Doug Baker Jr. is a top corporate leader who doesn’t believe in resting on his laurels. Since becoming CEO of St. Paul-based Ecolab in 2004, the company, traditionally known for its cleaning products, has entered several major new markets, including food, retail, life science and energy. Its biggest move was acquiring Illinois-based water-treatment and pollution-control chemical company Nalco in 2011 for $5.38 billion.
Baker, who’s also Ecolab’s chairman, says that his company has “a strong entrepreneurial spirit.” Why is it important that Ecolab demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset? “There is no standing still in business,” Baker says. “If you are not growing, you are shrinking.”
During Baker’s tenure, net sales at Ecolab have more than tripled. “Our M&A work has been a major component of our growth, as has our expansion in geographic markets, including Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa,” Baker says. Since he leads a Fortune 500 company, Baker doesn’t spearhead all of these efforts. “For some, I drove them, others I instigated and some I watched as the team worked to make them happen,” he says. That’s why instilling an entrepreneurial mindset throughout the organization has been one of his goals, from the field and sales teams to research and development to the leadership team.
One key member of that entrepreneurial-minded team is Angela Busch, Ecolab’s senior vice president of corporate development, who manages the company’s M&A activity. “When it’s a strategic play, when we’re going to go into new places and new spaces, that’s where Doug is really hands-on,” she says. Busch credits Baker’s intuitiveness and his ability to see market opportunities that aren’t readily apparent to others. In many cases, he takes the lead role. “Nalco was Doug,” Busch notes. Thanks to deals like those, “we’re marching on a much wider road today than we were.”
Key acquisitions like Nalco “are helping to grow our business and solidify our position as the leader in every industry we serve,” Baker says. All told, he adds, “our entrepreneurial mindset helps drive our growth and ensures our ability to meet the specific needs of our customers, no matter the industry or their location in the world.”