When COVID-19 began to disrupt the daily lives of millions of people, Land O’Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford ’95 knew the company would have to rapidly alter its normal way of doing business.
The first action Ford took was to look at the company’s liquidity to ensure stability for its business partners as well as its employees.
“The team is the business,” she said. “The culture of the company is made up of people.”
Ford, who spoke with Doug Baker, the Chairman and CEO of Ecolab, about the importance of agility, resilience, and cooperation during pandemic, said she met with groups of employees early in the crisis to listen to their concerns and offer reassurance.
“I told them they would never hear me say, ‘You’re lucky because you have job,’ she said. “That’s just wrong. I told them, ‘All I need from you are your best efforts and to give yourself a moment of grace because this is very tiring’.”
Similarly, Baker made it a priority to “calm the team” at Ecolab and to ease the fears of employees and their families through paycheck protection measures.
“Taking care of our team was a strategic as well as a moral imperative,” Baker said. “There are some zillion benefits to this, but one important part is that it enables the management level to think more clearly.”
Moderated by Angela Quintero, director of the W. Edwards Deming Center, Ford and Baker also discussed the ongoing experience of their companies during the pandemic, noting the changes to customer relations and supply chains as well as the benefits and disadvantages of working from home.