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What Made Deere Great

There is a mystique John Deere has, particularly among collectors, of being a firm that seems to have done everything right. The company’s 175th anniversary in 2012 was destined to happen and was certainly in the making from its lowly beginning in a blacksmith’s shop. It is a living example of the American dream.

John Deere provides the best example of an up-from-the-bootstraps entrepreneur who made good on grit, innovation, and determination.

Yet the success of Deere & Company was far from destiny, and it was definitely not a certainty. Numerous times throughout the esteemed firm’s 175 years, adversity threatened to undermine its success.

Threats from Within and Without

There was at least one hostile takeover and four national economic depressions (one in the 1980s) that threatened its stability.

So, too, Deere was not always so dominant a manufacturer as it is today. The firm would mark its 125th anniversary before securing status as the number one maker of farm machinery in North America. And at the turn of the last century, Deere management resisted growing into a full-line manufacturer of farm equipment content to build only implements.

When it finally decided to sell tractors, for decades those machines were considered a bit anachronistic.

Deere’s history is marked with its share of blunders. But rather than allow those missteps to prevent the company from advancing, it let challenges define its character.

Instead of consenting to economic pressures undermining its principles, Deere (the company) stood firm on Deere’s (the man) belief: “Treat everyone like you would like to be treated.”

Therein lies the not-so-mystical secret of Deere’s success. For 175 years, it has steadfastly paid devotion to the principles of building the highest quality product on the market, shored up with conservative business practices while providing unequaled customer service. 

That last point is best typified by some favorite back stories discovered while researching the highly abbreviated review of Deere’s history you’ll read on the following pages.

For example, in 1933, the firm was losing money by the bushel basket. Rather than give into pressure by its board of directors, Deere management opted to carry debtor farmers as long as necessary. 

Little wonder that John Deere is recognized today as one of the most admired companies in the world.


Read more about John Deere's history in 27-Year Reign as Fuel King. 

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