"I just watched what he did," said Mike Greene, 53, of his early experiences learning the ropes of farming from his father. His father was a part-time farmer and always took his son to the farm with him. Greene, who is now vice president and chief operating officer of Kioti, says his early experiences with his father shaped his desire to make a difference in the agricultural engineering field.
Born in Edenton, North Carolina, Greene later moved to Virginia, where he attended Suffolk High School.
There, he became involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA), an educational organization for young adults who were planning a career in agriculture. He also worked at a gas station, where he became familiar with cars. “I was always tinkering with things,” he said, adding that “much to my mother’s chagrin, every time I mowed the lawn, I would rebuild the lawn mower.”
Greene’s father worked for the Lipton Tea Company, but always maintained a side business as a farmer. “Being able to work together with my dad at such a young age was a great opportunity.
It was not like being in an office somewhere; I really learned how to deal with people,” says Greene. Sparked by these early experiences watching his father work, Greene continued to have a passion for agribusiness as he grew older.
These experiences with the farm, the FFA, and the gas station would combine to shape Greene’s desire to study agricultural education at Virginia Tech, but his direction continued to be shaped by more real life experiences.
Initially, not sure of his desire to pursue engineering versus education, Greene remained ambivalent. However, while working as a drafter during his first year of college, he realized his passion was more inclined towards hands-on work. “I think realizing that I could do it [engineering], and that I liked it, was the turning point in my career.” When he returned to Virginia Tech, he changed his major from agricultural education to agricultural engineering.
After college, Greene found employment with JLG Industries. He worked there for several years, gaining experience working with heavy-lift cranes and other large construction equipment. Wanting to do more hands-on design work, he moved on. He went to work on designs for heavy-tracked vehicles for the military. It was there that Greene gained valuable experience with project management.
The skills he learned while working for the military served him well later in his career; he remarked that “plowing for mines was a lot like plowing for potatoes.”
When the defense industry died down, Greene went to work for a private company that made mostly municipal equipment, like street sweepers and cleaners. When the company wanted to open up a sweeper division in North Carolina, Greene was offered the job of engineering manager; he jumped at the chance to move back to his native state.
While Greene’s passion for his field certainly shows through, so does his passion for his family. When the company he was working for wanted him to move out of the state once again, Greene turned them down. His father was ill with cancer and he wanted to stay close to his family, which was still in North Carolina. It was during this time that he met one of the engineers at Kioti, a tractor and accessories manufacturer. While between jobs, Greene was approached by the Kioti engineer; he wanted Greene to assist him in creating user manuals and guides for their products. Impressed with Greene’s work, the engineer lobbied the president of Kioti to hire him—and he did.
Brought on initially as a purchaser, Greene used his extensive experience to draft a proposal to fix some internal company issues and expand their markets. Within a short time, Greene took on the role of strategic planning and coordination. Shortly after that, he took over the day-to-day management of Kioti, most recently being promoted to vice president and chief operating officer.
Since his tenure began, Greene has been involved in implementing a lot of key metrics, and has increased workforce involvement. Also, he has spent a lot of time reshaping the organization of the company, saying, “The organization was very flat; now it is better integrated, with better communication.”
Greene is proud of the wide variety of products and accessories that Kioti produces. “The majority of our customers are ‘hobby farmers,’’’ he said, referring to the many people who buy
Kioti products to till their surplus land. “While I would expect that we would expand into the agricultural market, our core is in compact and utility tractors.”
While it may seem that Greene is all business, he does make time for his other passions. Currently residing in Youngsville, North Carolina, with his wife Rose, they have four grown children. Greene enjoys riding his motorcycle with his wife and even heads a Motorcycle Ministry in his church. He also enjoys gardening, genealogy and woodworking, when he is not busy at Kioti.
Greene’s career spans decades and multiple industries, but the theme remains the same: “I like anything that blows smoke and digs in the dirt,” he explains, “and in the end, it’s all about the people.”