All-Star execs: Top COO: Geoffrey Martin

Taking Toronto-based labeling firm CCL Industries Inc. global.

Top in operations

Geoffrey Martin • CCL Industries Inc. (TSX: CCL.A) • Years at company: 7 • Age: 54

Next challenge: Continue expansion investments in emerging economies, ither through acquisitions or building greenfield sites.

Flipping through Geoffrey Martin’s passport would give a quick glimpse into the ambitions and workings of Toronto-based CCL Industries Inc. The president and CEO’s Irish accent doesn’t betray that he has lived and worked throughout Europe and North America for the past 32 years, while spending extensive amounts of time in Asia. CCL specializes in packaging and labelling for global giants such as L’Orèal and Procter & Gamble, so Martin sets up shop wherever his customers need him, even if it means delving into uncharted territory and volatile and unknown markets. “He took our CCL label overseas, which we would not have been able to do without him,” says executive chairman Donald Lang. When Martin joined the company in 2001 as president of the CCL label business, labels were roughly 25% of sales, and much of their business was regional. Since then, Martin has turned that figure around: today, labels represent about 85% of sales, and he has taken the company global. Lang credits this growth to Martin’s ability to seize and act on opportunities overseas. Just in the past year, CCL has partnered with a label company in Russia, invested $25 million in Asian expansions, and signed on to acquire a large wine label company in Australia.

“We basically follow our customers,” says Martin, 54. “We do business with the world’s top corporations, so our strategy is to have our plants located in the countries where they manufacture.” This allows for a speedy market launch: If a company such as Procter & Gamble wants to introduce a new shampoo, it can do so internationally and not have to repeat the development process in each country. “They can kick-start it with us in France, then roll it out to Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, Thailand, China,” Martin adds. In some cases, CCL has had to do business where it had no experience, such as in Brazil. “It is a country associated with high risk, volatile exchange rates and, sometimes, practices that are not always the same as the ones we have in our part of the world,” says Martin. “Trust is a big thing when you operate in these kinds of territories.” Despite some differences, he sees the biggest growth opportunities in the emerging areas of Europe, Russia, Asia and Latin America.

Martin’s depth of knowledge comes from working from the ground level up. “He understands the basis of cost structure, the technology, the manufacturing, the customer base, and he operates that on a global level,” Lang says admiringly. “Martin can sit down and talk to us executives, the press operators, the accountants, the buyers. People say in this business you have to have a certain amount of ink underneath your nails, and that’s what Martin has.”