Finance team 'more than scorekeepers': Pilgrim's Pride CEO

by Bryan Salvage
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TUCKER, Ga. – “A company’s finance team must challenge management's approach. The finance team must be active and engaged in the business, and not just scorekeepers,” said Bill Lovette, president and CEO of Pilgrim's Pride, while recently addressing financial managers at the 2011 USPOULTRY Financial Management Seminar during his presentation, A CEO's Perspective of Financial Management.

The seminar was sponsored by US Poultry & Egg Association's Poultry & Egg Institute.

"The most critical job of a CEO is not to provide the answers. It is to help the team think critically about issues and help them arrive at a solution,” he said.

Lovette named a series of critical observations on financial management. First, he noted, "Strategic choices are the earmark of a company." These choices ultimately define a firm's market segmentation and provide the direction to create a sustainable, competitive advantage.

"The importance of brands and differentiation has changed dramatically over the past 15 years," he added. As the poultry business has become increasingly commoditized, it is harder and more costly to build brand equity, he pointed out. Yet, there remains opportunity for differentiation "by providing 'Value beyond the Box' through service, product form and quality strata," Lovette said.

Looking ahead, Lovette said, "There is no silver bullet. If you don't have a competitive cost structure and if your balance sheet is not near pristine, you will not survive. The marketplace will not allow for, or pay for, complexity in your business model."

Lovette described the characteristics of an effective accounting and finance team as a team that must understand, embrace and help develop the company's strategy and create a culture of critical thought. "The marketplace will not allow complacency of simply continuing to 'do what we've always done,’" he said.

Lovette's presentation was the keynote for the Financial Management Seminar, which also included discussions of export conditions, regulatory challenges and forecast for future commodity prices. Approximately 150 industry finance professionals attended the event.
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