We meet new people almost every day, but there are some, more than others, that seem to stand out from the crowd. That is my impression of Ronald (everyone calls him Chase) Tew.
He’s a man on the go; his enthusiasm is contagious, and he has a work ethic to go with it. This is an ethic and an identity that have defined this man’s hardworking and honest path.
A North Carolina native, Tew grew up in a small business environment. His father owned (and still owns) a NAPA store. However, serving rural America, this store does more than just sell auto parts. It sells service, and that is the key to success of any small business.
Ever since he could remember, Tew spent his time in the store. After school and all day Saturday, he could be found behind the counter, changing tires, or making a delivery. Between school and working at the store, Tew managed to play both football and baseball throughout his school years. He graduated high school in June 1992.
My Dad said, “I want you to go to college, I don’t mind paying for you to go, but I want to be sure you’re ready,” he said. “You know, every 18-year-old is at a different stage in their life, so I went to a local community college for a year and a half and got a general education degree.” Tew then entered North Carolina State University where he received a bachelor’s in Ag and Environmental Technology and a minor in Ag Business Management.
After graduation, Tew thought he would work with his father. “I was eager to assume some responsibility. After mulling it around for a while, we decided, and it was a mutual decision that I would pursue opportunities elsewhere,” said Tew.
Deere & Company had opened a plant in North Carolina a year earlier. “My fiancée at that time, now my wife, saw an ad in the classifieds of our local newspaper. They were looking for a few people to fill some strategic spots. She encouraged me to apply,” remembered Tew. “To this day, I’m the only person I know of at John Deere who’s been hired from a classified ad in a newspaper.”
Tew began his career in a technical call center in September, 1998.
After 18 months, he was promoted to product support responsibilities for the commercial zero-turn mowers. A year and a half later, he received another promotion and added commercial walk-behind mowers to his responsibilities. In this position, Tew developed some experience working with engineering, manufacturing and suppliers. If there was a problem, it was his responsibility to fix it. It was also during this time that he went back to school to complete his MBA in the spring of 2002.
The sales and marketing departments would do a lot of dealer training. “They would pull me in for my technical knowledge. I began to realize that I could communicate well with our customers,” said Tew. “I had been doing this all my life in my Dad’s small business.”
By the end of 2002, Tew caught the eye of a few people and was given an opportunity in sales and marketing to become a territory manager for central and southern Florida, and he relocated to Orlando. Having cut his teeth working in the factory where the commercial mowers were built, he was now ready to expand his horizons. “If you’re going to be successful in sales in the state of Florida, you’ve got to figure out two things: one, how to sell big tractors to produce and sugar cane farmers; and two, how to sell commercial mowing equipment to landscape contractors.”
If you stand out from the crowd, you’re going to get recognized. Tew received the top territory manager award for two of the three years he worked there. He was then promoted to dealer development manager and relocated to the sales branch in Conyers, Georgia.
One day, Tew received a call from Gilbert Pena, who was the head of the commercial mowing division. “I need somebody I can trust, and who knows commercial mowing. You’re my guy,” said Pena.
“Gilbert was kind of my mentor; he helped me get promoted into the field assignment,” said Tew. “So after careful deliberation, I moved back to North Carolina in a position that we called a ‘business-to-business customer segment manager.’” Each step along the way, Tew was gaining experience. “That’s where I really got to kind of hone the strategy, around the customer segment as well as how to market to them,” said Tew.
In September of ’08, he was promoted to tactical marketing manager for all of commercial mowing.
Then Gilbert Pena retired. In March of 2011, Tew was promoted to marketing manager, and has responsibilities for all commercial mowing products all over the globe.
“We’ve got a very rich heritage and history,” said Tew. “In the early to mid-1990s, our management made an investment in commercial mowing, specifically to the landscape contractor community. Since then we’ve been working hard to make the John Deere brand attractive.”
“You don’t automatically have brand acceptance or permission. To gain that contractor market, you earn your stripes, and we’re very much in the phase of continuing to earn our stripes,” he said. “It’s our intention to be successful with any customer who is linked to land. Be that agricultural customers, construction customers, or landscape contractor customers who beautify the space we enjoy every day, I think if there is a profession that’s linked to the land, it’s John Deere’s desire to be the brand of choice for them.”
Weekends are a family affair for Tew. He and his wife, Amy, have two children, son Cooper, 9, and daughter Addison, 6. They love the outdoors, camp three or four times a year in the mountains, and spend summers near the ocean. “Cooper is a bit of an outdoorsman and loves basketball,” said Tew. “Addison loves gymnastics.”
At the age of 39, Chase Tew is on a fast track. “I believe we have a great future in this market,” said Tew. “Every company has successes and failures. Certainly you celebrate your successes and learn from your failures, but I can tell you there are a lot of people who get up every morning and work really hard at making our products desirable, and making our brand one that resonates with landscape contractors.”