But that was just the very beginning for the family manufacturing business. Whalen recalls many other products that would be added into production over the coming years to help grow the company even more.“This product opened up the doors for other inventions, or people brought him ideas. Scrapers were a big part of that for a number of years,” Whalen says. “But then he expanded into grain elevators and then the coulter devices, he started back in the 1930s and ‘40s. That’s basically what our claim to fame was, the coulter business.”The family was presented with several obstacles in the first few decades including a factory burning down, financial troubles, Whalen’s grandfather getting cancer in the 1970s and eventually his own mother passing away in 1980.It was at this time that Whalen and his brother, Bernie, bought out the other shareholders to take charge of the company their grandparents had started 50 years prior. But even still, some of the hardest obstacles were still to come.“Talk about bad timing; that’s about the time the big 1980s downturn hit and that was an ugly affair,” Whalen says. “I still don’t know how we survived it but we did.”Whalen says that in the 1980s, he and his brother had “many, many, many sleepless nights,” simply because of how young and new they were coupled with how much was thrown at them right away.But making tough decisions is part of the job, says Whalen. He says that if it weren’t for all those hard times they faced, the company wouldn’t have been as successful as it ended up being decades later.“When things are blowing and going, anybody can make it. When things are not going like that, that’s when talent comes into play,” Whalen says.He recalls more recent financial struggles in the “20-teens” that swept over the industry and how his prior experience helped him navigate through it.“We could tell that the way the market was … this recent downturn was really going to be a lot more dire than what we thought it was going to be when it first started,” Whalen says. “I brought all the managers in and we had a heart to heart, and I said, ‘This is what we had to do back in the 1980s. Hopefully this will never get that bad, but you need to be prepared to do it if we have to.’ And everybody understood.”Despite the struggles, Yetter was still able to continue pushing the path forward as innovators in the manufacturing industry. In 2012 they introduced the Stalk Devastator, a tool that would help save tires and breakdown stalks and in 2015 they added 175,000 sq. ft. to their Macomb, Ill. facility.And although Pat Whalen would pass in 2020, the video interview foretold the confidence he had in his management team and how safe and secure he felt about the future of the company and those whose hands it lies in. And there is no doubt that his leadership lives on through those he mentored in his many years with Yetter.“The one thing that they hadn’t gone through was a downturn,” Whalen says. “Now they’ve been through that and they know what they have to do, so I feel very comfortable that they could, in a heartbeat, take over.”In 2022, Whalen’s brother, Bernie, acquired the company, which remains led by the staff his brother put in place.
Visit www.farm-equipment.com/innovators-docuseries to view this and the other episodes in the series.
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