Letting pro run your company can yield rewards, Mathile says

DAYTON — Owning a business doesn’t necessarily give you the right to run it.

That was one piece of hard-earned wisdom shared Tuesday, Oct. 13 by Clay Mathile, former owner of the Iams Co., at the Small Biz Success Network expo.

There are times when owners need to relinquish management to professionals while they concentrate on “vision,” said Mathile, who sold Iams to the Procter & Gamble Co. in 1999 for $2.3 billion.

“It’s not about you,” Mathile told listeners at the expo breakfast, held at Sinclair Community College.

Among the most painful moments in Mathile’s stewardship of pet food maker Iams was having trusted board members and senior managers advise him to hire a pro “to mind the store.” He hired Tom MacLeod as chief operating officer and president in April 1990, while he remained CEO and chairman of the company then based on Poe Avenue. (Cincinnati-based P&G recently moved the Iams headquarters to Mason.)

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MacLeod’s hire paid off, Mathile said. When MacLeod joined the company, sales were $200 million. When Iams was sold nine years later, sales were put at more than $800 million across the world. (When Mathile first joined Iams in the early 1970s, when Paul Iams was still at the helm, sales were $500,000.)

“If you want to grow your business, you’ve got to gravitate to being a company manager,” he said.

Still living in the Brookville area, Mathile is founder and chairman of Aileron, a Bethel Twp.-based non-profit designed to help businesses grow.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2390 or tgnau@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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