Small-Town Midwest Values Underpin The David McDonald Management Style
A small family farm in the Midwest may the best training ground for the president of one of America’s largest private companies. But for David McDonald, a farm on northeast Iowa was more than a training ground – it was his home. Born in 1964, David McDonald grew up helping his dad raise crops and some livestock. It was a place to learn the Midwest values of honesty, hard work, being kind to neighbors and strangers, and the importance of belonging to a community.
Some cynics today might say such values don’t apply to the cut-throat world of international business, but for David McDonald, the lessons he learned as a youth shine through the company he leads today. After earning his degree from Iowa State University in 1987, he was hired by OSI Industries (also called OSI Group) that same year. He has remained with the company ever since. OSI is a meat processing operation serving the retail food industry. McDonald worked his way up to become President, and under his tenure, OSI has experienced phenomenal growth and international expansion.
Today OSI Group is a $6 billion a year company and Forbes ranks it at No. 58 on its of America’s Largest Private Companies list. It employs some 20,000 people and has 65 facilities in 17 countries. Consider that just a few years ago Forbes listed OSI at 136 with $3 billion in annual revenue. Clearly, under David McDonald, OSI has experienced remarkable growth. In a recent interview, McDonald said “OSI has a tremendous aspiration for growth … the constant desire to grow and improve is a cornerstone to the culture itself.”
Another key element of OSI culture under McDonald is an extreme commitment to environmentally friendly operation and a business philosophy that views sustainability as an absolutely integral. Under McDonald, OSI has innovated ways to save energy – large meat processing operations like OSI necessarily require a lot of juice for things like refrigeration and machinery. Such industries also tend to be intensive in use of water. To this end alternative sources of energy have been installed in most locations. Low-flow faucets and other water conserving devices are also critical.
True to his humble Iowa farm roots, McDonald says the OSI way is to never “brag or trumpet success” but rather to “support customers’ success while “we stay low profile.” Words to live by – and taking into account David McDonald’s 30 years with OSI — you can’t argue with success.