How the 'Grain Guy' drives co-op growth

Dennis Inman's expertise gains national recognition

Dennis Inman Speaking At The Country Elevator Conference

Dennis Inman, Grain Director for Strategic Asset Management (SAM) at Land O’Lakes, Inc., has about 40 years of experience with grain under his belt. He came to Land O’Lakes in 2015, after working for 37 years at Cargill.

Today, Dennis works for SAM, working closely with member co-ops to help initiate projects that grow their agronomy and grain businesses. That’s his day-to-day job. But Dennis was also recently nominated by Dave Hoogmoed, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Purina, to the Country Elevator Committee of the National Grain and Feed Association, allowing him another avenue to help our members.

“My work is about learning trends and best practices that can be leveraged across the industry,” says Dennis. “I want to use my experience in grain and agronomy to help our members.”

Going with the grain

Dennis’ father was a co-op grain elevator manager so he truly understands how important it is to advocate for our members within the larger context of the grain industry and the agriculture industry as a whole.

When he was at Cargill, Dennis worked mostly in general management roles – which allowed him to understand the ins and outs of operations of grain and what it takes to compete in the marketplace.

Now, at Land O’Lakes, he has moved into more of a strategic consulting position, utilizing that experience and background to help our members understand how to look toward the future.

“Having the experience I have, I think I’ve gained the credibility to talk to our members because I’ve been there in the trenches before,” says Dennis. “And while that experience is great I still have to look forward, not only in the past – because the industry continues to change and evolve.”

Shifting to SAM

Part of Land O’Lakes’ retail services, SAM provides in-depth and affordable consultancy services to help drive growth in all facets for member cooperatives, independent retailers and other agribusinesses.

“When we started our SAM practice we decided that our consulting would focus on areas we have a passion for,” says Jim Wyvell, Senior Director of SAM. “I’m proud of the fact that our team is made up of industry veterans who each have an average of 40 years of experience in different areas of agriculture.”

Since its startup in 2012, SAM has completed 116 projects, including business consulting, construction consulting and M&A. They have helped advise customers on nearly $700 million worth of construction projects.

Dennis’ work with SAM mostly revolves around helping our member-owners in mergers and acquisitions, growth and strategic planning.

“The real goal of SAM is to help our member co-ops and other customers grow their business,” says Dennis. “I’ve helped in the grain and agronomy sectors – one co-op we worked with was really struggling with their business and we were able to come in and identify opportunity areas for growth.”

But SAM is not about telling customers how to run their business, by any means. Instead the team focuses on providing expertise and a third-party, outside-in viewpoint to establish new ways of thinking for the future.

“Our members are smart and capable no doubt,” says Dennis. “But SAM is helpful to them because having that third-party expert to help them know the direction or the strategy behind a project can be really valuable.”

Knowledge & NGFA

Dennis has been involved with NGFA for fifteen years, and has sat on the Arbitration panels and had previously served on the Country Elevator Committee in his former position before coming to Land O’Lakes.

NGFA is an industry association that represents the grain and feed industries on a national scale as well as working closely with other state associations like the Minnesota Grain Association and other agriculture associations on a national level to develop resolutions and advocate for the industry.

“The Country Elevator Committee tackles topics like policy issues, transportation issues, worker safety, and other areas that impact Country Elevators across the U.S.,” says Dennis. “And I’m representing Land O’Lakes members on this committee – it’s an opportunity for me to advocate on their behalf.”

Member-first mentality

Everything Dennis does ties back to really being an advocate for members in our industry and preparing our members for the future. His experience with NGFA also helps Dennis in his day-to-day work, because he can bring this expertise directly to our members.

“The real value of a cooperative is working together and seeing that larger picture. I think that just being able to take this broader perspective back to members through my work as a consultant is great,” says Dennis. “If we can make the entire industry better, that helps all of us.”

Dennis and SAM are helping our ag customers with key decisions for growth in the industry. To learn more about SAM or take advantage of the expertise of consultants like Dennis, check out the website.