Talking Shop with Rick McLeod, market director of Procter & Gamble

Monday, August 6, 2012
Rick McLeod, former Cape Girardeau Procter & Gamble plant manager, spoke Wednesday at the United Way of Southeast Missouri’s CEO Breakfast. (Fred Lynch)

Former Cape Girardeau Procter & Gamble plant manager Rick McLeod returned to the city Wednesday to speak at the United Way of Southeast Missouri's annual CEO Breakfast. McLeod, who now works as go-to-market director for family care product supply for P&G in Cincinnati talked about his time in Cape Girardeau, his hopes for the future for the local plant and the importance of giving back to the community.

Q: Tell me about how your career led you to Cape Girardeau.

A: The journey leading to my assignment here in Cape Girardeau literally took me around the world. I am originally from north Florida and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida. I started with P&G straight out of college at our Albany, Ga., plant in the mid-'80s. There I spent eight years learning the fundamentals of manufacturing and leadership of large organizations. My family and I moved to the Philippines in 1995, where I had a wonderful opportunity to be part of a new multibusiness plant startup. After several years in Asia, we relocated to Caracas, Venezuela, where I led our baby care supply network operations for Latin America. All along, my goal was to one day be a plant manager; and these experiences helped me to build the necessary skills to do that. When the opportunity opened in 2003 to serve the Cape Girardeau plant as their plant manager, it was a career dream come true. The assignment was everything that I hoped for -- and more. We have made so many lifelong friends in Southeast Missouri that I am sure that we will be connected to the area for the rest of our lives.

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of while serving as plant manager in Cape Girardeau?

A: What I am most proud of from my time serving as Cape Girardeau plant manager are the people of the Cape plant. At the time, we were facing some tough business challenges and needed to improve our competitiveness. We set out together to do three things -- become one of the most productive manufacturing sites in the world, have our consumers and customers set our priorities and lead innovation for the categories where we play. These objectives required us to change the way that we approached our work, and to solve contradictions that others could not. The outstanding men and women of the Cape plant realized these objectives, and Cape is still viewed today as one of the top manufacturing sites in our company.

Q: Tell me about your role now in Cincinnati with Procter & Gamble.

A: Currently, I have responsibility for the North America and Latin America family care product supply operations for P&G. This gives me a chance to stay close to our manufacturing plants and also interact with our key customers. Success in product supply starts with delivering outstanding service and quality to our customers in all that we do. Likewise, we must ensure that our manufacturing operations run safely and efficiently. This end-to-end focus across the supply chain is never without challenges, but it is also extremely rewarding.

Q: What do you enjoy most and what do you find most challenging about your job?

A: I definitely enjoy being in our plants and interacting with people on the plant floor the most. Our plant environments are extremely energizing, with great people who care about their work and ensuring that our plants stay competitive now and in the future. I love seeing our manufacturing processes run with precision to produce the great products that delight our consumers every day. As for challenges, I believe that the foremost challenge that we, or any other company, faces is the constant need to change and evolve in a very volatile external environment. This requires a very clear vision of where you want to go, and the ability to engage the entire organization to make the needed adjustments and improvements to get there. Thankfully, at P&G this is part of who we are, and what has kept the Company strong for 175 years.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

A: It is extremely easy to stay motivated at work when your personal mission and your work mission are absolutely congruent. Personally, I believe that we are all here for a purpose bigger than just existing day-to-day. While I do not always do it as well as I should, I believe that I have an obligation to use every single interaction to help someone be the best that they can be. Whether a co-worker, family member or a stranger on the street, I believe that I can do something to help. Sometimes it is as simple as a smile or a word of encouragement, or sometimes something more tangible. Likewise, the mission of P&G is to touch and improve lives. I see examples of our leaders from our CEO on down behaving this way every day. It makes me proud, and certainly very motivated.

Q: What hopes do you have for P&G's future in Cape Girardeau?

A: When I was here serving as plant manager, we established our plant vision of "Making the Connection with our Future." The vision borrowed from the concepts of Jim Collins' book "Good to Great," in that we would focus on the things that we do best, and use these to create competitive advantage. My hope for our Cape Girardeau operation is that we keep this focus ongoing. We must continue to leverage our fantastic geographic location in the heart of the U.S., our superb work force, and our outstanding partnership with the local community to get better every year and stay competitive for the long haul. We have several multigeneration families working at the plant, and I would love to see this continue for generations to come.

Q: How has American manufacturing changed during your career?

A: The Information Age and digitization have dramatically changed manufacturing over the past 25 years. I can remember starting at P&G when we had one computer in our whole operation. If we wanted to communicate with another plant, there was the phone, snail mail or maybe a pager. Today, we can connect real time to any operation in the world, solve problems immediately in a virtual setting and put best practices to work overnight. It is absolutely amazing how small the world is becoming due to technology.

Q. What factors do you believe are key to keeping and creating more American manufacturing jobs?

A: P&G has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to work in nearly every part of the world. When I step back from my own experience I see that the U.S. still has several strengths that give us the right to succeed in manufacturing. We have safety and security. We have a strong transportation and utilities infrastructure. We have an extremely creative and entrepreneurial work force. When we can couple these advantages with leadership that inspires and focuses an organization on a clear objective, we are unstoppable.

Q: You spoke at the United Way's CEO Breakfast last week and your company has been the United Way of Southeast Missouri's biggest contributor for many years now. Why do you feel like it's important to support this organization?

A: We just talked about how important it is to give back, to help others be their best. There are obviously many ways that we can all do this. How many times have you seen, heard or read about someone in need and wondered "How can I help?" "How could I use the resources that I have, whether time, talents or money, to make a difference?" The United Way, working with its funded partners, is absolutely amazing at linking resources to needs. They do this through years of expertise, applied with the scale and efficiency of a large organization to address needs at the local level. It's an unbeatable model, and we are proud to be a part of it.

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