55 years of leadership: Modern-day founder's lessons embraced at Scoular

Phil Van Court, the author of this blog, with Marshall and David Faith. Marshall is Scoular's modern-day founder and David is the current Chairman of the Board.

January 24, 2023

I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I still love it there. The ranchland truly is “where the buffalo roam, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” That said, there is little production agriculture. I didn’t have much understanding or appreciation for production agriculture growing up, and only a vague sense of the role my grandfather, Marshall Faith, played in the industry.

Years later, I bought my first pair of coveralls and started loading wheat and milo into shuttle trains as a Scoular trainee in Kansas. My appreciation for my grandfather and this company has only grown in the 20 years since then, especially as I’ve assumed leadership roles at Scoular and began serving on the Board of Directors. 

Marshall was a visionary CEO who led with integrity and compassion. As we celebrate his 55th anniversary with the company, I wanted to give a glimpse of, through my and others’ experiences, the wisdom Marshall has imparted. 

Empower employees

After my first year as a trainee in Salina, Kansas, I moved to nearby Downs, where Scoular had just built a “shuttle train” facility. Doug Lantz, the Downs facility manager, taught me everything I know about grain handling. If you sold a train of USDA #2 grade wheat, he advised, you’d better not load a train of #3’s—those would not make spec. And you’d better not give them a train of #1’s either—those should be worth a premium. 

Twenty years later, Doug continues to lead at Scoular because he enjoys the teamwork and decision-making authority. Downs remains one of our most profitable grain facilities.

Marshall wanted employees like Doug to feel empowered to make decisions and to build careers at Scoular. Marshall used employee ownership as a tool to create this culture. We remain an employee-owned, privately held company, which is unique in our industry and gives employees a stake in the company’s short and long-term success. 

Recently, Doug helped colleagues around the company to secure and ship 40 “mayday” loads of wheat from the Midwest to a customer on the West Coast—in just four days.  

Doug says Scoular delivers commodities to customers at the right time and right place because our culture empowers employees to ask questions, move quickly and work together. 

“We have a tight network of teams at Scoular,” Doug says. “And nobody’s on the ‘B’ team – they’re all starters, in my view. It takes everybody to get the job done.” 

Try new things and be curious

During two decades at Scoular, in addition to my “day job,” I have tried some really fun things. I’ve learned to drive four types of locomotives; represented Scoular on Capitol Hill to discuss railroad infrastructure; helped to pilot real-time trucker location technology that led to the creation of Roger, LLC; and assisted with more than $250 million in facility improvements 

Marshall taught me and others the importance of trying new things. He gave me space to challenge myself when I began working here, and he led by example. In the 1970s, my grandfather taught himself how to program computers. He then created a trading system that produced the first computer-generated federal warehouse receipt. It was incredibly innovative at that time.

My colleague Mandy Smith has tried new things from day one. A finance major with no grain background, she took a job as part of the inaugural Scoular training program after graduation because it “just seemed interesting.” She eventually became the trade unit manager for a cross-country truck business in western Nebraska. She moved into a new role again last summer as the lead merchant for our Handcock, Iowa, facility group. Scoular leaders also tapped her as a founding member of our Diversity and Inclusion Council. 

“You learn a lot when you are outside of your comfort zone,” Mandy says. “Trying new things and doing things differently is challenging, but there’s always space to learn and grow.” 

Serve as humble stewards

“To whom much is given, much will be required.” Luke 12:48 NIV Bible

My grandfather is from the aptly named Greatest Generation. He grew up in the Dust Bowl era in Kansas and served in the Navy after World War II concluded. These events left an indelible mark on him.

Marshall’s cherished reference to giving is from the Bible, the book of Malachi 3:10, which says “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Marshall drove the establishment of the Scoular Foundation. He wanted employees to learn the gift of giving. He served on the boards of hospitals, civic groups and universities. His wife, my late grandmother Mona, served on a Children’s Hospital board in Omaha and, as the “Toy Lady,” joyfully delivered Christmas gifts to patients.  

At Scoular, we continue to carry out my grandparents’ vision. We make annual contributions to the Scoular Foundation from company earnings. The foundation funds major initiatives in food insecurity and mental health. We also answer the call when organizations in our smaller communities reach out, from donating to an outdoor classroom in rural Saskatchewan to flipping burgers at a county fair in Kansas. 

And we do this with humility. 

Kim Daniels was Marshall’s executive assistant for 35 years. She was a longtime member of the Heartland Family Service board; mentored a teen who is now flourishing as an adult; and serves as a Scoular Foundation trustee. Kim says Marshall did not serve for the recognition.  

“I remember Marshall stating very clearly, ‘I don’t aspire to have my name on a building, but I do aspire to always be a giver and not a taker,” says Kim. 

As Marshall’s grandson, it’s sometimes hard to describe what the family and Scoular interweave has come to mean to me. I am blessed to have grown up in the Faith family, and it has been a privilege to work here. And I know I share the sentiment with employees: I hope together we can steward the company forward another 55 years as well!

Thanks to Marshall for providing us an opportunity to be a real part of something good. As we mark your anniversary, we hope you can be proud of how we are living your values in big ways and small as Scoular continues to grow. 

Marshall and Mona Faith.
Picture of Phil Van Court

Phil Van Court

Vice President & General Manager, Grain Division