|By DENNE GOLDSTEIN|
Some people dream of one day running their own company; others wish they could be president of the company they work for, but how many times does one get the opportunity? Stinson’s timing was impeccable. Not one to let things go to his head, he still pinches himself to see if it’s real. He is truly blessed.
Having graduated from the University of Nebraska, Kearney, in 1987, Stinson joined the accounting firm of Deloitte Touche, working out of their Lincoln, Nebraska office. He was 21 years old. After working at Deloitte Touche for 10 years, he began thinking that he would like to get out of public accounting. As a small town boy, he really wanted to work for a small company; Deloitte was a very large company. When he was offered a position as controller at Exmark, he accepted.
Shortly after Stinson joined the firm, it was acquired by The Toro Company. At the time, John Smith, Ray Rickard, and Roger Smith were the major shareholders in Exmark and had active roles in the company. The three owners stayed on for the next three years, and Stinson learned the business from them.
No matter how you prepare for it, there is always a void when the owners retire. Toro sent Dennis Himan to assume the presidency of Exmark. Himan was instrumental in bringing Exmark to Toro, and he was now in a position to ensure its health and growth.
All this time, Stinson was working quietly in the background. As controller, he crunched all the numbers, made sure that manufacturing was in tune with inventory controls, projections were met, etc. He was gaining some great handson experience; but little did he know that he was being groomed for the presidency of Exmark.
After a four-year stint, Himan moved back to the Toro headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Stinson was made president of Exmark in January 2004. At the age of 38, Stinson took over the reins of a company that was growing by leaps and bounds. This was a milestone for him. Now he first had his work cut out for him. He needed to learn more about marketing and sales, he had to immerse himself deeper into manufacturing, quality control, inventory control, etc. More importantly, the buck stopped with him. He had a lot of learning to do. Stinson says he was fortunate that when the owners retired, they had left an excellent group of people who were, and still are, dedicated to making the finest lawn mowers in the country. They had great products and a great distributor and dealer network.
Stinson believes the reason that Exmark is where it is today is due to the leadership of the founders and the smooth transition made possible by Dennis Himan.
Equally as important is the relationship with their parent company. “The Toro Company has a great philosophy,” said Stinson. “Even though they are a public company, they let Exmark run as a separate brand. We’ve learned a lot from them. They are excellent at providing coaching and advice when we need it.”
“Since we were acquired by Toro, our market share has continued to grow; so has our name recognition. We’re smart enough to know that we don’t have all the answers, so we need their guidance. We’re fortunate to have a team behind us to back us up when needed.”
”Exmark by Toro is the best of both worlds,” continued Stinson. “We get the expertise, leadership and all the benefits of a large company while we still operate as a small company in Nebraska.”
“It’s funny, people perceive us as a sleepy industry, yet we’re based on technology and rapid change,” explained Stinson. “We’ve made a huge investment in engineering and marketing, and we have our own research and development area here in Beatrice. You’ll begin to see the efforts of their labor as we go forward.”
“We are in an incredible industry and we’ll continue to see changes,” Stinson added. “With the ‘going green’ movement gaining momentum and the high cost of regular fuel, the whole area of alternative energy is evolving. We’ll see different types of fuels, to hybrids to batteries.”
“To get to where we’re going, our partnership with our distributors and dealers has been crucial to our growth. They’ve been very patient and have been very beneficial to our learning curve. We’ve come to rely on their input and guidance in many aspects,” observed Stinson. “We also have a terrific management team in place, I need to be smart enough to stay out of their way and let them do their thing.” Many changes will come to the industry and Stinson will be there, leading the way.
So what does a young energetic executive do in his spare time? He and his wife Tracy, his college sweetheart, enjoy family time with their two daughters, Brooke, 13, and Abby, 9. The girls keep them busy with their many activities— from sports to arts. As time permits, he and Tracy, who retired from a successful career to be a homemaker, enjoy traveling and many outdoor activities.
Mark Stinson seems to have it all . . . a great family, a great job and the love and respect of the people who work with him.