Mention Clorox, and, for most people, the words “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” do not spring to mind. After all, the company has been producing household bleach, its namesake product, for nearly 100 years. But for Dan Heinrich, EY alum and Clorox’s CFO, entrepreneurship and innovation are “the lifeblood” of Clorox, and the reason that the company has stood the test of time.
Heinrich’s journey from EY to Clorox took a number of unexpected turns, and, according to Heinrich, “certainly wasn’t planned.” Heinrich left the San Francisco office of Ernst & Young LLP in 1986 to join a banking client. A few years later the credit crisis hit, the bank was sold, and Heinrich was out of a job. He then went to Transamerica Corporation, where he rose to the rank of treasurer. But just five years later, a Dutch concern purchased Transamerica and, once again, Heinrich was looking for a new opportunity.
Having now spent 20 years in the financial service industry, Heinrich was “ready for a change.” When he learned about an opening at Clorox, Heinrich saw an opportunity to apply his diverse background — including M&A, regulatory, information systems, divestiture and capital markets transaction experience — to the manufacturing and consumer products sector: something Heinrich finds “very energizing.”
“Most people have no idea about everything Clorox is involved with,” says Heinrich. While basically a “one-product” company for its first 65 years, Clorox has aggressively diversified over the past two decades. Today, Clorox makes such household staples as Liquid Plumr, Pine-Sol and Formula 409. But not everyone knows that Clorox also produces and markets Glad bags, STP auto-care products, Brita water filters and Kingsford charcoal. And some are surprised to learn that a company ostensibly known for its cleaning products also serves up Hidden Valley salad dressings and KC Masterpiece sauces, and has recently expanded into the natural personal care category through the purchase of Burt’s Bees.
“Clorox is a brand marketing company,” says Heinrich, “and if you don’t keep those brands fresh, they become commodities.” Heinrich points to the company’s “family togetherness platform” as a recent example of Clorox’s marketing innovation. Based on research indicating that families who eat meals together typically have fewer incidences of teen drug use, teen pregnancy, teen obesity and other problems, Clorox teamed with other leading suppliers to develop a campaign linking their products to promoting family togetherness. “It was a highly innovative approach to a vital consumer issue,” says Heinrich. And it’s one reason why every Clorox product is one of the top two brands in its category.
Looking back on the circumstances that shaped his career, Heinrich doesn’t think that on his own, he would have made any of the career moves he did at the times he did. But in retrospect, he says, each step was “for the better.” Heinrich credits his public accounting pedigree and specifically the mentoring he received from former Partners Jim Maxwell, Bill Mercer and Bob Lehman as foundational to his success. In fact, with Heinrich’s strong encouragement, his daughter, Danielle, recently joined the Ernst & Young LLP Assurance staff. “My advice to her and to anyone else starting out is to seek out as varied experiences as you can. There’s a lot I learned at EY that I’m still applying today — and I think that speaks very highly of the experience.”
Clorox: 100 years of innovation
Clorox was founded in 1913 in Oakland, Calif., by a pair of entrepreneurs who made industrial bleach for paper manufacturers, nut growers and other Northern California companies. But it was one of the men’s wives who had the idea for diluting the bleach, packaging it in small porcelain jugs and selling it as a household laundry product. As the company approaches its centennial anniversary, Heinrich says that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at Clorox. “In fact,” he says, “it’s through innovation and entrepreneurship that you become a 100-year-old company.”
More about Dan Heinrich
- 2009 | San Francisco Bay Area CFO of the Year (San Francisco Business Times)
- 2008 | CPA Executive of the Year (California Society of CPAs — East Bay Chapter)
- 2007 | Named one of Institutional Investor’s “top three CFOs in the cosmetics, household and personal care sectors”