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Q&A with the president and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery … – Dairy Herd Management

The president and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), Patrick Criteser shares his career path, advice, lessons learned and more in a casual sit-down conversation.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.
Favorite Quote: “The best way to get something done is to do it.” To me, this doesn’t mean “do it yourself,” it emphasizes the importance of forward momentum for an organization. Get moving and make adjustments as you go!

Most Valued Books on Business: Eating the Big Fish by Adam Morgan and Good to Great by Jim Collins.
Describe your career path
Prior to joining TCCA, I spent eight years as president and CEO at Coffee Bean International and one year as co-CEO of Farmer Brothers. I also held management and strategic development roles at some of the most respected brands, including Nike, The Walt Disney Company and Procter & Gamble. 

What are your key responsibilities?
I serve the dairy families of Tillamook County by leading their company, TCCA. In my 10 years at TCCA, I’m proud of have transformed this long-respected agricultural cooperative into one of the fastest growing consumer food brands in the United States. Today, one in four U.S. households buy Tillamook products.
What is your connection to farming?

The Tillamook County Creamery Association is a 114-year-old farmer-owned cooperative. As a cooperative, the business is owned and governed by the farming families of Tillamook County, and in my role as president & CEO, I serve these families and report to a board of directors comprised entirely of farmers. I have spent much of my career in food and other agriculture-centric business, and grew up on a hobby farm in a small rural town.
What business lessons have you learned that could be applied to farmers? Strategy is important, but 90% of success in business is execution. How teams perform together in reaction to challenges and opportunities determine whether a business will struggle or thrive. Honestly, I might have learned this as much from farmers as from anywhere else. As a fifth-generation Oregonian, I was drawn to TCCA’s deep roots in Oregon and the farmers’ entrepreneurial grit, ingenuity, and commitment to producing high-quality dairy products for over a century.
What is a leadership lesson that you’ve learned in your career?
As the leader, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, and it is important to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute their ideas. I am a big believer in the power of teams.
What is your leadership philosophy?
One of our core values at TCCA (possibly the most important) is “One Team.” This means we are all working toward the same goals and supporting each other. This is a powerful driver of business results. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure the destination is clear to everyone and to remove barriers to teamwork and stamp out the politics that cause teams and people to be at odds with each other.
What is your biggest challenge as a leader?
I am at heart an engineer and I started my career on the plant floor working shifts. As we have gotten much larger, it has been hard for me to remember to operate at the right elevation and to trust our teams to manage the business on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, we have fantastic leaders throughout the business who are not shy about telling me “We’ve got this” when I am not needed.
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