Education: Business degree, Holland; Harbor Junior College, San Pedro, Calif; Duke University advanced management program; six Harvard University agribusiness management seminars
First job: Morning and afternoon newspaper routes
Career moves: President and COO, Gold Kist, 1995; president and CEO, Gold Kist, July 2001. Prior to joining Gold Kist in 1985, he was a management consultant for 12 years, owned a laying hen and livestock farm and worked in sales for a dairy products company.
Boards: Executive committee, National Chicken Council; director, Farmers and Merchants Bank, Piedmont, Ala.; member, advisory board, Rabobank, Utrecht, Holland, and Bunge North America, St. Louis; former director, Farm Credit Leasing, Minneapolis; trustee, Boys and Girls Club; board member, Georgia Council of Economic Education and the Georgia "Gateway to the Americas." Junior Achievement program, Nancy Creek Elementary School
Resides: North Atlanta
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
That you can't do things on your own, that you have to surround yourself with capable people, almost people that are better than you are. You let those people function. Create an environment where they can come to work every day and do the best job they can. Let those people take risk; let those people fail at times, but with direction and accountability do their jobs. To create that environment to do that, that's what I've learned. You can't manage through people. You have to manage with people.
What is the biggest business challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?
I don't know if there is such a thing as the greatest business challenge. If you look at anybody in business, we have challenges that pop up every day. I think the key thing is how you deal with those challenges.
To me, the answer is usually pretty simple. You ask, 'What's the right thing to do?' not necessarily what's the most short-term economic thing to do. So, when we get to those challenges, I couldn't pinpoint one to say, 'This was the greatest business challenge I've ever had' because I look at each one the same. If we face this challenge, or if we deal with this challenge, it makes us a better company, better managers.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Everybody gives you the standard answer like Jack Welch or something like that. I really have never looked at it from that standpoint of saying, who do I admire the most and why. ... I admire the people that I work with on a daily basis, the people that come to work and try to do the best they can.
I feel just lucky that I'm in a position that I have an opportunity to be part of that. Maybe it sounds kind of trite, maybe it sounds kind of hokey, but that's how I look at it. I really don't have anybody that I really truly look up to and say I want to be like that person.