Photo by The Pulse

Philip Clemens speaks before the gathered audience at Hostetter Chapel during the Executive Leadership Series.

By Olivia La Bianca
Student Writer

Philip Clemens, Chairman & CEO of The Clemens Family Corporation, spoke recently as part of the Messiah College 2014 Executive Leadership Series. The event was free and open to the public, and offered alternate chapel credit for students who attended.

Over ten years ago, Clemens spearheaded the transition from a family business to a company run by a business family. The Clemens Family Corporation, which specializes in the procurement, production, and distribution of quality pork products, operates in a way that honors their Christian faith in the corporate realm.

The lecture was preceded by a short introduction by Caroline Miller, the Dean of Business, Education, and Social Sciences.

“We are very excited you are here,” Miller addressed the audience. “The hallmark of Messiah’s education program is the blending of faith and vocation, and Clemens has really been able to share that with our students. These events are invaluable to students who are eager to figure out what it means to live out one’s faith in one’s field.”

After an opening prayer, Clemens began his message to the gathered audience with a call to action.

“Today we have a lot of good leaders, but we have very few great leaders,” he stated. “We need great leaders.”

According to Clemens, core values, or a hierarchical structure of personal and corporate morals, are what will turn good leaders into great leaders.

“I believe great leaders need to have their own strong core values,” he said. “Core values are the bedrock of your foundation. We all know that if you have a weak foundation, you will never survive the storms of life. Core values will give you an anchor.”

Unfortunately, Clemens said, today’s companies often use values as marketing statements rather than directional tools.

“Direction, not intention, determines destination,” Clemens said as he pulled a quote from pastor Andy Stanley’s motivational book The Principle of the Path. “If you want to be a great leader, you must be going in the right direction.

“The problem for most of us, we have the intention to get there, but we aren’t going in the direction that will take us to our desired destination. We just intend to get there. You need to be going in a direction that is built on the bedrock of core values.”

The Clemens Family Corporation’s own core values are ethics, integrity, and stewardship. Doing the right thing, keeping promises, and building a foundation for the future are put in a specific hierarchical order so that everyone in the Corporation knows which value prevails. In Clemens’ case, the prevailing value is ethics.

“My bedrock is doing the right thing without compromise,” he said. “Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do, but it isn’t always easy. It’s something I need to ask myself after every decision: am I doing the right thing, or the easy thing? Sometimes the right thing to do is hard, but it’s always right.”

Clemens illustrated this with discussing a crisis his corporation faced in December of 1998. It was during this time that the hog market in the United States took a nosedive, as the line price of hogs fell from 40 cents per pound to just eight cents.

“For a farmer to raise a hog, it cost them about 32 cents a pound,” Clemens recalled. “Farmers were devastated. They were losing over $50 per animal, and some were selling us thousands of hogs per week.”

The Clemens looked at their core values, and promised that they would not pay less than 25 cents per pound, no matter what the market was.

“To pay market price was not the right thing to do,” he stated. “To pay those farmers cost us about 3 million dollars per week. Sticking to your values may cost you, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Clemens made it very clear that he and his corporation continue to be a work in progress, but that a greater purpose and perspective are still apparent to him.

“I don’t stand here to say I’ve got it all together,” he admitted. “I make mistakes every day, and sometimes they are just plain stupid. Other times, I don’t follow my own advice. I’m still on this journey, but my goal is that each and every day head in a direction that will take me to my desired destination.

“What is your desired destination?”

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