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Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya and his provocative “anti-CEO playbook”

One of the most amazing food industry success stories of recent times is that of billionaire Chobani yogurt founder, Hamdi Ulukaya – who created the Greek yogurt market in the US – a sector that now has 50% market share. His recent TEDx talk is an inspiring and challenging business lesson...

Profit, money, shareholders: these are the priorities of most companies today. But at what cost?

So questioned Hamdi Ulukaya – founder, chairman and CEO of yogurt company Chobani – in his recent TEDx Talk (also transcribed and published as an article on LinkedIn), as he challenged his fellow corporate leaders to change their ways and put their employees and their communities first.

“The new way of business: It’s your employees you take care of first. Not the profits. The anti-CEO playbook is about community.”

“If you are right with your people, if you are right with your community, if you are right with your product, you will be more profitable, you will be more innovative, you will have more passionate people working for you and a community that supports you,” he explained.

Ulukaya knows what he’s talking about. He bought an 85-year-old former Kraft Foods yogurt plant in South Edmeston, New York, that had been shut down and mothballed, and from it launched the Greek yogurt craze in 2005 with his Chobani label.

That brand was the key driver in taking Greek yogurt from less than 1% of the US yogurt market share when it was launched to 50% in 2017.

Chobani later built a second factory in Twin Falls, Idaho, investing $750-million and opening it in 2012.

“This wasn’t just an old factory,” Ulukaya said of the South Edmeston plant and the people who ran it.

“This was a time machine. This is where people built lives. They left for wars. They bragged about home runs and report cards. And now it was closing. And the company – it wasn’t just giving up on yogurt; it was giving up on them, as if they were not good enough.”

For Ulukaya, who “grew up in Turkey, in a similar environment, near the Kurdish mountains,” that just felt wrong – very wrong.

“I was so angry that the CEO was far away, in a tower off somewhere, looking at the spreadsheets and closing the factory,” he said. “Spreadsheets are lazy! They don’t tell you about people; they don’t tell you about communities. But unfortunately, this is how too many business decisions are made today.”

View this great talk here….

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