Phyllis Kossoff Lecture Presents Colgate President Ian M. Cook
(L-R) Ian Cook, President of Colgate Pamolive, Phyllis Kossoff, President Mitchel Wallerstein
The ninth annual Burton Kossoff Business Leadership Lecture Series was held recently at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business. This year’s speaker was Ian M. Cook, President and Chief Executive Officer of Colgate-Palmolive. Mr. C ook addressed the audience about specific concerns a company needs to be aware of in order to stay successful. His company, Colgate-Palmolive, is an over 200 year old consumer packaged goods organization that has grown to make tens of billions of dollars a year, with products in 220 countries, and over 38,000 employees. His company exemplifies the values needed to be active in the global market.
Phyllis Kossoff created the lecture series in 2003 in loving memory of her husband, Burton, a Baruch Alumnus and World War Two U.S. Air Force Veteran, who was the founder and CEO of Burton Packaging Co., Inc., and an officer of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Greater New York.
President Cook has helped Colgate-Palmolive to receive awards in the past couple of years for excellence in a number of areas. Baruch College Dean of International Affairs David Birdsell introduced Mr. Cook, enumerating some of the accolades Colgate-Palmolive has recently acquired including one of the world’s most ethical companies of 2013; U.S. E.P.A. Energy Star Partner of the Year; Top 50 Companies for Diversity; Top 50 Companies for Executive Women.
Cook underscored the two parts of his company’s strategy: the strategic initiatives needed to sell the products, and the company focus, which narrows the company’s products to a precise “formula.” The strategic initiatives include keeping products innovative, building communication lines that endure and developing and underscoring leadership qualities. Colgate-Palmolive’s company focus is a four-category line of products that we are generally familiar with. They are: oral care, personal care, pet nutrition, and home care.
Cook believes that culture is the most important strategic initiative in his company. He said, “If an investor was to ask, ‘what is the single thing that makes this company perform’, the answer is not an algorithm, the answer is culture.” According to Cook, it is in the people and the expertise and the experiences they have had that allow the company to perform. “How we get things done is every bit as important as what we get done.” To do this, Colgate trains its employees in ethics. They translate all of their training into 40 languages so that everyone understands. This enables Colgate staff to communicate across language barriers and share ideas.
A unique aspect of the company is found in its branding. Like Coca-Cola, Colgate caters to the native tastes found in specific regions of the world. Colgate’s green tea flavored toothpaste is a big hit in China. Charcoal enhanced toothpaste also has a certain appeal in the far-east.
Colgate has developed a broad vision for the future. Colgate has made an effort to spearhead an initiative to bring oral hygiene to parts of the world uneducated in these good practices. The campaign “Bright Smiles Bright Futures” aims to have one billion children receive adequate dental care by the year 2020. Special mobile dental vans have been traveling across the United States providing dental screenings and oral hygiene education to millions of children each year.
Colgate strives to bring a message to the world that gently encourages each and every individual to care about one or more of jobs its products can be used to complete. To do this, Cook and his team have spent the last number of years upholding a tradition of excellence by weaving a tight model of performance and passing the bar of standards in ethics, efficiency, and education.#