A.G. Lafley: A Look Back at the Career of the Most Successful CEO in P&G History

AG lafleyFor A.G. Lafley, the Executive Chairman and former CEO of Procter and Gamble (P&G), business inspiration does not always emanate from reading books or talking with experts. For him, inspiration is primarily derived from an unswerving dedication toward understanding P&G’s consumers and what their everyday needs are.

For example, during the years when P&G was still in its initial phase of investment in China, Lafley led his team to gradual success by dedicating time and effort toward understanding Chinese consumers. He took time to get a feel for the the marketplace and the stores, and by visiting people’s homes and observing their lives to see how P&G products could best fit in.

Lafley’s spirit for consumer-derived inspiration, as well as his determination for strategically improving P&G’s products, has helped the company’s China business flourish. “I am an optimist and maybe a little bit idealistic, but my view is that if we can bring everyday products that really make life a little bit better, then we can do our small part to improve the lives of these consumers,” Lafley once told Chief Executive in an interview.

“If we can bring everyday products that really make life a little bit better, then we can do our small part to improve the lives of consumers.”

None of P&G’s successes would have been possible without Lafley’s keen eye for recruiting and retaining local talent. He thrives on hiring employees and team members who best understand the marketplace and its consumers.

His unique perspective on business is a culmination of all his previous experience. He graduated from Hamilton College with a bachelor’s degree in history and later from Harvard Business School with an MBA. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and served during the Vietnam war.

He joined P&G after being discharged in 1977. His initial positions were in marketing, but he also held a variety of responsibilities in the laundry and cleaning business, as well. In 1992, his accomplishments earned him the title of group vice president. He helped improve the company’s sales and profits through new innovative ideas such as Liquid Tide and Tide with Bleach.

Thanks to a combination of personal innovation, an executive persona and extensive experience in business success in Asia, Lafley was promoted to president of P&G’s global Beauty Care business and the North America market development organization in 1999. Just one year later, he was named President and CEO of P&G. During his nine-year tenure in the lead role, P&G’s sales doubled and its portfolio of brands increased from 10 to 23. In addition, average annual organic sales grew by 5% and core earnings-per-share grew by 12%.

In 2006, Lafley was named “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine. He retired from P&G in 2009, but returned once again in 2013 as Executive Chairman, a title he holds today. His legacy of continuous improvement to create better consumer value lives on in CEO David Taylor.

You can hear A.G. Lafley speak at the 2016 CEO Talent Summit sponsored by Chief Executive group. In this event Lafley will share his insight about deliberate talent strategies that are consistently executed. To learn more about the CEO Talent Summit or to register, click here.