Meet Our Board Members: Christi Offutt
More than 20 years ago, Christi Offutt was working at a Minneapolis law firm when one of R.D. Offutt Co.’s executives asked her to join the team for a few years to learn more about the company. Growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City, she hadn’t planned on going into the family business. But once she did, she never left.
“I gravitated toward the operations,” Christi remarks. “And I fell in love with the equipment business. We may sell agricultural and construction equipment, but we’re really a service and people business. The best way we differentiate ourselves from our competition is the level of service we provide to our customers.”
Christi is now second-generation chair of R.D. Offutt Company, a $3 billion operation that includes RDO Equipment Co. and R.D. Offutt Farms and has over 5,000 employees.
R.D. Offutt Farms is a large potato grower, growing more than 50,000 acres of potatoes annually on farms in 7 states and operating 7 potato processing facilities in 4 states. RDO Equipment Co., which sells and supports agriculture, construction, environmental, positioning, surveying, and irrigation equipment, has 78 locations across the United States and partnerships in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Mexico and Zambia. The company also owns and operates Threemile Canyon Farms, a 145-square-mile farm in Oregon that produces milk and organic crops. And it owns Idahoan, a business that produces dehydrated potato products available in 99 percent of grocery stores nationwide.
It was challenging at first being a woman at the helm of a traditionally male-dominated company, but Christi says over time, she felt she had earned her stripes and no longer had to prove herself.
“I had a couple strikes against me, being a woman in a male-dominated industry and being the daughter of the founder,” Christi notes, adding that she overcame those challenges through perseverance and hard work.
After serving as legal counsel of R.D. Offutt Co. from January 1997 to December 1998, Christi worked as vice president of strategic planning from December 1998 to June 1999 and then as senior vice president of Midwest agriculture from June 1999 to January 2001. She was named chief operating officer of RDO Equipment Co. in January 2001 and chief executive officer in November 2006. In 2015, she became CEO of R.D. Offutt Company, and she succeeded her father, Ron Offutt, as R.D. Offutt Company board chair. In April 2018, she stepped aside as CEO and continues to serve as chair of R.D. Offutt Company’s board of advisors.
Christi says she’s most proud of the company’s culture.
“When I get a note from a team member who talks about my leadership and how much the company has done for them, that’s the most rewarding part of what I do,” Christi comments. “I lead a company with a stakeholder philosophy, and we spend our time focused on the people in the company and our customers. It’s very similar to Bell Bank’s philosophy.”
That similarity is part of what makes Christi such a good fit for Bell’s board of directors, a position she’s held since 2007.
“Culture is so important. I’ve always loved Peter Drucker’s saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” she remarks. “Certainly, Bell’s culture mirrors how we do business.”
Giving back to the community is an important part of the culture at both companies. RDO Caters Taters for Charity is a potato luncheon held each fall in Fargo that donates all proceeds to a local charity. R.D. Offutt Company also has a “community builder” program where employees can apply for the company to give grants to charities they actively support.
“It’s a great program and one we’re really proud of,” Christi notes.
As part of the program, the company gave $500,000 in grants in 2017 to 41 volunteer fire departments in areas where the company does business.
“We don’t toot our horn a lot,” Christi says. “The great people we have at our company are the best representation of our company. They’re good stewards of the business, stewards of their communities, and they’re really what makes us proud. They’re the best representation of who we are as a company.”
A graduate of the University of Puget Sound with degrees in politics and government and in business administration, Christi earned a juris doctor degree from Boston University. She has also served on the board of directors for the Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corp.
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