Owen Hembry

Owen Hembry is the business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Business Leader of the Year 2011 Finalist: Andrew Ferrier

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Andrew Ferrier left Fonterra this year with the dairy giant in great shape for the future. Photo / Dean Purcell
Andrew Ferrier left Fonterra this year with the dairy giant in great shape for the future. Photo / Dean Purcell

Fonterra's former chief executive, Canadian-born Andrew Ferrier, rode the wave of a boom year before he stepped down in September.

Records tumbled at the dairy giant including production, exports and revenue, which was up 19 per cent for the year ended July at $19.9 billion.

For agricultural companies, the foibles of the weather can be the difference between a good year and a bad one, but it's the management that marks the difference between longer-term success or failure.

Ferrier has been at the helm of the country's biggest company since 2003 and giving Fonterra's annual result this year described the momentum within the business as "fabulous".

"If you look at how the profitability has grown or you look at how the balance sheet has got stronger, there's been some consistency over the last several years which is particularly rewarding and it shows itself in a very, very good year," he said.

In sport there's no such thing as a lucky world champion. The performance is the result of greater effort over many years. And so it is with business - nobody flukes a record year.

The birth of Fonterra came with the legislative help of politicians but that in itself was no guarantee of success.

Ferrier could be seen as a safe pair of hands for Fonterra, perhaps no bad thing considering the importance to the economy of dairy sector exports which in 2009 accounted for about 26 per cent of total goods exported.

Perhaps a chief executive's greatest skill is to build and inspire a team to deliver across a multitude of operations with a single mind and purpose.

So Ferrier's greatest achievement could be the melding and moulding of differing views and fiefdoms within the parts of the dairy industry brought together to form Fonterra in 2001.

The outcome 10 years later is anything but a lucky result.

- NZ Herald

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