Milling also provides private label programs, alongside having co-manufacturing capabilities to help its customers optimize their supply chain.
Western Milling’s scope of services and products is vast and outstanding – So, what is Chad Pinter’s role in all this? “I’ve been with the company for 16 years,” he begins. “We sold the company in 2022, so a year and a half ago, I stepped into the CEO role in that transition. This makes me responsible for all operations, strategy, execution, and financial returns.”
He continues, “I’m not a micromanager. The intention is to empower the employees. Highly skilled employees do not want to be micromanaged. If you get good people, give them the authority and let them go – but within provided boundaries that support the company mission and goals. It’s important to be clear on what the expectations are, the desired outcomes are, and give autonomy within that for people to execute. I expect there to be strong communication with me, their teams, and with their peers. I don’t need to be involved in every meeting or every discussion. I follow up more as a leader and director as opposed to an authoritarian figure.”
“I really want to attract and keep people that are forward-thinking, open-minded, strong communicators that want to grow and have a curiosity mindset. I think that curiosity and open-mindedness allows people to continue to adapt into evolving markets.”
Indeed, Chad is keen to praise those who are on his team, delighting in the fact that the company’s turnover rate for salaried employees is less than 5%. A key contributor, Chad believes, is the company’s growth mindset, with a strong focus on helping its people move forward and evolve both professionally and personally, and therefore enabling the business to do the same, continuously improving with each passing day.
With regard to his own career, Chad spent the first 10 years working in financial roles. He graduated in Finance from the University of Iowa, before becoming an accountant in 1994 and working in various other accounting and finance roles. Next, he moved into a corporate controller role in 2002, and then joined Western Milling in 2007. During his 16 years spent at Western Milling, Chad has been in a variety of roles in corporate management including the VP of Corporate Development, VP of Sales, CFO, COO, and his current role of CEO. He also has significant experience in board roles, currently sitting on boards for different companies in the non-profit and profit sectors. Chad credits his multifunctional experience as a key element in his success.
Crucial over the years to Chad’s career success has been his access to mentorship, guided by individuals whom he feels have had a key positive influence on his professional growth. “I feel like my pathway has been enabled by so many people, and as I’ve collected those experiences and relationships, there is just a lot of value in them.” One key piece of advice that Chad received early on from one of his mentors was to “take as many accounting classes as you can stand and take all the psychology classes that are offered because if you understand the numbers and understand people, you have a great chance at success.”
While he is grateful for the mentorship he received, Chad also found that back in the early days of his career, many professionals generally weren’t open to change and improvement. “When I was in my twenties, I was on a very accelerated growth path, but I was hearing people further in their careers blocking things, and they didn’t have good logic for blocking it. It’s almost as if they just didn’t want to do it because of fear of failure or lack of desire or care for the business. They would come up with reasons from the past why it wouldn’t work today or all the things that could go wrong rather than what could go right and the benefits of the change, so I really try to work hard to be growth-minded and have people around me or on my team that are that type.”
As CEO of Western Milling, Chad welcomes change with open arms, so the company can move forward with the times and ensure it continues to offer only the very best for all its customers, while also preparing and responding as needed for any challenges that arise. He says, “There’s a constant shifting landscape around which products are making money and not making money. We have a rigorous risk management practice around exposure, whether that’s on the supply chain side or the customer. We spend a lot of time gathering information on both of those ends.”
“We’re deeply integrated into our customers’ lives,” he goes on to say. “Our salespeople are very active and involved in the community. Many of our salespeople come from that community to begin with, so they were born into it, and then naturally stay in it. Therefore, we have a lot of ties to our customer base that allows us to continue to learn. Then, on the supply chain side, we have a deep experience in that, too. By monitoring both the supply chain and the customer, it allows us to identify when there’s an opportunity in an area, whether that originated positively or negatively, so we can opportunity solve through it.”
“I fit my Aquarius sign where it’s a pretty global, eclectic mix in interest and big picture desire – I have a big picture view and desire to explore and move forward without bounds. I enjoy the possibilities and moving on them.”
Ultimately, Chad’s ambition and passion really shine through – not only within his CEO role at Western Milling, but he has other business ventures he is highly excited about too, describing himself as a general businessperson, communicator, and multifaceted entrepreneur. “We’re selling a pet food business right now, which should close next month,” he shares. “It’s not part of the company I work for [Western Milling]; I’m an owner in it and was formerly the President of it as well. I have a number of different things I have passion or interest in and invest in things that match those. One example is an interest in a men’s and women’s tuxedo clothing line named Polarity. My significant other is a fashionista and she designs the women’s tuxedos.”
He adds, “I love to travel because I think travel creates joy and perspective that lead to creativity. It breaks a person out of the box that they may be in today and gives them another perspective where they can absorb, learn, and grow. It creates ideas because different parts of the world function differently day-to-day and commerce is different, so to observe that and understand creates new possibilities.”