Covering the Land of Lincoln

Beyond the Boardroom: Urbana native and Illinois Foundation Seeds CEO Clinton Naugle | University-illinois

Clinton Naugle, CEO of Illinois Foundation Seeds Inc. in Tolono.

For on-the-job exercise, nothing beats a long, late-summer walk through a corn field — like the one CLINTON NAUGLE invited our Robin Scholz to for the accompanying photo.

That’s where he spends a chunk of his time as CEO of Illinois Foundation Seeds, Inc., which describes itself as the industry’s leading independent company for sweet corn and field crops research, product development, licensing and production.

Naugle joined the Tolono-based company a decade ago after three years as a Cargill farm marketer, starting as a sweet corn account manager before being bumped up to president of the sweet corn division, then company CEO in December 2017.

An Urbana native and Urbana High grad who earned his agriculture business degree from the UI’s College of ACES in 2005, Naugle now calls Savoy home, along with wife Ally, three-year-old daughter Luna, one-year-old daughter Ivy and Gus the goldendoodle.

The avid golfer and Illini football tailgater took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 145th installation of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

I can’t live without… family, Italian beef sandwiches and my cell phone.

My philosophy on meetings is… they can be useful if you have a strong agenda. Be mindful of others’ time, and if you’re not adding value to the attendees, call it off.

My single favorite moment of all time in this job… is always evolving. I continue to see our company accomplish things that seemed so far out of reach only a few years ago.

The three adjectives I hope my staff would use to describe me are … fair, honest and approachable.

I wind down after work by … playing a couple rounds of hide-and-go-seek with my girls, and the CBS Evening News once the girls are in bed.

On my office walls, you’ll find… Pictures of my wife and daughters, a display of golf balls from various courses I’ve played, pictures of corn and a collection of IFSI hats from over the years.

My professional role models are … my parents. They both worked extremely hard and got to the point where they each co-owned a business.

They saved what they earned—but also enjoyed travel and experiences, while providing my sister and I a great childhood.

I’m frugal in that… we pretty much only use hotel points and airline miles when we go on family vacations.

If I could trade places for a week with any other business person in town, I wouldn’t mind switching with … Mr (Shahid) Khan. I’m certain any week of the year would be interesting, but I’d probably try to target a week in the fall during the NFL and English Premier League seasons.

I’m up and at ’em every day by … up by 6 am At ’em depends on how full my inbox is.

My exercise routine consists of … walking corn fields during our field days, and carrying toddlers when they’re tired.

Outside of that, I need to step up my game.

When it comes to the worst job I ever had… I can’t say I’ve had a job I’d classify as the worst. Each job has some days that aren’t fun, but you always learn something from the process.

On a 1-to-10 scale, the impact of the pandemic has been a … 3. We’ve been fortunate to weather the pandemic fairly well.

Agriculture by no means was immune to the pandemic, but seed sales were fairly consistent — we even saw more interest in some of our vegetable seeds as more families put in home gardens since vacationing wasn’t really a thing.

The challenges with international shipments was probably the greatest impact on our business. We had some exports delayed six to eight months.

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