Back in February, our very own Julie Poulos attended an Executive Breakfast Club where she viewed a presentation by Erik Fyrwald, President of Ecolab. After the event, Julie shared some of her takeaways in our mashup video, Ecolab’s CEO Shares the Keys to Leadership.
So impressed with the takeaways Julie provided, we knew Erik had a great wealth of knowledge to share. We got in touch with Mr. Fyrwald and asked him to also expand on his secrets to success.
1. You brought up that the keys to success for an organization are people, strategy and execution. Can you tell us more about those?
If you get the right people in the right jobs, they will be able to develop a great strategy and drive execution. The right strategy is useless without great execution, and a great execution of the wrong strategy will take you off the right road.
2. How do you translate your knowledge of operations to an over-arching business strategy, and how is that transition accomplished?
My knowledge of operations gives me a sense for what a good strategy is. But a good strategy must be developed by a group of people who, together, have a deep understanding of the business and the business market. This group also needs to challenge themselves on how to think differently about new ways to create a competitive advantage.
3. What do you feel was one of your bigger mistakes, and what did you take away from that?
One of my bigger mistakes was putting the wrong person into a key role. I believe I was in a hurry to fill the position, so I compromised, and this is a very bad thing to do for key roles.
4. You mentioned that humility and realizing the greatness of your team is key to being a successful leader. How do you continually encourage your team, and how do you recruit great people to be on it?
We have a clear vision of how we want to make a difference in the world, and we create great growth opportunities for our people by doing so.
5. Nalco was one of the companies involved in preventing the spread of oil during the BP disaster. It also received plenty of public backlash. You mentioned that the facts were not always represented in the media coverage. What did you learn from that crisis?
The biggest thing is to get out and clearly tell the truth. Use facts and credible third-party support to back you up.
6. What can you share with us on how the direction of businesses and government are in terms of becoming more environmentally responsible?
Businesses all around the world are becoming more environmentally responsible, which is helping us grow. Governments are doing more, just at different paces. The Chinese Government is starting to do a lot, which is a huge help since their pollution problems have been so big.
7. In terms of marketing, can you share with us how B2B is responding to the fast pace of digital marketing? What are some tactics Ecolab has or will be embracing?
B2B is a bit behind B2C, but it is coming along fast. For example, we are seeing many customers come to our website and talking to us because they find us when they do searches around water technology and support for what they want.
J. Erik Fyrwald is president of Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that provide and protect clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments. Ecolab’s 39,000 employees deliver comprehensive programs and services to the food, energy, healthcare, industrial and hospitality markets in more than 160 countries.
Prior to joining Ecolab in 2011 through a merger with Nalco Holding Company, Fyrwald was chairman and chief executive officer of Nalco. Prior to joining Nalco in 2008, Fyrwald held several executive positions during his 27-year career at DuPont, including group vice president of DuPont’s Agriculture and Nutrition division from 2003 to 2008 and vice president of DuPont’s Nutrition and Health business from 2000 to 2003.
Fyrwald received a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
To contact Erik, feel free to email him at email@example.com