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Procter & Gamble CEO’s Response

6 07 2009

Mr James Lafferty, CEO of P & G Philippines immediately contacted me through my cellphone as soon as he read my post in this blog about the incident that happened to me during my run at the MILO 42K Elimination Race last Sunday and he asked me to publish his response about the said incident. He refreshed my memory by telling me that we briefly met in one of the road races in the past. Anyway, I gave him my word that I am going to publish his response immediately as soon as I receive it. And the following is his response:

My name is Jim Lafferty, and I am the “CEO” mentioned in today’s posts concerning volunteers at the Milo Marathon, and the P&G support team. I am presently in the midst of retiring as CEO of P&G Philippines, but I was a participant yesterday in the Milo Marathon with my 18 year old daughter, and have been a driving force in establishing running as a pillar of our corporate fitness program for our employees wellness. And, whilst I am not the world’s most talented runner by any means, I have completed over 25 different international marathons over the years, and my whole family is passionate about running. My wife has also completed 25+ marathons as well as multiple ultramarathons including 2x the Comrades in South Africa. And my 3 eldest children have all competed multiple marathons. I am also a physiologist, prior athletics coach and even today I volunteer coach at Ateneo. So like you sir, marathoning is in our blood!

 

There has clearly been a great deal of angst concerning the P&G support during the Milo Marathon, so I wanted to provide some perspective to shed further light on the reality of the situation..

 

  1. As running is a part of our corporate wellness program, we try to make it accessible to everyone, and not make it elitist in any shape or form. This means broad participation across a wide range of skill and experience levels. We had 104 employees running in the Milo marathon, far and away the largest contingent of the race. Nearly 75% of these were first-time marathoners, who were seeking solely to “finish” the race and without any pre-defined time goal.
  2. I have both a moral and fiduciary responsibility to look out for the best interests of my employees, particularly as many of them are beginner marathoners. As such an experienced runner as yourself would know, beginners can have a difficult time to manage fluid intake, particularly if a bit overweight and in humid climates such as Manila. The Milo team does a terrific job with the marathon, yet for beginners it is tough to manage the back half of the race with fluid stops every 5 KMs. If I take the world’s largest marathon, Chicago, which I have run 6 times, and which has a high % of first timers, they have fluid stations every 1.5-2.0 KMs for the express purpose of ensuring adequate fluid intake. And this is a race that is run in October each year in average temperatures of 11 degrees!.
  3. As such, as we choose to support local races in the Philippines, we chose Milo and we worked closely with the Milo folks, over the past 3 years, to gain authorization to place additional aid stations for our beginners. It is not to be “special” or the like—yet simply to ensure our beginners are being cared for as they are not as experienced as the rest of the field. And we do this under the full support and auspices of Milo organizing committee, months in advance.
  4. There is nothing uncommon about teams having their own aid stations or tents at races. None whatsoever and this is NOT a violation of any rules. I was just again in May at Comrades Marathon in South Africa, the world’s oldest, most prestigious, and largest ultramarathon on the planet with 13,000 runners doing the 90 KMs in 12 hours or less. There were 168 different teams competing, and most had their own aid stations along the route. In Chicago Marathon, there are specific aid stations every 20 meters, the Swiss Embassy has their own aid station for “swiss runners”, then the French, then the Chinese. Nearly every nationality and consulate has their own aid station. And this does not even factor in a husband or wife who stands by the side of the road holding a “goody bag” with a special drink or snack for a loved one. This is a common occurrence and no one should be upset at P&G supporting their runners. In fact, as an avid runner and coach, I applaud when people rise at 4 am to go and work a race and help and support people they care about!
  5. I suspect the crux of the issue is, if a non “team” runner approaches a team-specific aid station for help, should they get help?  My answer is ABSOLUTELY YES and this was what we deployed to our volunteer staff in the days heading up to the Milo Marathon. And, I believe MANY non-P&G runners yesterday would attest to getting help from our aid crew. However, there were cases where we did not help, such as the cases noted in Baldrunner blog site, and for this, I must apologize as retiring head of P&G and as a fellow runner. Its not right and we made a mistake.

 

At the end of the day, leadership means accepting responsibility. It is unfair to place any blame on the Milo organizers. I can tell you the team at Nestle are world class, they care about putting on a good event, and they are dedicated to the sport and the country. They only wanted to help a large team from P&G, that’s all, to help expand the allure of running to more people. It is also unfair to blame a young employee, who was only trying to do what they felt was right and protect the interests of their fellow employees. The failure was one of a consistent communication message and I take responsibility for these isolated events. I am truly sorry, and I can assure you that this will not happen again. 

I would ask that all of the devotees to the outstanding Baldrunner site please not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and allow this one incident to sour their views. Yes, in this case we made a mistake and we shall make amends for it in the future. But there is also much to celebrate. A company taking a lead with its employees to promote actively the great sport of running and a healthy lifestyle. Investing in health. And to many, many runners where we did indeed help.

 

Thank you and keep up the great work.

 

 

J.M. Lafferty

CEO, P&G Phils (Ret)

 

 

“100 Years from now, it won’t matter what my job title was, how much $ I earned, the size of my house, or if I drove a BMW. Yet, the world may be a different place because I was important in the life of a child”

 P.S.

I did not mention “CEO” in my post, however, it was mentioned by one of the commentors in this blog. Eventually, this will make a closure of the said incident with the hope that we should start initiating the act of “volunteerism” to our runners, most especially in marathon and longer distance races.

My sincerest thanks to Mr Lafferty for taking immediate action on the said incident. “Sir, your apology is accepted!”

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13 responses

6 07 2009
run2dmoon

wow…the power of blogging!

i’m so happy to know that there are good and humble leaders…ready to take responsibilities for the shortcomings of his men.

hats off to BR and Mr. Lafferty.

i hope the sharing (supporting each other) spread not just in the running community but in every aspects/avenues of our lives.

all is well that ends well!

6 07 2009
miraclecello

It’s refreshing to see a leader fall on his sword (please pardon the term Sir) for the shortcomings of his subordinates. That is what makes his country great. I believe Mr. Lafferty is actually the country GM, so sorry for using the wrong corporate title.

Salonpas is not (yet) a P & G brand though. Maybe their tents will hand out Vicks ointment to all next year, though I prefer and highly recommend Ben-Gay myself 🙂

6 07 2009
reinier6666

Just to put the facts on the right perspective, on the satement of Mr. Lafferty on item (4) I wish to point out that IAAF has such thing as “Competion Rules 2009” Section VIII Rule 240 items (8.d) and (8.e) which specifically require steps of compliance for such a support station. Milo Marathon is a PATAFA sanctioned event and PATAFA is a member of IAAF.

However, the parting words of Mr. Lafferty – “YES, in this case we made a mistake and we shall make amends for it in the future” is more than enough and speaks for itself of a man who takes responsibility. Let us all learn from the situation.

6 07 2009
runnerforchrist

Accepting responsibility for any deviation made by his subordinate is a true sign of great leadership, and this is what Sir Lafferty has just showed us today. We are one in the running community, and it’s nice to know such good person who, in spite of many achievements can humble himself and mediate for the sake of his ‘company and subordinate.’ Hats-off to you Mr. Lafferty for a speedy response.

God bless you.

6 07 2009
gingerbreadrunning

That was quick. And admirable. Agreed with the sentiments of the earlier posts. In this day and age, it’s rare for someone at the highest level of a billion dollar company to accept responsibility for a gaffe of a subordinate. He didn’t have to do that. But he went out and took his lumps like a man. You earn my respect sir. Thank you also Sir Jovie, if not for your post the whole thing would not have come to fruition. I hope that’s over and done with and we could all work together in the upcoming races 🙂

7 07 2009
rickgaston

A sincere apology from a fellow runner for a mistake he takes responsibility for, what a beautiful thing. I agree with Ronnie, we are one in the running community. In a way I’m glad for the unfortunate incident as it brought about this outcome. Now we know that the retiring CEO of P&G Philippines and his family are accomplished runners and he is a gracious and responsible man. Thanks for the update Sir Jovie.

8 07 2009
Baby name meaning and origin for Manila

[…] Procter & Gamble CEO's Response […]

8 07 2009
quicksilverrunner

Hi BR,

Good for Jim Lafferty. He faced the issue squarely and his apology was timely.

Yes, aid stations for particular groups did exist in almost every marathon I ran. But these are usually off the curb and to the side, versus the official aid stations which were near the runners’ path. Of course, they (the special aid stations) definitely did assist other runners as best they can.

Good to address this issue anyway. Hope you had a nice 42K run!

QS

8 07 2009
therunningninja

He’s not only a responsible leader but saved a kababayan’s life as well. See the story at inquirer website:

Exec saves a man’s life
http://business.inquirer.net/money/breakingnews/view/20070506-64347/Exec_saves_a_man%92s_life

Regards,
Sam
The Running Ninja

9 07 2009
markfb

I hope more leaders are more like Mr. Lafferty. Its never easy to admit one’s fault and taking responsibility for it does show a lot about ones character. Thanks for sharing BR, glad this was resolved very quickly.

Sam, thanks for sharing the link. We do need more men like him.

9 07 2009
markfb

Here’s a link to Mr. Lafferty’s interview at ANC:Leadership in Times of Crisis

11 07 2009
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