In long career, CFO helped Hormel stay community focused

While overseeing a conservative balance sheet, Jim Sheehan helped the food company use its resources to grow more than its bottom line.


Robert Freedman, CFODive

Nov. 15, 2021


When Covid was ravaging communities in 2020, Hormel Foods was able to help local health agencies identify where hotspots were thanks to the digital transformation the company initiated just a few years earlier.


Dubbed Project Orion, the project helped the 130-year-old company transition its legacy finance and accounting technology to a state-of-the-art, data-rich cloud system that proved its value during the pandemic.


“One of the things we did is, we took the outside data from Johns Hopkins [on where outbreaks were occurring nationally] and [overlaid that] with our internal [community] data … and we could find trends,” Hormel CFO Jim Sheehan told CFO Dive. “So, we were proactively going to employees and saying … we’re going to pay you to stay home for the next two weeks because we can see in the community in which you live there’s a heavy outbreak.”


The company, known for its chili and other protein-focused food products, shared with local agencies what it was seeing when it laid its data against the Johns Hopkins data.


It “was good feedback to some of these community health officials to show them exactly where they were having outbreaks,” said Sheehan, a 43-year veteran of the company who is retiring at the end of the year. Jacinth Smiley, who joined in March as group vice president of corporate strategy, will take over as CFO. She previously was vice president and chief accounting officer at plastics company LyondellBasell.


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