After spending four years in seed sales as an agricultural chemical sales representative for DuPont, Tom Hooper started his career at Beck’s Hybrids in 1990. Tom started at Beck’s as a front counter Sales Consultant where he entered orders, shipped seed, invoiced customers and handled customer service challenges over the phone. Tom became Sales Manager in 1994, participating on the Leadership Team as Beck’s grew to become the largest family-owned retail seed company in the United States. In2010 Tom became Director of Sales, taking on responsibility of all sales activities for Beck’s Hybrids.
After adding the title of CIO in 2015, Tom now also oversees all Information Systems, Precision Agronomy, all Sales Recruiting Functions and the Education team at Beck’s Hybrids. Tom believes that the Platinum Rule, the concept of “under promise, over deliver”, strong work ethic and positive attitude are the keys to success. The privilege to help others succeed is the reason Tom comes to work each day!
Tom graduated from Purdue University in 1986 with a B.S. in Agricultural Economics. Later Tom obtained an M.S. in Agricutural Economics from Purdue and an M.B.A from Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Other personal and professional activities include:
Dean Advisory Council Purdue Ag School (2014 to Present)
Bethel Lutheran Church Council (Finance) (2014 to Present)
Indiana Seed Trade Association Board of Directors (2001-2007)
Hamilton Heights Youth Soccer Coach (1993-2005)
Birthright of Cicero Board of Directors (1997-2001)
Hamilton Heights Education Foundation Board of Directors (1992-2001)
Indiana Ag Leadership Class VI (1993-1995)
Tom enjoys many outside activities when he is not in the office, including a separate farming partnership covering several hundred acres of corn and soybeans, a small cattle operation, trail riding on ATVs, collecting antique John Deere tractors and attending children’s and grand-children’s activities.
Tom and his wife Beth together have a total of eight children, four boys (Colton, Elijah, Tyler and Isaac) and four girls (Larissa, Olivia, Mariah and Katie). In addition Tom has two granddaughters (Mollie and Lillie) and one grandson (Will).
Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc. headquartered in Atlanta, Indiana has been in business since 1937. Beck’s is the largest family-owned, retail seed company in the United States, serving farmers in the Eastern corn belt. Although a lot has changed since 1937, a few things have remained the same. At Beck’s, our family and family of employees remain dedicated to the mission to provide our customers with the best in seed quality, field performance and service. We continue to support organizations like STEM to help prepare our youth to meet the demands of the rapidly changing future of agriculture.
Why is STEM education/workforce development critical to the future of our nation?
We must reach and motivate our young people early and continue educational programs throughout their lives. STEM programs help students make the connection between academic studies and the real world opportunities that are waiting for them. We need to help students realize that science, technology, engineering and math are the gateway to innovation, creating new products and services that make the world a better place. Our world is increasingly dependent on technology and we must do everything we can to equip the next generation with the tools they need to go beyond where we are today. We need more students that see science, technology, engineering and mathematics as their opportunity for their future.
What counsel would you provide on “collaborating to achieve success” in STEM education and the workforce?
We must all work together to bring more young people into agriculture, plant science and other STEM related careers. Agricultural researchers and farmers worldwide face the challenge of developing and applying technology to meet the demands of our growing population. At Beck’s we have several areas where we collaborate with educators and invest in programs and initiatives tied directly to education in these STEM careers. Examples of this include 4-H, National FFA Organization, Purdue University, and The Ohio State University to name a few. These programs and universities allow us to expose young people to a broad range of career opportunities within agriculture. In the end, being successful with no one to share it with is pretty boring. When we engage in collaboration we inherently immerse ourselves in the opportunity to realize the joy that comes from the sharing of successes and additionally the support that is there when things don’t go as planned.
Leaders are in great demand as business builders and role models. What advice do you have for minorities and women coming “up” in the system?
Increasing the number of leaders in STEM is important to all of us and no one should be excluded. Having a diverse group of leaders will create more diversity of thought, improved creativity and problem solving. My advice is to first and foremost be passionate about what you are doing. Many times I have seen individuals engage in activities that they clearly were not passionate about. If you place yourself in a role and environment you enjoy and are passionate about, when you are the faced with the inherent struggles and challenges of that position then it becomes much easier to solve its problems. Conversely, I have seen a talented individual struggle mightily in a position they didn’t enjoy. When they allowed themselves to be moved into a different role they suddenly rocketed in their accomplishments and became much happier with themselves and their role. Likewise I have seen people that are in a role they enjoy be less likely to be afraid. They are more willing to take chances with original thoughts and early submission of ideas. Persons in a role they enjoy are engaged in the activities and thoughts that generate success more so than those that are not passionate in their role. Passion is what I look for in assigning persons to new responsibilities and roles, not gender. Secondly, it is critical that you seek out people who are willing to help you find your strengths and talents. This is finding a mentor. If you are diligent and persistent in your search for a mentor, one may choose you. A mentor is tremendously valuable in helping all of us fast track our way to improving who we are without having to make all the mistakes on our own. Thirdly always hold yourself to high standards, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Additionally surround yourself with others who will not be afraid to be honest with you and challenge you to be a better person. Finally don’t engage in life and career activities always thinking about how you will better yourself. Instead spend your time and energy engaged in thought about how you can be a value and an asset to those around you. If there was one thing I could instill in young future role models it would be this…think passionately of others first.
Are you a mentor, and what is your view of mentorship? Did someone mentor you?
When I was younger I thought that you chose your mentor, now I understand the mentor chooses you. Of course not everyone is open to mentoring, however they should be. Human nature encourages us to learn by making our own mistakes and that is very valuable learning. Being open to being mentored however, helps to speed up the learning process without having to make the mistake yourself. Having someone that is willing to mentor you as a “new in role” individual is an amazing spot to be in. I have been very lucky to have had several mentors in my life. The two that have invested the most in me over time has been Sonny Beck (CEO of Beck’s Hybrids) and Lee Rulon (Past Sales and Marketing Director of Beck’s Hybrids). Together the two of them have invested over 45 years in me. There is no doubt that I would not be where I am today without their mentoring. In my current role, I spend a large amount of time investing in others. This is called mentoring. Being a mentor is truly rewarding. Especially when you see that individual you have invested in, scale to the next level of understanding or accomplish their next goal.