YKK Stories

Fundamental Behavior 18 – Take ownership

April 30, 2021
Author: YKK
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Frito-Lay is the current worldwide leader in snacks, controlling over 35% of the world market and more than 60% of the US market.  In the late 1980’s however, Frito-Lay was in serious financial trouble.  The company had introduced numerous new products to the market and all had failed in fairly short order.  The CEO at the time, Roger Enrico, put out a new company wide initiative to “Act like an owner” to all 300,000 Frito-Lay employees.  He was trying to inspire them to work more creatively and efficiently.

Richard Montañez was a janitor who had worked for Frito-Lay since 1976.  Montañez was a model employee.  He put his all into his job and even went out of his way to learn more about the company’s products and manufacturing process.  After hearing about the new initiative, Montañez took home several bags of unflavored Cheetos.  He and his wife put together a spice mix based off elote (Mexican street corn).  They tested the products on their friends and neighbors until they created something that everyone loved. They then sealed the bags with an iron at home.  They even hand drew their own labels on the bags.  Nervously, Montañez directly called his CEO to present his new product, and Roger set up a meeting for two weeks later.  After hearing the presentation, Roger loved the concept and the flavor and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were born.

Like Richard, we can all take ownership here at YKK.  We can all develop a lifelong love of learning and continue to learn about other parts of YKK that aren’t under our direct control.  We have many opportunities around us to take the initiative to solve our challenges, big and small.  Some of these challenges will require us to think in new ways.  They may even require us to do things outside of our normal comfort zone.  As Tadao Yoshida once said, “Size and scope differ from person to person, but there is one thing that does not change: making an effort is indispensable for making a dream come true.”  Let us put that effort into helping those around us and we will all succeed together.

Michael Hopper
Senior Finishing Engineer
YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products