CEO Dohoon Kim on the new TYM, and how technology will shape the future of farming
For someone who loves change, Dohoon Kim’s office has remained largely static since he joined TYM. It’s actually striking how stark his office is compared to the sumptuous dark-paneled C-level offices we’ve come to expect. For the past two and half years, his phone has sat on his desk silently, kitty-corner from a white mug that doubles as a pencil holder. His shelves are decorated sparsely with mementos and few framed photos. The only thing that appears to change regularly is the TYM-branded calendar pinned next to the door. Above that is a classic analog clock, a faithful reminder of his next appointment.
“Honestly, I don’t spend much time here,” he says, looking around his office. That makes sense. Why spend the effort to decorate his office when he’s constantly on the road? Whether he’s visiting one of TYM’s six different locations (and that’s just domestically, in light of COVID-19), or mulling over the company’s 15-year plan in the conference room with the leadership, it’s clear that this is a time of hypergrowth at TYM and Kim has no plans to sit down.
Dohoon Kim joined TYM as CFO in 2020 and was appointed CEO six months into his tenure. Since then, the company has seen promising changes across the organization, from redesigning its brand identity to publishing ESG management principles, a first for the agricultural industry in Korea. Most recently, TYM fully integrated with Branson (Kukje Machinery), which it acquired in 2018.
Creating the perfect product drove TYM’s innovation in the past, and the company is now fixated on the quality of service and availability of parts. Some might say that in agriculture, there’s no such thing as a perfect machine, but Kim believes that they can get pretty close by putting more emphasis on what customers want—and what tractors need.
We sat down with Dohoon Kim in his minimalist office to ask some questions about TYM’s recent integration, and what kind of changes we can expect from TYM and the tractor industry in the coming years.
Q: 2022 marked the full integration of TYM and Branson (Kukje Machinery) tractors. What can we look forward to next?
This is an exciting time for us because the TYM and Branson integration means a wider range of products, unified support and services, and an expanded distribution network. Acquiring a company means gaining market share—which is great for business, but it’s also a welcome change for dealers and customers. Previously, TYM and Branson each had about 150 dealers across the U.S., now we have a combined 320 or so selling the integrated lineup. With more support, service, and parts, we’ve created a whole new TYM customer experience.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between TYM and Branson in the past, and what can we expect now that the brands have become one?
I think traditionally Branson was known for durability and robustness, and TYM was known for design and product range. But surprisingly, the two brands didn’t have much overlap in terms of tractor models and specs. What they had in common was a considerable supply chain and supplier overlap, allowing us to share a single platform for all of our tractors and parts. This means more parts availability, which really is the lifeline for tractors.
Q: Tell us about your leadership style and how that impacts how you run TYM.
Well, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, I have an ESTJ executive personality, but ESTJs are also known to be tough managers. I might come off this way because I’m trying to run the company efficiently. I put tremendous emphasis on efficiency because I hate wasting money and I hate wasting time. I don’t like overcomplicating things. For example, I started a Monday morning management meeting where anyone can present an idea and the leadership can make an informed and collective decision. This eliminates the need for someone to jump through hoops to get approval from everyone on the ladder. From our internal management processes to product development, my goal is always to simplify.
Q: What’s one change you’ve made in how the company is run?
A typical company usually runs from the top down. But that doesn’t work for TYM. The best voices come from the field, literally. There’s no way we could truly know what our customers need and want without being there with them. So our excellent service team and our sales force are on the ground interacting with farmers and operators. And we take this feedback and insight seriously. The VoC (Voice of the Customer) is the driving force in how TYM has evolved and how it will continue to thrive. We try to collect as much information from the ground up and reflect our findings in the product and service.
Q: What are you most focused on right now, and how did it become a priority?
TYM has been changing every day since I joined two and a half years ago. We’ve expanded internationally, so our tractors have a bigger presence in North America. We’ve rebranded with a new brand identity that reflects our image and vision. We’ve merged two brands, so we’re sharing the same suppliers and platform. But I think the biggest change is in servicing parts. Our greatest focus right now is on parts and service because we know that more parts availability makes our products last a lifetime. Reliable service and parts make it possible to maintain and upgrade your tractor over the years as your needs change and the farming landscape evolves.
Q: How has this integration affected your day-to-day life personally? What has changed, and what remains the same?
My coffee definitely got a lot stronger! But all jokes aside, combining two corporate cultures isn’t an easy job, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the years smoothing out the processes and cultures of the two brands and the people behind them. Integration relies heavily on the people on the ground, so we are investing in education and training for service engineers and dealers. For me, personally? The integration has doubled our workforce, so I split my time among our many offices, factories, and the TTI (TYM Technology Institute).
Q: In Korea, where the average farmer is in their 60s, how has TYM managed to woo an emerging generation of young farmers?
Young Farmers' Dream is one of TYM’s flagship ESG initiatives that fosters the next generation of Korean farmers. Every year, we donate a tractor to one or two young farmers from each of the eight provinces in South Korea. This is meaningful because these young farmers are our future. Korea is an aging society, so at this rate, the future can look quite bleak. But at the same time, Korea is very fast-paced and tech-forward and young people are quick to embrace change. With data and AI-driven technology and smart farms gaining recognition, TYM is ready to be on the forefront of this changing tide.
As the national consumption shifts from rice to other crops, I believe that technology on the field will play an integral role in filling the gap. There will be a bigger focus on a wide range of implements to accommodate the changing palates of this country. To help farmers adjust to this change, we’re getting data from tractors that they can access. Imagine a database of intel that optimizes all your efforts on the field. While it’s up to the individual to harness it, we’re on a mission to share and educate our community on how to utilize big data for their business.
Q: Then what will farming look like in the future?
In the future, farmers’ businesses will be different from that of their parents. It will incorporate best-in-class technology. It will utilize data-based solutions. It will be even more autonomous. For example, your self-driving tractor will be able to pinpoint where the crop is with a smart nozzle that knows exactly where the fertilizer goes and precisely how much of it needs to be deposited for optimal growth by harvest date.
We do have early adopters among the older generation who are ready to embrace technology, but at the end of the day, education is the key to change. This is where the TTI (TYM Technology Institute) comes in. Our service people are already out on the field, demonstrating new products to farmers. This is a change that will take time, and that’s okay. Some changes just can’t be rushed.
Q: What can customers expect with the new investment in the production facilities in North America?
Our overseas business is growing, and the US has the biggest market share at the moment. Our expanded production facilities in Georgia will feature an expanded parts center and create 150 new jobs in the region. Expanding our support services will require a lot of training, and North America will have its own TYM Technology Institute to train engineers and dealers. The curriculum and training program will level our engineers into different ranks based on training, experience, and expertise.
Q: Describe the future of TYM in three words.
Service. Satisfaction. Sustainability.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.