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Mick Sibbel is president of Ayres Kahler, Lincoln, Neb., where he serves as a member of senior management. The agency focuses on client service, business development of general agency management. Ayres Kahler also provides marketing counsel and communications services to a number of clients in the ag industry as well as several clients in the food and consumer products/service industries.

How did you become interested in the agriculture industry?

I grew up on a diversified farm in north central Nebraska. Originally, I studied computer science and thought I would pursue a career in engineering. During my second year at the University of Nebraska, I decided to switch majors to ag economics, received an internship with the Nebraska Department of Ag and proceeded to stay in agriculture.

What are the key stops you have made in your career path?

After working at the Dept. of Ag in the mid-'70s, I moved to a small agency in Lincoln to work on ag accounts. Through a series of mergers and changes, that agency became Swanson Russell Associates. I stayed there for 20 years, during which I served as EVP/COO.

In August 1999, I discovered another agency in Lincoln where I saw an opportunity for more hands-on involvement in management. That agency, after an acquisition and a separate merger, has now evolved into Ayres Kahler.

Outside of my "day job," I have also had the great opportunity to serve in several local and national NAMA committee assignments and, finally, as national president of NAMA. Since 1991, I have worked with the Agri-Business Educational Foundation. ABEF serves as the funding source for student NAMA chapters and provides funds for other NAMA continuing education programs.

What has been the most fulfilling position you have had?

Each position has been very satisfying in different ways. I am most excited about my current role, because I like to look forward and genuinely feel we can provide sound strategic counsel to our clients based on our collective decades of service. Until you have seen both good times and slow times in the industry, it is hard to have perspective and provide sound advice that might help a company take advantage of the opportunities presented in each new economic cycle.

What is your advice to achieve success in this industry?

A few seasoned mentors have told me that success in any industry comes down to a few basics:

Do what you tell people you are going to do - be someone people can count on to fulfill a job no matter how trivial.

Always strive to continue learning - recognize that once you leave the academic classroom your professional education is just beginning.

Give something back to the industry by working with a trade association or support group, such as NAMA. Read a lot, within your industry and outside of it.

Ask a lot of questions and then spend time listening to the answers.

Keep a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously - people enjoy working with other people who seem to enjoy what they are doing.

Take pride in your profession - if you cannot show pride in where you are working, it is probably time to move on. AM

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