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Tale of two unlikely partners

Brooks Brown and Bill Zechmann don’t appear at first glance to be a good match. Brooks hails from Charleston, South Carolina and spent his early career in the commodities markets, including as stint trading in the Chicago Board of Trade. Bill spent most of his life in small town Nebraska, growing up a farmer’s son. His first entrepreneurial venture? Selling pregnant pigs.

But the two men came together as a perfect match.

As a farmer, Bill used futures to hedge against price fluctuations in commodities. And then decided he wanted to help other farmers hedge: “I got my feet wet being a farmer and hedging some of these products and learned the mechanics of how it worked.  Then I got the challenge bug.  That challenge to beat the markets was something very powerful in me.” Bill started helping clients who wanted to invest and speculate using commodities futures. These clients wanted to beat the markets, too. “I was motivated to help the famers and I loved the speculation side of it too.”  built the company to several brokers serving clients around the U.S.

Brooks eventually left the Chicago trading pits and started to manage investment funds comprised of commodities futures. But in the last few years, Brooks began to think about moving from managing funds to helping individuals invest in commodities futures. The best way to move into the commodities futures brokerage business? Acquire a business. 

And that company was Bill Zechmann’s Midwest Futures. Brooks acquired Midwest Futures in 2018 and incorporated the company into his Husk Trading and Investments.

What specifically brought these two men together?

Bill fully enjoyed his business, loved working with his clients helping them hedge against price fluctuations in wheat, corn, soy, cattle – all commodities – or speculate and occasionally beat the market. But after years of running the day-to-day business, he wanted to slow down. Bill loved the thrill, not the details.  So he decided to sell, but wanted to find a buyer with the right reason for purchasing his firm.  “I looked at a lot of different buyers and I probably ended up selling it to the person more than I ended up with the price I wanted.  Some people didn’t fit right for my customers and my current brokers.” After speaking with over 10 perspective purchasers, Brooks Brown rose to the top due to his perspective on the industry as well as his personal background in managing funds.  Bill could have sold to another broker, but he liked the fact that Brooks had a background managing funds. Brooks could bring his skills to a brokerage, and vice versa. But the lynchpin of the decision was that the two men’s personalities meshed. Despite their different backgrounds, they felt they could trust each other and work well together to help Husk Trading and Investments excel and grow.     

Bill agreed to remain on staff to guarantee stability and to foster Brooks’ growth in the brokerage side of the business.  Brooks said, “I needed to make sure that Bill would help with the transition and that we could strategically work together.”  Bill has been able step away from the minutia of running a business and now focuses on passing along his knowledge to a new generation of brokers while still managing some key clients. 

Over the past year, Brooks and Bill have persevered together through the commodities futures market ups and downs.  Bill noted, “We’ve been through some really tough markets since I’ve sold.  Husk got to go through the fire and then also saw us come out of the fire very well.  We weathered that storm which enabled me to pass my experience along.”  Despite the challenges, Brooks has been eager to evolve and adapt, speaking with Bill frequently about strategies in a difficult market and how to address clients’ concerns when the market moves against their positions.

Neither Bill nor Brooks shy away from the variability of the markets.  Bill Zechmann’s perspective is that “There’s always risk.  You never know what is going to come out of the woodwork.  The market tends to get it right because the market is the sum value of everybody’s knowledge.”  Brooks echoed the point and emphasized, “Everybody can guess, and they can have their opinions, but my biggest belief is that the markets are right in the end.” 

Brooks Brown and Bill Zechmann may never have crossed paths if they hadn’t been introduced when Bill wanted to sell his company. Through the company sales process, they learned they could work together. And now they enjoy addressing the challenges of a highly volatile business.

Both Brooks and Bill remain committed to an exciting future for Husk Trading and Investments.  With his sights set on the best long-term outcomes for farmers and speculators alike, Brown’s advice to those looking to sell their commodities brokerage firm? “Sell it to me.”

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