Midwest Agri-Commodities

A tough sell: Cattle feed in San Francisco

CLIENT:
Midwest Agri-Commodities is a joint venture of four U.S. sugar companies:  American Crystal Sugar Company of Moorhead, Minnesota; Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative of Renville, Minnesota; Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, North Dakota; and Michigan Sugar Company of Bay City, Michigan.  Marketing the beet pulp, molasses and other byproducts of sugar production, this federated cooperative is a leading marketer of sugar co-products worldwide. They represent over 5,000 growers.

While there are many commercial uses for sugar byproducts, the majority is sold for animal feed, primarily to the dairy industry.  There it competes with a multitude of other agricultural byproducts and has to fit specific feeding regimens.

THE CHALLENGE:
To replace the retiring incumbent VP of North American Operations, the company sought a strong service-focused leader with an understanding of markets for agricultural byproducts, especially the dairy industry and bovine nutrition.  The position is heavily sales and marketing oriented, and for logistical and strategic reasons it was important to have the new VP locate at the San Rafael headquarters in the San Francisco area. 

This search posed many challenges but chief among them was finding a top-rank sales and marketing executive with rich experience in planning, overseeing, and directly participating in marketing and sales of agricultural byproducts to the dairy industry.  Also desired were knowledge of bovine nutritional needs and knowledge of and experience with feedlots and other buyers across the country’s dairy producing regions. 

The biggest challenge, however, was that people who make a career in dairy and its support industries typically don’t grow up or live in the San Francisco area or any other large urban region and typically don’t want to move there.  Working with many fine food and agribusiness firms, Morrison is often faced with recruiting urban professionals to rural areas; this effort would be the mirror image. 

"Filling a senior VP position at a Bay Area company in the agriculture industry proved to be quite a challenge. Morrison & Co. tackled this challenge by combining the traditional approach of using their large network of industry contacts together with imaginative alternate approaches to find us just the right candidate to fill our Vice President of North American Operations position.  It's been a great fit."  -

Jim Eichenberger, President, Midwest Agri-Commodities

MORRISON & COMPANY APPROACH:
Finding candidates with a demonstrated record of achievement in the sales and marketing of agricultural byproducts was a challenge, but we’ve met similar challenges successfully.  Many potential candidates were interested – until they learned of the urban location.  Strategizing with Midwest Agri’s executive team, Morrison helped develop revised strategies to focus first on potential candidates already located in the San Francisco area first, but with acceptable related experience.  We sought both active candidates and “passive” candidates (who were not actively looking and would not be likely to respond to traditional recruiting outreach).  We also helped develop tactics to attract and motivate candidates meeting the revised profile.  

THE RESULTS:
The new approach yielded a number of candidates and ultimately a great hire right in their own backyard.  The successful candidate had a long history working with vegetable oils and oilseeds, the byproducts of which are typically sold into dairy feed markets.  He had worked with one of the largest commodity traders in the U.S. as well as a large overseas trader, serving in positions including sales and marketing, operations of oilseed mills, and public policy.  And yes, sales of agricultural byproducts to the dairy and other industries.  They say real estate is about location, location, location; the same can be true of recruiting.