Outdoor Power Equipment

August 2017

Proudly serving the industry for which it was named for more than 50 years, Outdoor Power Equipment provides dealers who sell and service outdoor power equipment with valuable information to succeed in a competitive market.

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COVER STORY | Fred J. Whyte www.outdoorpowerequipment.com OUTDOOR POWER EQUIPMENT AUGUST 2017 39 And those sentiments were even echoed by his competitors. "I was deeply saddened to hear of Fred Whyte's passing," said Dave Zerfoss, who served as president of Husqvarna's professional products division in North America from 1991 to 2009. "Fred and I served together on the PPEMA and OPEI boards. Although competitors, we worked together to improve the industry for all. We have lost an industry leader and colleague, but Fred's many contributions will live on for years to come." "I once ran and managed a distributor of lawn and garden equipment and parts; I never sold, distributed, or used a product made by Stihl," said Jim Starmer, former president (now retired) of Dixie Sales Company. "But Fred Whyte was my friend. "He would spot me at an industry trade show or an industry meeting, and, smiling, call my name from across a room. I would think 'that's Fred Whyte' and 'he knows my name!' I was always honored, and yes, astounded, by that regular occurrence. Back in the 'early days,' and that can be any date you choose, I would support by my presence, numerous industry organizations. I might have been on the board of directors of a fledgling dealer organization, or I may have just sat there, intruding quietly but listening carefully. I may have been attending an EETC meeting, or an OPEESA meeting, or The Service Dealers Association meeting, or even a NESDA meeting or Texas Service Dealers meeting, listening, supporting, where and when I could. "More times than not, there would be another man sitting there quietly near me, listening carefully to all that went on. I soon came to learn that that man was Fred Whyte. Even then, he was the face and the heart and soul of Stihl. And that supporting our industry and its service and sales dealers, even when he wasn't a member of that organization, was his sometimes secret but usually very public, strongest passion. "There were very few people in my 45 years in the OPE industry that I respected more. Fred Whyte was my friend. I bet he was your friend too." Stan Crader, president of Stihl distributors Crader Distributing Company in Marble Hill, Mo., and Blue Mountain Equipment in McKinney, Texas, was one of Fred's long-time friends and recently interviewed him in person for his soon-to-be released book, Stihl American. "One need only look at the meteoric rise in the popularity of the Stihl brand during Fred's tenure as president of Stihl Inc. to validate his leadership skills," Stan said. "Fred had an extraordinary knack for surrounding himself with talented people and the gift of inspiring everyone to their fullest potential. Rarely was there a serious moment when a clever one-liner wasn't lurking nearby. His laugh was contagious, and his interest in the success of others sincere. He was a mentor to many and a friend to me. His quick and untimely passing has left a gaping hole in my heart. Some pass, and we keep them in our memory; the very special we keep in our heart." On behalf of everyone at OPE, I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Fred's family and friends. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed. OPE independent dealers, alike, work to ensure that customers get a good value for their investment in STIHL. Also, the Stihl family has been a tremendous influence on me. I have a lot of admiration for the entire family. They are not guided by a "short-term, least-expensive" mentality — they focus on what's the right solution for long-term objectives, regardless of whether that is a more expensive option in the short term. They never just accept the "easiest" path. Having such leadership and a value-focused culture has made my job much easier when facing decisions: Do it right, and do it right the first time. In particular, Hans Peter Stihl, who remains as chairman of the advisory board today, is the epitome of integrity, focus and vision; he has led the worldwide STIHL organization in realizing its potential and becoming what it is today, and has my deepest respect. OPE: Tell us something about yourself outside of work (hobby, sport or other personal interest) that influences your approach in your professional career. FJW: In addition to being an avid Iowa Hawkeyes fan, I play the bagpipes. The tradition in that instrument runs deep. My father played bagpipes at my wedding; and just last year, I played at the wedding of my son, who also plays. At the same time, I am definitely a fan of emerging technologies. I was thrilled when my wife bought me a Kindle for Christmas last year. I can stay up to date on my professional reading and current editions of all my usual newspapers, regardless of where I'm traveling. I would say that the mixture of tradition and innovation keeps life grounded and interesting, and serves me well in my present role at STIHL. I am also an outdoor enthusiast from golfing to bird hunting to an energetic game of fetch with my two Golden Retrievers, Fergie and Hogan. I enjoy the outdoors. It is perhaps this love of the outdoors that, in part, drives my desire to ensure STIHL Inc. exercises responsible environmental practices. All of us have a duty to protect the environment. I'm happy to be part of the generation that has made so much progress in improving our role as stewards of the environment and setting the example for future generations to follow. OPE: What dreams do you have for the industry? What change(s) are necessary to make those dreams a reality? FJW: The Green Industry plays a vital role in the environment and the quality of life of people everywhere. We are responsible for taking care of our green spaces and forest lands. The industry is a very relevant part of society, and I would like to see it receive the recognition it deserves. In order to do so, however, all the different entities involved in the Green Industry will need to speak with one voice and become our own advocates. OPE: What advice do you have for Green Industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves? FJW: In his book Making the Grass Greener on Your Side: A CEO's Journey to Leading by Serving, Ken Melrose, former CEO of The Toro Company, writes about the idea of servant leadership. My advice to those seeking to gain authority and influence is to embrace this philosophy. Every employee possesses the potential to make a contribution. We as leaders must create an environment and workplace culture that inspires employees to reach their potential. They must feel valued, engaged, empowered, and recognized. We earn the right to be heard through our example. OPE UPFRONT Continued from page 6 FLASHBACK Continued from page 38

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