McCormick CEO spices up the CEO@Smith Speaker Series
Alan Wilson is in the business of flavor.
As president, CEO and chairman of McCormick Co. he represents a company whose
goal is to spice up the foods people consume in their everyday lives. After all,
McCormick is “bringing passion to flavor.”
On October 18, 2011, Wilson spoke to a crowd of students, faculty, staff and
McCormick employees at the Robert H. Smith School of Business as part of the
Speaker Series. He was introduced to the packed Frank Auditorium in Van Munching
Hall by Smith School Dean “Anand” Anandalingam and long-time friend Francis Contino
’68, the former CFO and executive vice president of McCormick Co. and a member of
the Smith Advisory Board.
Wilson didn’t waste any time, jumping right into the history of the company that
he’s worked at for 20 years.
“We are really part of a business that has a tremendous amount of history and
romance,” Wilson explained to the crowd. “When you think about the wars that have
been fought over the spice routes and the fact that America was really discovered
trying to find a short cut to the spice routes, there’s just so much history and
romance. It’s a very cool business to be a part of.”
McCormick was founded in Baltimore in 1889 by Willoughby McCormick. Currently,
the company has 10,000 employees worldwide, including a few members of the McCormick
family, and does $3.5 billion in sales. They sell products in more than 100 countries;
have operations in more than 25 countries; and source from more than 40 countries.
“When you came to the university and got your little bottle of Old Bay along
with your crab mallet – that’s McCormick,” Wilson said, expanding on his description
of the company.
He then talked about the five pillars that McCormick stands by: a passion for
flavor; the power of people; a taste you trust; inspiring healthy choices; and delivering
“I believe a company really has to define what it stands for,” Wilson said before
explaining each pillar. He spent most of his time explaining the first pillar, a
passion for flavor.
Everyone wants to part of something that’s bigger than themselves, he said, and
whether you are paying a bill, processing an invoice, or working a seasoning line,
all McCormick employees are helping deliver a great flavor to the consumers.
“If you think about how relationships get developed – it’s usually over a meal.
When you visit another culture, the first thing they want to introduce you to is
their food. It’s unique and regional,” Wilson continued. “Nobody knows what Old
Bay is unless you live in or are from Baltimore. So a passion for flavor is fundamentally
it is about that. It’s a regional flavor and it is part of the heritage of Maryland.”
He related the pillar to careers in general, telling those present that you have
to have a passion for whatever you do because there are so many ways to spend your
time and so many careers to choose from. He suggested that if you are not passionate
about your job and if you are not looking for ways to expand and learn from your
job, then maybe you are doing the wrong thing.
Be passionate and excited by what you do, because at the end of the day it will
reflect in your performance: “You are going to open up your career by your performance,”
he explained to the students. “The best thing you can do for your career is to get
results. You don’t get recognized every day because you do your job. You get recognized
for being extraordinary.”
Toward the end of his talk, Wilson stressed the importance of building strong
relationships. He said that part of McCormick’s success comes from the relationships
they have with their employees, investors, board members, etc.
“It takes time and effort to build any type of relationship,” he said. “The first
thing I tell people who come to work in McCormick is to spend the time developing
relationships. We know you are smart – that’s why we hired you. But you won’t be
an effective employee if no one accepts you. You spend 80 percent of your waking
time with your coworkers, so get to know them and build strong relationships with
About Alan Wilson
Alan Wilson has served as chairman, president, and CEO of McCormick and Co, since
2008. He joined McCormick in 1993, and has served a variety of roles within the
company, gaining an understanding of the different facets of McCormick operations
from supply chain to leadership of various business units.
During his tenure at McCormick, Wilson has held several executive management
roles including President of Tube Products; President of McCormick, Canada; President
of U.S. Consumer Foods; President of North America; and President and COO of McCormick.
Prior to joining the McCormick team, Wilson worked for nine years at Procter & Gamble,
where he held progressively responsible positions in product supply, procurement
Mr. Wilson earned a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University
of Tennessee in 1980. He attended school on an R.O.T.C. scholarship and following
college, served as a U.S. Army Captain, with tours in the United States, United
Kingdom and Germany.
Jessica Smith, Writer and Editor, Office of Marketing Communications