Leading in Times of Challenge with Miriam Erickson Brown
As Chair and CEO of Anderson Erickson Dairy Company, Miriam Erickson Brown has taken over at the company since her grandfather began it in 1930 and after it passed to her father, Jim Erickson. AE Dairy has brought people together through its dairy products through weekly taste-testing. Erickson Brown’s quote on the AE website backs up this tradition. “We’ve always been a different kind of dairy, and that begins with our roots.”
Erickson Brown began her career at AE in the marketing department. She reported to her father for many years and now works closely with her brother, Warren Erickson. AE Dairy is the epitome of a family-owned business.
Miriam Erickson Brown's Leadership Tips
Every generation of AE Dairy has had to navigate difficult challenges. When the company began, not only was it during the Depression, but there were 150 dairies in Greater Des Moines (DSM) with operating permits. Erickson Brown reflects on her father’s health issues, the rise of large retailers and how she and her brother are currently facing the COVID-19 pandemic, and previously, desperate times within the dairy industry.
To deal with the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation, Erickson Brown focused on praying for the safety of employees and customers. This helped ease her anxiety about the pandemic. Yet, during this time, another challenge presented itself in the form of a derecho on Aug. 10, 2020, which caused a six-hour power outage at the AE plant. Packaging and resin shortages have occurred as well due to Hurricane Laura at the end of August 2020. Erickson Brown reflects on how industry knowledge from second and third generation employees, the ability to pivot due to the small size of the company and the strong relationships with farmers and retailers, many of whom are based in DSM, have helped AE Dairy to overcome these tough times. She says having the ability to take a risk and begin again when things don’t go according to plan plays a big part in continuing success and remembering the greater purpose.
Erickson Brown relies on her support system during challenging times. She walks her golden retrievers and works out each day, but says in the end, it’s easy to fight through work challenges when you enjoy what you’re doing. She urges everyone to find that kind of joy in their career that enables them to get up in the morning to meet the next challenge.
Listen to the entire podcast here.
The Leading in Times of Change podcast is brought to you by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and hosted by Mike Jefferson. The podcast features community leaders from across Greater Des Moines (DSM). To listen to more Partnership podcasts, click here.