Inspired by the needs of its partners, Cargill concentrates on becoming the “partner of choice” for a diverse customer base.
On February 10, 1999, just one day after they met to authorize a new strategy for Cargill, the company’s five managing directors—Ernie Micek, Warren Staley, Guillaume Bastiaens, Robert Lumpkins and David Raisbeck—delivered a formal announcement to Cargill employees: the years ahead would be different.
Cargill had become so large and complex it was becoming a challenge to lead. The culture of the company needed to change, and business divisions needed to focus outward on their customers. Together, the five directors outlined a new era of major business growth, defined by stronger emphasis on customers, innovation and high performance.
The plan was introduced as Cargill’s Strategic Intent, a framework that refreshed the company’s business strategy and deepened customer relationships. With operations in dozens of markets and industries around the world, Cargill would concentrate on diversity and expertise during the next decade, helping a wider array of customers achieve greater success.
“When customers think of Cargill, we want them to think of the company that provides solutions to enable them to succeed in their businesses.”— Ernie Micek, CEO of Cargill
In 2007, Cargill further refined its outline to produce Strategic Intent 2015, eventually known simply as SI. The revision detailed specific goals the company would aim to achieve as it approached its 150th anniversary. Developed as “a guide for making choices,” SI was updated to encourage collaboration within Cargill, breaking down silos and encouraging cooperation among business divisions to help customers achieve their goals.
The development of SI helped Cargill become the “partner of choice” for a long roster of customers. The title meant that Cargill worked closely with customers to deliver tailored, benefit-driven solutions that no other company could offer. An early example of the dynamic was the company’s innovative work with General Mills Inc. Though Cargill had long been a supplier of ingredients for General Mills’ portfolio, SI inspired Cargill to view the relationship as a key opportunity for collaboration. The companies teamed together to develop several new products, including a unique whole-grain corn product, which supported General Mills’ commitment to offering whole grains across their popular lineup of cereals.
The relationship continues as an example of the unique role Cargill assumes for its customers. “We realized we could enjoy more success together than on our own,” explains Peter Erickson, executive vice president of innovation, technology and quality for General Mills.
Today, Cargill’s efforts to become the partner of choice for more customers continue. How does the company know it has succeeded? When a customer can’t imagine working with anyone else.