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Dean Foods isn’t just the largest dairy company in the United States. Headquartered in Dallas, the ninety-five-year-old food and beverage company includes more than fifty brands and operates its sixty-six manufacturing facilities in thirty-two different states, employing more than sixteen thousand employees.
Vice President, Treasurer, and Head of Investor Relations Edgar DeGuia has been part of Dean Foods since 2009 and has risen through seven roles to his current position. He got his start at the company as a supply chain analyst, traveling to dozens of plants and conducting studies on efficiency and processes. These studies had DeGuia literally in a cooler with a stopwatch to time the different activities. It’s times like these, he explains, that he reminds people that the money is made in the plants, not the corporate offices.
The VP credits the great mentorship he’s received at Dean for his eventual ascension to where he is today. DeGuia’s path to his current position hasn’t necessarily been easy. He grew up in a hardworking Filipino household, and shortly after getting a bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University, he wound up in a white-collar job at Wyndham hotels—the same company where his father had been a blue-collar worker for many years. After working a few more corporate finance jobs and getting his MBA, DeGuia was finally hired at Dean Foods.
His present role has come with its own challenges: Dean has been in the midst of a modernization effort that has provided its fair share of growing pains. The focus on systems improvement and cost reduction necessitated a $715 million refinancing effort to execute the strategic reorganization and modernization efforts. The goal is to emerge with a low-cost platform that will help the company compete with smaller competitors, DeGuia explains. This, ideally, will lead to a more efficient and forward-facing Dean Foods.
Though undergoing an extensive business evolution, Dean Foods still recognizes the need to help employees who are facing their own struggles. The Milk Money Relief Fund provides short-term assistance to employees who are experiencing financial need as a result of home catastrophes or natural disasters like hurricanes.
“In times of crisis, we proactively and urgently support the communities where we do business,” a company statement reads. “Working with our regional plants, we’re able to combine financial support with product donations.” DeGuia adds that he personally knows several members of the company’s corporate team who have gone above and beyond the call of duty on behalf of the wider Dean’s family.
DeGuia says the larger employee population has been even more present in his mind ever since he attended a recent diversity and inclusion event. Demonstrating Dean Foods’ commitment to wider diversity, he says, starts with the effort required to get those jobs where making change is possible. Diversity is so important, but you’ve really got to work for it, DeGuia says. By proving yourself, you can have a voice and add to the decision-making process.