February 28, 2011
When young Paul Beard graduated from Martinsburg High School back in 1973, he couldn’t have imagined he would one day be in 90 degree Fahrenheit weather in February, dealing with sugar supply disruption caused by floods and cyclones that could affect a favorite Australian desert, Aeroplane Jelly.
Beard, a 1976 College of Business and Economics finance graduate, in January was appointed president of McCormick and Company Inc. Asia Pacific Zone, in Melbourne, Australia.
Beard joined McCormick more than 28 years ago and spent most of his early career in accounting and finance roles in McCormick's U.S. retail business. He became vice president, finance, for McCormick's U.S. industrial business in 1996, was promoted to president of McCormick Canada in 1997 and served in several other executive posts before taking the job in Australia.
Beard is big on the products under his charge. “Friends and acquaintances can relate to our products,” he said. “When I tell people I work for McCormick, they always want to tell me what products they like best. There’s a personal satisfaction in this business – people have an affinity for our products, and that’s easy to get excited about.”
In Australia, a favorite is Aeroplane Jelly, which, in the United States would be called Jello.
Adolphus Herbert Frederick Norman Appleroth, called Bert, was a tram conductor who created jelly crystals using gelatin and sugar in his bathtub. He sold them door-to-door, using his tram route to transport him through Sydney, and in 1926 he formed a company called Traders Ltd.
Planes were new and sensational at the time, and Appleroth named the brand Aeroplane Jelly. The company was one of Australia’s largest family-owned brands before being acquired by McCormick in 1994 and still is one of Australia's oldest and best recognized brands. The product’s jingle is very nearly a folksong in Australia, as in this Youtube video from 1957, decades before McCormick acquired the brand.
Quite a responsibility, being in charge of a national icon, and fortunately Beard is in Melbourne, Victoria, and not Queensland, which is at the other end of the continent’s eastern coast. He missed January’s devastating floods and category-five cyclone Yasi, which hit in early February before the area had recovered from the floods. Yet Beard is dealing with the consequences: sugar industry losses starting at $500 million, according to a growers’ group, and production from India that may be less than predicted after heavy rains, resulting in prices that have more than doubled since the end of June. Getting sugar for Aeroplane Jelly and other products, plus dealing with how to get McCormick products into the affected area was presenting a challenge.
But he has backup and plenty of help. Into any conversation about his profession and company, Beard quickly introduces Multiple Management Board (MMB) and The Power of People, both terms ensconced in the McCormick lexicon by Charles P. “C.P.” McCormick – founder Willoughby McCormick’s nephew, who took control of the company in 1932 when his uncle died suddenly.
“Baltimore, Md., is the center of the universe for McCormick,” Beard said, “but the company’s culture and principles are the same in every facility around the world.”
In the early years, the company sought employees who would take a vested interest in the business and contribute their skills to its growth. The idea was that in return, those employees would share in the success of the business.
Beard said that idea thrives today, driven by participation and the value of each employee. Employees are asked for input and take part in the decision-making.
The Multiple Management Board system was created in 1932 to formalize this philosophy. Thousands of employees over the years have experienced the idea, which fosters open communication among employees of all levels. In 1932, when C.P. McCormick developed the philosophy, his concept was revolutionary and later became the basis for the open door style of leadership that many companies favor today."McCormick's multiple management philosophy has continued to be contemporized and is making just as much of an impact for the employee and company as it was over 75 years ago,” Beard said. “Within the first week of arriving here in Australia, I met with the local MMB to share my experiences and ask for their help in driving the Australian business forward."
That philosophy is fine with Beard. “I was fortunate early on in my career to be part of a company where the culture and principles are a good fit for me,” he said. “I think this is extremely important to find an organization that is a good personal fit.”
McCormick and Company was established in 1889 and today has more than 8,000 employees, more than 40 manufacturing facilities in 21 countries, and some 10,000 products worldwide.
The company began its Australian operations in 1966. Initially, retail herb and spice products were imported from the United States and then some began to be manufactured locally. In 1978 the company established a manufacturing facility and head office in Melbourne. Now more than 95 percent of its products in Australia are manufactured locally. And doing very well: Fiscal year 2010 earnings per share were $2.75, and “solid earnings growth” is expected in fiscal year 2011, according to one analyst.
Now the very definition of business success, Beard, who earned an MBA at Loyola University, fondly remembers his undergraduate days at WVU.
He recalls living in Sunnyside, an area close to the downtown campus and to the old football stadium. “You couldn’t get much better than that,” he recalled, wistfully, “playing Pitt and celebrating afterward.”
His wife, Gail, is also a WVU graduate, 1978, School of Social Work. Together they enjoy tennis, having recently attended the Australian Open, Wimbledon, Les internationaux de France de Roland-Garros and the U.S. Open.
He advises students today to make the most of opportunities. “Sometimes you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone, but grab opportunities when they come along,” he said.