Communication is key to success, says new Compass Minerals CEO

Francis (Fran) Malecha, president and CEO, Compass Minerals. Business Wire photo.

Francis (Fran) Malecha, president and CEO, Compass Minerals. Business Wire photo.

HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH – As Compass Mineral’s new president and CEO made his first tour through Sifto’s salt mine and evaporator plant in Goderich this week, he listened to what employees had to say.

“I’m new to the company so I’m listening a lot, trying to really understand what we do, how we do it, what our issues are, how we can improve the business,” said Francis (Fran) Malecha, who joined Compass Minerals at its head office in Overland Park, Kansas on Jan. 17.

From 2007 to 2012, he was CEO of Viterra Inc., a large Canadian-based agri-business firm that was purchased by Glencore International late last year. For one month, he served as director of its agricultural products in North America before accepting the opportunity to takes over for Angelo Brisimitzakis, who retired at the end of 2012 after nearly seven years at the helm of Compass Minerals.

Malecha has moved his family from Regina, Sask. to Overland Park, Kansas.

During a town hall meeting with all employees shortly after joining Compass Minerals, a strategic agenda emerged to improve the business as its run today, ensure training and development of employees, and grow the company. With that agenda in mind, he listened to the Goderich employees explain what they do, what their issues are, and how business can improve. When he returns to the corporate office, he expects to work with staff to pull it all together.

“I do think that communications with employees is key and we need to improve our labour relations across the company because certainly we’ve had some issues here negotiating agreements and going through strikes and those types of things,” Malecha said.

“The commitment I have and the leadership team will have going forward is to improve the communication with our employees, make sure they understand the business strategy – how they impact the business – and their role in that and its importance to the success of Compass Minerals,” he said.

The employees, the customers and the shareholders all have priority for Malecha, who says one could not exist without the other.

“They all would get my priorities because they’re all very important to the success of Compass Minerals,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we aren’t selling products, and we aren’t producing to meet that demand, then I can’t keep my customers happy and I can’t keep my shareholders happy.”

The new CEO was introduced to the underground at the world’s largest salt mine, marveling at the size of the operations where more than seven million tons of salt are pulled from the earth annually. He was impressed by the process it took to get its new continuous miner underground, transporting its parts down the mine shaft then reassembling underground the $4 million machine that can produce up to 6,000 tons of salt daily.

While some of the business was new to Malecha, he pointed out the similarities between the salt business and the grain business he’s come from, both very mature, commodity-type businesses with slow growth and large assets.

With a capacity to efficiently produce nine million tons of salt annually, he expects volumes will increase in time, allowing the company to capture a greater market share.

“That’s good for growth in the business here, good for our employees, good for consistent production going forward,” he said.

In the last quarter of 2012, the sale of salt was down as a result of a mild winter and higher-than-usual customer inventories. This year started out slowly, but recent snowstorms have increased demand for salt as a deicing product.

Malecha said the mild winters are “an aberration” and he expects a return to average winters.

Recent investments to improve operations, repair damage caused by the 2011 tornado, partner in expanding the Goderich harbour, and upgrade the Goderich TS to provide dedicated electricity to the mine have positioned the company for the future.

“The Goderich mine now has additional capacity to meet either the growth that will continue over time or to take advantage of big winters when they come,” he said. At the same time, he sees opportunity in expanding its deicing products it sells to retailers on both sides of border.

Compass Minerals’ other companies produce salt, sulfate of potash, specialized fertilizers and magnesium chloride.

Written by on February 26, 2013 in Business, Goderich - 5 Comments

5 Comments on "Communication is key to success, says new Compass Minerals CEO"

  1. Dale Matthies February 27, 2013 at 8:58 am · Reply

    A number of years ago, an upper management person told me that a “boss” needs to be aware of the pulse of his organization to know whether it is healthy, sick, or dead. It sounds like this guy is going to attempt to do this. I hope for the sake of the mine, the employees, and the town that he is successful in doing so. It’s a pity that other bosses here, there, and everywhere are incapable of doing so, or refuse to do so.

  2. K.JOHN HAZLITT February 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm · Reply

    Great stuff, Fran Malecha. While I very much appreciate your concern and dedication perhaps you should ask Rowland, a person I very much respect, as to how you, Fran, can make the relationship better within our Town. While we are dependent on much of your input, we are NOT a Mine Town.

  3. Miner Below March 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm · Reply

    K. John……perhaps the town should try to be a “Mine” town. Unless you hadn’t noticed, much of our industry has evaporated since Volvo left, and perhaps the entire community should be glad that Sifto can not move the salt deposits.
    All of underground know that if they could, they would.

  4. Temporary Miner March 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm · Reply

    “During a town hall meeting with ALL employees”
    That’s odd, as an employee (for several years now) I had no information given to me about this said meeting let alone him even coming to town.
    “I do think that communications with employees is key.”
    Hmmmm, I wonder when this is going to start? Unless he is referring to the two days’ notice I just received of ANOTHER layoff in the same year. I guess he is trying, at least he gave us two days unlike the other fellow that gave us the layoff notice at the end of our last shift.
    How is it, Heather, that you always seem to get informed of things happening at Sifto before any of us workers???

  5. Miner Below March 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm · Reply

    Just read a miner’s Facebook comments on his family having to eat Kraft Dinner for “several weeks” because of the layoff.
    Come on, we all know that a shutdown is in the nature of virtually all mining. Please don’t try to tell anyone that this is the first and only maintenance shutdown in the history of Sifto (or Domtar).
    We all knew that without a maintenance shutdown last year, we were headed for one this year.
    I fully agree that the timing, and the company’s handling of the shutdown was poorly planned and executed, but the powers that be pull the strings, and that, as we know, will never change.
    We all make decent money down there, and as hard as it may be, we should all plan ahead for events like these.
    Maybe anyone who did not plan for this one will start planning for the next shutdown. And, if you do some planning, your family will not be forced to eat KD for weeks.

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