It doesn’t matter whether he’s talking about football, family, or financial strategy, Wyatt Haines repeatedly stresses the same concept – teamwork.
That principle was instilled while growing up as the oldest of seven kids on a South Dakota farm and carried over through a college football career at the University of South Dakota (where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Business Administration). It’s a concept that Haines has focused on throughout his career, which has included the last two years as POET’s Vice President of Financing Strategy.
That team-first attitude is apparent in Haines the first time you meet him, says POET CFO Dan Loveland.
“From that first meeting, Wyatt was very cognizant of the importance of the team concept,” says Loveland. “And he’s still always careful to make sure the whole team gets recognized.”
Loveland’s not exaggerating. In one of Wyatt’s answers to a question for this interview, he used the words “team” and “teamwork” six times in two sentences. And the question wasn’t even about his days playing football for USD or his stint with the Sioux Falls Storm of the Indoor Football League. It was about his proudest personal accomplishments at POET.
“It didn’t take long for Wyatt to get his bearings, and it didn’t take long before we asked him to step in to a role with more responsibility where he would be advising our biorefinery boards,” Loveland says. “We really believe it takes a team effort to get things done right, and Wyatt’s leadership style exemplifies that.”
What drew you to POET?
WYATT: I’m a farm kid who grew up a half hour from POET’s Mitchell (SD) plant, and my wife’s family farm is two miles from there. The POET brand already had meaning to us. We were living in Omaha with our two young boys and we wanted to give them a childhood with their grandparents and cousins in South Dakota. So we reached out to POET. The chance to join the industry’s leader and get back to family was too much to pass up.
What does the VP of Financing Strategy do?
WYATT: When you figure it out, let me know! The role helps take a front and center approach to the banking, business and customer relationships across the entire enterprise. We are 100 percent focused on adding shareholder value, improving the plants’ competitive positioning, reducing risk and helping the organization realize its financial goals. One specific thing I’m proud of is the quarterly reports we prepare and present to the boards. These reports have a lot of moving parts, a lot of forecasting. We cover everything in the plant, from tax obligations to past performance, to credit facilities and cap structures. I think the boards would say it’s one of the most important pieces of information they get when it comes to making sound financial decisions.
Walk me through your typical day.
WYATT: We have three boys – a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and 8-month-old – so I haven’t slept in about five years. Normal day is wake up around 5:30, catch up on the news, and in the office around 6:30 or 7 a.m. At that point the race is on. Generally I eat at the desk or have a quick lunch close to the office. The day generally wraps up around 6:30 or 7 p.m. Get home and eat with my family. Then it’s playing basketball, football, games or out on the farm with the boys until 9 p.m. and then the house goes dark. I read the news and try to be asleep by 10. Truth be told, the normal day is about as volatile as ethanol margins.
You had quite the football career, from the University of South Dakota to the Indoor Football League to tryouts with NFL teams. Favorite football memory?
WYATT: I have lots of great game memories, but the most valued memories are definitely the team sacrifices, 5 a.m. practices, game day speeches, watching teammates become more than they thought they could be and riding that confidence to great levels. Thinking about those achievements and challenges helps me when I’m tasked with difficult challenges at work.
Who would win a game of one-on-one basketball, you or your wife?
WYATT: Did somebody tell you this story? We played one-on-one once a few years back. My wife Randi is 6’2”. She was a national player of the year, All-American at Dakota Wesleyan and played in Europe. She’s a heck of a woman. We were playing to 11. I’m 6’4” and like to think I was once a decent athlete. The next thing I know I’m losing 9 to 4. There was no way I was going to lose. I got pretty physical and ended up winning the game by one point. It’s a lose-lose for me. I don’t want to see her get mad, and I don’t want to get beat. We haven’t played since.
And you probably shouldn’t. Everyone I’ve asked described you as “intense” and “focused.”
WYATT: We care deeply about what we do here. I do. My team does. It’s about our company and our industry. It’s about caring and being committed to the relationship with our customers.
Everyone also guessed that you’re probably someone who edges their lawn.
WYATT: OK, I’m probably guilty of that. I love mowing the lawn, fixing fences, working on my home, working on the farm, working with cattle and pigs. I love spending time with my boys and my wife. There’s something about working with your hands and tools, working with nature, working alongside people to build something.
Do you ever step back and look at the big picture of working at POET?
WYATT: Hearing these POET team members talk, listening to their aspirations, seeing their vision of the future … maybe you don’t understand it until you live it. Now that I’ve lived it I know we can change the world for the better. We can see the bigger picture, and – this is the cool thing about POET – we have the capability to make that bigger picture become a reality. And, you know what? We have the team here to do it.