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Q. What advice do you have for someone who might like to do what you do someday?
A. Take the chance to go out and learn different things whenever you can. I have been able to take on many different roles at Alltech. When somebody is asking you to step into a role, or there's an opportunity ahead, say yes to it. When you are presented with two good options in life, think about the one that's going to help you grow the most and push you out of your comfort zone. One of the things I like the most about young people today is that they are far more focused on what they can learn rather then position or title. Also, expand your horizons. Travel is undoubtedly the greatest educator, especially in a world that seems to be growing apart in some aspects. I think understanding other people and building your ability to have empathy is extraordinarily important.
Q. How do you think COVID-19 will impact the future of the U.S. pork industry?
A. I've heard people say, “We're an essential industry, therefore we're allowed to continue to operate.” That's true. But that's easy to confuse with “We're able to continue to operate in the same way we always have.” That's not true. COVID-19 required us all to change immediately. Essential industry does not mean essentially working the same way as you've always worked. It means you have to change everything and protect your people to keep operating. COVID-19 has reminded us of the importance of the entire food chain, from the producer all the way to the consumer. It shows us that we really are one chain, a chain that's working on highly volatile margins.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. The interaction with people. We have an extraordinary industry. I think it has something to do with working with agriculture – with the land, with animals. I think it changes something about who we are. That’s what really brings enjoyment to me – when we can work with people and help address their challenges, or work with colleagues and see how they're continuing to develop.
Q. How would you characterize your leadership style?
A. One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” This captures what I hope characterizes Alltech and its leadership. What was most important to my father was that Alltech and its people would make a difference in our customers’ lives and in the communities in which our people live and work around the world. We want our people to be empowered to make a difference, and we want to look back on the impact and see that it was something we did together, focused on collaboration, not credit.
Q. What will the business look like 20 years from now?
A. Alltech will continue to focus on the fundamentals. Our science is the core of the core of the business. The business has always been focused on scientific exploration. Our team is so focused on curiosity and thinking about things in different ways that if we have an idea from outside, we can adapt it and make it part of our system. I also see us getting involved in some new areas, such as human life science, which could expand our ability to improve quality of life and create new avenues of growth. I also think there are many ag technologies that Alltech could partner with in the future. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to own 100% of those businesses, but we're offering a way to be able to connect different parts of the industry and connect technologists and producers.
PORK Perspectives is a recurring column that provides business and leadership strategy tips from some of the pork industry’s finest. Opinions expressed in this column are the opinions of Mark Lyons and do not represent the opinions of Farm Journal's PORK. Watch for future columns featuring advice and insights from more of the pork industry's leaders.
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