[Executive Forum Interview] John Dombrosky

Features - Q&A

An accomplished strategy and mergers and acquisitions manager leads Syngenta Professional Pest Management following the integration of DuPont’s insecticide business.

February 26, 2015

Editor’s note: There have been a number of high-profile personnel changes among manufacturers and distributors serving the pest management industry during the past 18 months. As a result, the following Q&A piece — with Syngenta’s John Dombrosky — is the first in a series of Executive Forum articles designed to familiarize our readers with these key industry stakeholders who play such a critical role in driving market change.

The pest control industry is constantly evolving and product suppliers serving this rapidly changing marketplace must evolve right along with it or be left behind. One company that has undergone a dramatic evolution in recent years is Syngenta Professional Pest Management (PPM) which, amid much fanfare, purchased the DuPont Professional Products insecticide business in 2012, including such well-known brands as Arilon insecticide, Altriset termiticide and Advion ant and cockroach gel baits.

The person chosen to lead the high-stakes integration process for the Greensboro, N.C.-based company was John Dombrosky, who holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.

Dombrosky, 42, began his career as a financial and operations analyst for Northwest Airlines before moving on to Thomson Reuters as director of finance, leading mergers and acquisitions as well as acquisition integration efforts. He joined Syngenta in 2007 as head of business development finance, North America, for the company’s Seeds business. Three years later, Dombrosky was named head of strategy for the Syngenta Turf & Landscape business in North America, where he developed a reputation as an innovative leader who embraced change.

It was while serving in this role that Dombrosky’s M&A experience proved particularly beneficial as the company entered into negotiations with DuPont to purchase its insecticide product portfolio, which included a number of new active ingredients — indoxacarb, chlorantraniliprole and cyantraniliprole — that complemented the existing Syngenta PPM product line.

As a seasoned M&A professional, Dombrosky jumped at the chance to contribute to the effort. Since that time, Dombrosky has embraced his new role as head of marketing, overseeing the launch of Zyrox fly granular bait and Talon Ultrablok rodenticide, as well as reorganizing the Syngenta PPM business, regularly interacting with key industry stakeholders and setting aggressive financial targets for the pest control business unit.

Broad-Based Product Portfolio

Syngenta Professional Pest Management (PPM) offers a comprehensive array of products, including a full line of general use of insecticides, termiticides and rodenticides. Featuring a mix of new and established products, the company’s product portfolio includes:

Advion ant gel bait
Advion cockroach gel bait
Advion fire ant bait
Advion insect granule
Archer insect growth regulator
Arilon insecticide
Demand CS insecticide
Demand EZ insecticide
Demand G insecticide
Demon Max insecticide
Demon WP insecticide
Optigard ant gel bait
Optigard fire ant bait
Optigard Flex liquid insecticide
Tandem insecticide
Zyrox fly granular bait

Talon Ultrablok rodenticide
Talon-G rodenticide
Weatherblok XT rodenticide

Altriset termiticide

“John is an exceptional executive with sound business acumen. He strikes the right balance between having a keen eye for detail while ensuring that the organization never loses sight of the big picture,” observed Stephen Shute, senior vice president and managing director for SAP who worked closely with Dombrosky during his tenure at Thomson Reuters. “He is a true leader and is a change agent that inspires his team to stretch themselves to think bigger than they thought possible.”

PCT recently caught up with the always impeccably dressed Dombrosky, an avid golfer and outdoorsman, to learn about his plans for Syngenta and the pest management industry, a time no doubt that will continue to be marked by great change.

PCT: What factors prompted you to accept your new role at Syngenta?

John Dombrosky: At the University of Notre Dame School of Business it’s almost required that you watch the movie Rudy, a classic story of an underdog overcoming adversity. The beauty of being an underdog is you have nothing to lose. You can be curious, creative and open to new ideas.

At Syngenta PPM we’re in the shadow of a couple of big competitors, so we’re hungry. As a result, we have an incredible opportunity to think differently about the business, helping to shape the future of the pest management industry. In the end, with the acquisition of the DuPont Professional Products insecticide business, along with our existing product line, we have a great portfolio of products and we’ve assembled a great team, so we’re poised to take the business to the next level.

PCT: Why do you think you were chosen to lead the marketing efforts of the Syngenta PPM business?

JD: I think it was likely the breadth of my experience. I have spent a good amount of my career in support roles — finance, M&A, licensing and strategy — so I welcome the opportunity for a more external focus, gaining a better understanding of our customers’ business needs and looking objectively at our assets to create new value for all stakeholders.

At Thomson Reuters, I was involved with six deals and in three of those six deals I was the integrating CEO. In the M&A market, a manager often will finalize the transaction and move on to the next deal, but I always enjoyed playing a greater role in the integration process following an acquisition, which is what I have been able to do with the DuPont acquisition.

One of the advantages of such an approach is the manager has a clear understanding of the original rationale behind an acquisition. Oftentimes, as a manager you can build a business case in isolation and think that’s reality, but if you’ve been involved in the entire M&A process it gives you a clearer understanding of the overall business landscape, allowing you to be more adaptable and giving the business a greater opportunity to succeed.

Branding Initiative Reinforces Market Commitment

By the end of 2014, Syngenta Professional Pest Management (PPM) had introduced several unique product chemistries and label expansions to the pest control market. This is just one of the ways the company has continued to demonstrate the branding initiative it launched in 2013 — “For Life Uninterrupted.”

“For Life Uninterrupted” is founded on three key messages, according to the company:

  • The renewed position of Syngenta PPM as a leader in the professional pest man-agement market 
  • The expanded resources and expertise of its team
  • The ability to deliver solutions and help improve the lives of millions of people around the world 

The new brand transformation demonstrates that Syngenta PPM is a committed partner of choice for PMPs, the company said. With its broad product portfolio and industry experience, Syngenta said it is well-equipped to help PMPs deliver life uninterrupted to their customers. As part of its new visual identity, Syngenta PPM also developed new product logos using clean and bright colors to capture the spirit of freshness and professional cleanliness, the company said. “Our products, expertise and leadership help PMPs address pest challenges quickly and effectively,” said Dave Ravel, head of sales for Syngenta Turf & Landscape in North America. “We are committed to delivering innovative pest control solutions and support services to help PMPs succeed in delivering a pest-free environment so their customers can live their lives uninterrupted.”

PCT: With a year now under your belt leading the business, what are some of the challenges and opportunities facing Syngenta PPM in the months ahead?

JD: With the integration process behind us, we need to focus on how to differentiate our products in the marketplace, while adding value to all of our customer relationships. We’re well positioned to accomplish both of those goals as a result of our decision to continue to invest substantial financial resources in the pest management industry.

The DuPont acquisition changed the perception of the business internally at Syngenta PPM. It dramatically expanded our product portfolio, creating excitement and renewed passion for our business.

As a result of the acquisition, overnight we doubled our sales force and product portfolio offerings. We now have a very compelling story to tell our customers around not only our active ingredient technology, but our formulation technology. When some are cutting back in research and development and product stewardship investments in the face of a challenging economy, we are investing in this business, resulting in a re-emerging sales force and re-emerging technical staff. Thanks to the combination of our existing product portfolio and the addition of new products, pest management professionals can now run their pest management businesses with Syngenta PPM products alone should they choose. We can be a one-stop shop for most businesses.

However, with a $125 million investment comes a lot of management expectations. Syngenta expects a solid return on that investment, so the Professional Pest Management group is going to need to perform accordingly.

Finding ways to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace is a key component of our market strategy. There was a big culture change that came with the integration of these businesses. But now with the products and people in place to underpin a more substantial combined business, we’re in a strong position to dramatically grow the PPM business.

Fortunately, we’ve been given a lot of freedom and resources to ensure that we succeed in achieving those goals. We’ve made a $125 million investment to reinvigorate our business. We didn’t do that to remain a #4 stalking horse.

PCT: Given those expectations, what is the number one objective for Syngenta for the pest management industry in 2015?

JD: To emerge as a thought leader in the professional pest management industry.

PCT: Is there a specific product or product category Syngenta will be focusing on in the coming year?

JD: As the Altriset efficacy data piles up, I would love to see this termiticide gain broader market acceptance. We also have introduced a number of new or enhanced products that we’re excited about — Zyrox and Talon Ultrablok (see related stories in the Online Extras section of www.pctonline.com).  

PCT: Along with the integration of the DuPont product portfolio, Syngenta PPM rolled out a new branding campaign — “For Life Uninterrupted.” What was the company hoping to accomplish through this global marketing initiative?

JD: “For Life Uninterrupted” acts as an internal cultural compass for our business (see related, sidebar above). We aim to emerge as a curious, resourceful and considerate leader in the pest control industry.

PCT: What would you like PMPs to take away from this branding effort?

JD: Syngenta PPM has unique, effective and differentiated products that PMPs can trust and leverage for growth. Also, beyond the products we supply to the marketplace, we aspire for a more collaborative relationship with our customers. We are ready to listen and create new value together.

PCT: What would you say to a PMP to convince them to do business with Syngenta PPM if they aren’t already doing business with the company?

JD: I have learned so much going out to visit customer locations. I would simply say, “Give us a shot. We have great technology, a deep commitment to this industry, a willingness to listen, and we want to help PMPs grow.” It’s a simple, but powerful message.

PCT: In conclusion, please tell us something about yourself that our readers might find either surprising or interesting.

JD: My dad worked for the Ford Motor Corporation, and subsequently owned a car dealership. I have great interest — some would say a weakness — for well-designed cars. Great cars can frame art and technology within a very utilitarian context.


Syngenta PPM introduces PestPartners 365 rebate program

Syngenta Professional Pest Management (PPM) is ringing in the new year with its PestPartners 365 Program, a new, yearlong rebate program for pest management professionals (PMPs). This unique rebate savings program allows PMPs to maximize their purchasing power — not just for a few months, but throughout the entire year, according to the company.

“Syngenta is committed to helping PMPs make smart, economical purchasing decisions for their businesses,” said John Dombrosky, head of marketing for Syngenta PPM, Americas. “We are excited to offer PMPs this new rebate model, where they can take advantage of yearlong rebates on the Syngenta products that best fit their business offerings.”

From Jan. 1 to April 30, 2015, PMPs who purchase sufficient qualifying products can earn a minimum rebate of $250. Once PMPs earn this qualification, they are eligible for additional rebate savings that will be applied to all their qualifying product purchases made through Dec. 31, 2015. Not only is it easy to save with PestPartners 365, but it is also simple to calculate rebates with an easy-to-use rebate calculator, Syngenta says. This tool will help PMPs determine their potential rebate savings on qualifying product purchases made throughout the year by calculating their qualifying rebate level. These rebate calculations also can be converted into PestPartners 365 program worksheets, which can be exported, emailed, printed or shared at any time by visiting the PestPartners 365 program page while logged into a SyngentaPMP account.

“Syngenta continually strives to provide value to our customers at all times throughout the year,” said Dombrosky. “PestPartners 365 is a testament to our mission and makes it easier for PMPs to achieve yearlong savings on our line of pest management products.” For more information about PestPartners 365, visit www.PestPartners365.com.