Issue Date: August 4, 2008
LAST MONTH, when Dow Chemical announced it would acquire specialty chemical maker Rohm and Haas for nearly $19 billion, Dow Chief Executive Officer Andrew N. Liveris said one of the important attributes Rohm and Haas would bring to the firm is "a strong market-facing culture," a culture particularly adept at understanding the point of view, and therefore the needs, of its customer base. Dow is counting on Carol Dudley, corporate vice president for Dow's market facing, business development and licensing portfolio, to help lead this cultural transformation at Dow.
"The Rohm and Haas acquisition matches our strategy," Dudley explains. "They are wonderful at being connected to the marketplace and will help us drive into the specialty space. I will participate as we frame what Rohm and Haas should look like within Dow."
So far, Dudley notes, Dow already has plans to take advantage of Rohm and Haas's well-known strength in the paint business. For instance, Dow will transfer marketing responsibilities for its portfolio of coatings materials to what will become its Rohm and Haas subsidiary, "because they have strong customer and market-facing activities" in architectural and industrial paint. The transfer will combine Dow's strength in epoxy and urethane polymers, for instance, with Rohm and Haas's strength in acrylic resins, Dudley says. Dow biocides and personal care materials will transfer to Rohm and Haas as well.
Dudley got the job of looking for value-creating opportunities in 2007 as Dow sought to deemphasize its commodity businesses and accelerate the buildup of performance chemical offerings. Dow must succeed in this effort if it is to continue to grow and earn consistent profits, she says. Her job includes oversight of businesses focused on the markets of building products, automotive materials, water treatment, and footwear.
The rationale behind the market-facing businesses, Dudley says, is to become "product agnostic." By that she means Dow "does not want to focus on specific chemical products," but instead wants to draw on products and technologies both inside and outside Dow that are best suited to meet customer needs.
For instance, seeking to serve the auto safety market, Dow developed new polyurethane foams to absorb impact energy and protect car occupants in a crash. Earlier this year, Dudley notes, Dow's Impaxx foams helped NASCAR driver Michael McDowell walk away unharmed after his car hit the wall at 200 mph and rolled over eight times at the Texas Motor Speedway.
In the building products arena, Dow has developed a new do-it-yourself alternative to the "itchy" fiberglass batting homeowners frequently use to insulate their homes, Dudley says. Based on the soft-drink-bottle polymer polyethylene terephthalate, the itchless insulation is being test-marketed at Lowe's home improvement stores. The insulation performs just like fiberglass and can be made from recycled bottles diverted from landfills, she points out.
"What I like about my current job," Dudley says, "is that I can take my technology and business skills and use them to frame business models that make money for Dow."
Dudley has a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and an executive M.B.A. from Indiana University. She started out as an engineer with Dow in 1980 at the Granville Research Center in Ohio where, she jokes, "it was fun to tell people I worked in film"—plastic film, that is. She has navigated more than 10 positions through her 28 years at Dow, moving seven times to locations in Louisiana, Michigan, and Texas.
ALONG THE WAY, Dudley held a variety of technical and business jobs. She served a stint working on the development of styrene butadiene/isoprene block copolymers as part of a Dow partnership with Exxon. She was also a director of Dow's analytical science lab; a global R&D director for epoxy products and intermediates; and an R&D vice president for hydrocarbons, chemicals, and intermediates. Her business positions have included vice president for chlor-alkali assets and vice president of global purchasing.
Dudley says her training as a chemical engineer and scientist taught her how to break down complex problems and solve them. She brings that discipline to working out business models or negotiating with customers and has used her training and experience to mentor others at Dow.
Within Dow, Dudley is an executive leader for the women's diversity network, a global initiative to help women succeed in their jobs. She has shared with the women's group her own challenges in meeting the demands of her job while raising her two daughters. She acknowledges that she has met some people in the business world who are not sympathetic to women in the workplace.
As Dudley sees it, the time she has available for business and family are slices of a pie. Success, she says, is "all in how you slice the pie."
Dow needs a diversity of people if it is to succeed as a consistently profitable maker of performance products, Dudley notes. Bringing Rohm and Haas into the Dow family is one big step in that effort. But Dudley knows she also needs to focus people at Dow on the many small steps the firm must take if it is to face all its markets successfully.
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