Robert W. Lane earned his MBA in 1974 and joined the First National Bank of Chicago. In 1982, he left a comfortable career in banking to join Deere & Company, the world's largest manufacturer of farm and forestry machinery and a leading producer of construction, lawn, and turf care equipment. Over the next 25 years, he worked his way up, from managing the Construction Equipment Division to taking charge of operations all over the world, including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union.
In February 2000 Lane was named CEO; he joined the board of directors the following May. Lane switched Deere's focus from increasing revenue to slashing costs and aligning production with demand. His approach has met with success: for 28 consecutive quarters, Deere's inventories and receivables-to-sales ratio has gone down. Under Lane's direction, a high-performance team of 6,000 managers were poised to sustain Deere's growth in innovative products and global market share well into the 21st century.