Beck Ag founder to provide keynote address for Penn State Startup Week

April 06, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — John Finegan, founder of Beck Ag, a marketing and communications company focused on creating connections within the agricultural industries, will be the keynote speaker for the College of Agricultural Sciences during Penn State Startup Week, April 17-21.

His presentation, "Building a Company and Culture of Integrity," will describe Finegan's vision for founding Beck Ag in 1997 and some of the guiding principles he used to create a model to help customers improve their businesses by engaging in experience-sharing dialogue that changes behaviors.

Beck Ag assists businesses and other organizations to accelerate behavior change and technology adoption. The company's values include a positive atmosphere, work-life balance, prioritizing and enabling individual responsibility, and a passionate focus on customer success and continual self-betterment. The company encourages employees to be great at what they do and find meaning in their work as they strive to help customers succeed and make contributions to better their communities.

"I am proud that we have been successful in a much more family-friendly way than many corporate settings," said Finegan. "Our philosophy is that employees should use their best judgement to make balanced decisions that are good for them, their families, and of course, that benefit our clients. In my opinion, integrity and professionalism are the keys to long-lasting business operations and a healthy workforce. We are dedicated to giving our customers a high rate of return and building strong, lasting relationships."

At Beck Ag, Finegan pioneered and refined an educational engagement model that employs experience-sharing dialogue and advocacy to drive technology understanding and adoption. Beck Ag has proven to be innovative and highly successful — the company has been on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company list five times and employs some of best and brightest professionals in the industry to develop and execute client initiatives. 

Beck Ag also was an early adopter of a virtual corporate model that allows most of its 35 employees and 75 associates to work from home offices and remain close to the agricultural marketplace they are engaging. According to Finegan, “Offering our people meaningful work without requiring them to relocate or commute to a corporate setting has been our greatest competitive advantage to recruit and retain the best in the industry, and we have very low turnover as a result.”

John Finegan has 35 years of sales, marketing, education, communications and management experience. He graduated with a bachelor of science in horticulture from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and served for two years in the U.S. Peace Corps as an agriculture educator and adviser. 

Prior to founding Beck Ag in 1997, he spent 15 years in the agricultural products division of Chevron Chemical Co., in leadership positions ranging from sales, marketing and product development to regulatory affairs. He also completed Northwestern University's 12-month Kellogg Management Institute.

He has served on the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Board and was the recipient of the "Ag Communicator of the Year" award in 2000. In 2005, he received the Dilworth Award for Innovation. In 2009, he was recognized as the Greater Sacramento Region’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year and in 2011 the Sacramento Metro Chamber named him as its Civic Entrepreneur of the Year. 

Finegan has served as president of the Entrepreneurs Organization – Sacramento Chapter and his passion for giving back has fueled the energy to serve on board and leadership roles for the following organizations: Comstock’s Editorial Advisory Board, Impact Venture Capital, Capital Public Radio, Social Venture Partners of Sacramento (founding partner), Positive Coaching Alliance, St. Hope Public Schools, San Juan Education Foundation (founder), YMCA of Superior California, City Year, Teach for America, College Track, RAFT and STAND UP. He also has more than 12 years of youth sports coaching experience.

"We are very excited to have John here with us for Penn State Startup Week," said Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and entrepreneurship coordinator for the College of Agricultural Sciences. "John is a strong supporter of our college’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, and a champion for world-class undergraduate education. He really embodies the opportunity of entrepreneurship in agriculture and here at Penn State. I know our students, faculty and staff will benefit from his visit and the insights he can provide."

Penn State Startup Week brings some of the leading minds in entrepreneurship and innovation to the University Park campus. From April 17-21, this year’s event will feature entrepreneurial workshops; networking events; student pitch competitions; and talks from startup founders, including many Penn State alumni.

Additional Startup Week events for the College of Agricultural Sciences fall under the "Stewarding Our Planet's Resources" pillar and include a networking event, student sustainability challenge, and graduate research commercialization workshop.

"Building a Company and Culture of Integrity" will take place at 12:05 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in Room 101 of the Agricultural Sciences and Industries building at University Park. The talk and following question-and-answer session is open to students, faculty and staff from across the University. Additionally, anyone who is interested in the topic of agricultural entrepreneurship, but not affiliated with the University, is welcome to attend.

  • John Finegan

    John Finegan, founder of Beck Ag, will come to University Park as a keynote speaker for the College of Agricultural Sciences during Penn State's Startup Week on April 20th.

    IMAGE: John Finegan
  • John Finegan of Beck Ag

    John Finegan founded and grew Beck Ag using principles of integrity, communication and work-life balance.

    IMAGE: John Finegan
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Last Updated April 10, 2017