(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some great opportunities to travel, meet new people and learn a lot. I went to Kenya and followed the folks at Vestergaard, makers of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets for malaria prevention as they rolled out a new campaign to address waterborne illness.
Then I went to Cleveland to attend the Flourish and Prosper Conference as Case Western. At the conference, I met Lyell Clarke, CEO of Clarke, an Illinois-based company that, like Vestergaard, also makes mosquito control products. Not one to pass up a coincidence, I followed up with Lyell for an interview, especially when I learned what an exemplary company he runs, particularly in the area of sustainability.
Lyell told me the story of the transformation that he and the company went through, more or less together, that resulted in a convergence between personal values, and a revised set of corporate aspirations that has made Clarke, not only more successful, but also a far more satisfying place to work.
They had licensed a new organic molecule from Dow Agrosciences for a larvacide that could potentially be safer than anything used in this application before. The problem was that the molecule was highly unstable and they needed to come up with a stable formulation. It took eight years of development, but they finally did. It was a great achievement that eventually led to the Natular™ product, which won the President’s Green Chemistry Award in 2010.
The breakthrough in the lab, led to a bigger breakthrough that redefined the company.
“We were doing well, had significant market share, but I wasn’t feeling satisfied. I began to ask myself, what are you handing over to the next generation? We’re a third generation service and distribution company going back to 1946. Is there something else I could hand over that this millennial, my son John Lyell Clarke the 4th, would want to be part of?”
Clarke engaged a strategy consultant who suggested he take his staff on a retreat. This was back in 2008. They called in the whole company, around 160 people, even those working in other countries.