Experiential / Reality-based Learning / October 3, 2011

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 theCEO@Smith 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 high performance.

“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 them.”

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 and manufacturing.

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

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