Tyson Foods Legacy Forged On Tough Times, Risk Taking

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 12:00 am  

"How are you going to get there?" the analyst queried.

"There's not any numbers," Johnston said.

"What am I going to put in my report?"  the analyst asked.

"Just put 'Don said so,' and he did," Johnston said.

One day, Tyson wanted to literally boost the sense of ownership across the company's work force and visited with Johnston about it. His idea: "I want everyone who works for us to have at least five shares of stock."

Johnston asked him if he realized how much money it would cost to mail out all the additional annual reports and produce the extra paperwork.

"Yeah, Gerald, but if I can get everyone involved in the ownership, they will turn off the lights when they go home because it's their company, too," Tyson said. "My competition won't have a chance."

That stock gift was accomplished in 1989.

"Don had a down-to-earth style and an ability to feel comfortable around people from all walks of life and an ability to make others feel comfortable," Johnston said. "He made everyone around here feel important no matter what your job was. He was the kind of guy you didn't want to disappoint. You wanted to do a good job for him."

Womack remembers Tyson's drop-in visits with his executive staff.

"Don would come into your office unannounced, sit down and say 'Well?'" he said. "That's all he would say, and your mind would race as you tried to fill the awkward conversational void with whatever was happening in your part of the company.

"He would absorb what was going on. He walked around and managed. We had staff meetings, but he did a lot of management just walking around.



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