10 Things you Didn’t Know about Tyson Foods CEO Tom Hayes

Tom Hayes is not your average CEO. He is someone who knows his employees and their value. He knows where the problems are and how to best grow the business to continue making it profitable. Above all, he knows how to not let the world of business distract him from the balanced life he wants to lead.

1. He was born and raised in the town of Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Merrimack is located in one of the southern counties, so he has not been impacted by living too close to the Canadian border. It’s hard to call any place in New Hampshire an actual city, but like many of these lesser known New England locales there is a bit of American history connected with it. For Merrimack, that connection is with Matthew Thornton, who was of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

2. Actor Mike O’Malley is a fraternity brother.

Most people know O’Malley from Glee as Burt Hummel, but he has a long history doing a number of cable TV shows. What O’Malley and Tom Hayes have in common is success, though with one being an actor and the other being a major corporate CEO it seems hard to know how they ended up in the same fraternity.

3. He washed dishes to put himself through college.

Though it isn’t clear that all of his hefty restaurant dishwashing earnings went directly to pay for college, he probably did learn a thing or two about food and food handling and safety. Sometimes you never know how the smallest experiences make connections to the bigger picture in life.

4. He was a psychology major.

At the University of New Hampshire he majored in psychology, which makes the Mike O’Malley connection more believable. On how he made the transition to the food industry, Hayes states that the industry just piqued his interest from an early age. But his formal education didn’t end there. He would attend and graduate from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

5. He’s been described as a phenomenal listener.

Listening, whether it is to employees or to critics, is an essential but rare skill to run an organization that includes the brand names of Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, and Ball Park. That listening skill also shows up when he is reading an audience of people, trying to address their level of discomfort.

6. His strong work ethic is tempered by his sense of humor.

Many people are committed to their work and success, but often lose their sense of humor in the pursuit. Hayes has both, according to people back in his home town. This would explain why he would be involved in a fraternity, and why he has come so far at the age of 53.

7. He actually likes (and eats) the foods that he sells.

This is one of those things that many people wonder about: how many CEOs use the products they sell. In the case of Hayes, he has a specific product of Tyson that he claims he eats too much of – Any’tizers, that he says have some “killer boneless wings” which probably likes a little too much.

8. He believes his Liberal Arts major has served him well.

While businesspeople often focus on his Northwestern Kellogg management degree, he says that his undergraduate studies were essential in his understanding of being a well-rounded person and attaining a balance in life. For consumers of Tyson’s many food product lines, this is a comfort to know. It is not just all about the bottom line.

9. He was intimately familiar with the company before taking the position as CEO.

Prior to moving up, Hayes had been president of Tyson, leading both the day-to-day operations of the company as well as all of its commercial functions. When assuming the lead role as CEO he knew where the problems were and had confidence in the people who would be able to fix them.

10. Moving up to the CEO position didn’t get him much of a salary bump.

As president he was making $950,000, and when he took on the CEO role his salary “rose” to $1.15 million, an increase of just $200,000. Of course, the CEO position comes with significant perks, including use of the company jet and performance options. In his last year as president he received a $1.5 million incentive bonus, so it can be expected for his CEO performance will net him more than double that salary.


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