David Irving

 - Co-Founder & CELF Trustee

David Irving, has formulated a series, reflecting on his leadership and experiences.  Look for the golden nuggets - there are  plenty.  

The first in the series looks at the importance of knowing your community and warns of working and living in silos.

This Wattie story is a classic of silo's.

By David Irving

Back in 1986 on being appointed the General Manager of Watties in Hawkes Bay I invited all the Heads of secondary schools to meet me at Watties. Curious, they all came. I told them I wanted them to think of Watties as theirs, a place of learning for them and their students. After all Watties was the biggest employer and represented 15% of the regions GDP. I promised a day a quarter of the year of me and my senior managers. How many took it up? That's right. None. Too hard and it wasn't in the curriculum!

A few years go by and Watties is acquired by the multinational HJ Heinz.  They compare the costs of their Melbourne operations with our Hastings operations. Hastings wins and they close the Melbourne plant transferring most of the production to Hastings.

Years go by, I'm retired and invited to talk with Hawkes Bay community leaders. I ask them  the value of sales Watties makes from their factory in Hastings. Stony silence, then provoked they offer $50m, $100m. My answer is $1billion! $900m out! 

Discouraged I ask who is the CEO of Watties. Again stony silence. No one knew. Biggest employer, been there since 1934, paying growers, paying staff, giving donations, yet these community leaders knew nothing and had made no effort to meet and learn Watties intentions in the region. Just imagine if Melbourne had been the lower cost operations. Uproar! I was furious. Talk about being taken for granted.


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