Doug Watson Guides Growth at Costa Farms

Using his expertise in leading transformational projects, Doug Watson delivers results at fast-growing horticultural company Costa Farms

Doug Watson has never been afraid to push himself to get involved with difficult projects. Early in his career, Watson could always be seen volunteering for extra projects that enhanced his understanding of company operations, value-adding strategies, and organizational networking.

Doug Watson Costa Farms
Doug Watson, Costa FarmsPhoto: Jeanette Rodriguez

These days, however, Watson has no need to volunteer for special tasks: top companies such as wholesale grower Costa Farms are eager to capitalize on his talent and have kept him busy driving business transformation and technological innovation for the past six years.

Watson is known for his ability to lead IT functions in a way that generates tangible value for an organization. This value-centric mind-set stems, he explains, from the ten-plus years that he spent in operations and sales early in his career.

“My first opportunity was to transform the organization’s relationship-based selling approach to one that was fact-based,” Watson recalls. “This involved designing new processes for how we approached working with our customers as well as developing and delivering a sales training program along with supporting technology.”

Watson’s knack for transformation quickly earned him a reputation in the industry—and secured him a position as vice president of marketing and sales systems at wine and spirit importer Schieffelin and Somerset. There, Watson not only transformed the sales team but also played a role in reengineering all customer-facing processes, order replenishment, demand forecasting, shipping, and more.

According to Watson, that experience opened his eyes to the fact that “yes, technology plays a big role in transformational efforts. But in order to deliver repeatable improvements, you have to develop a structured approach.

“That approach must include a business process design, which determines jobs, competencies, and governance structure,” Watson continues. “That process, in turn, requires management as well as incentives and performance measurement systems, which influence the organization’s values and beliefs. And technology enables it all.”

“Implementing an ERP platform moves you into a long-term relationship. I like to refer to it as a marriage—you want to ensure there is a good fit.”

The value of that structured approach to transformation extends beyond any individual organization, Watson emphasizes. In fact, Watson’s success was exactly what attracted Bacardi USA in 1997. For more than fifteen years, Watson helped the beverage giant revamp its sales teams, implement a regional enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform for North America, and global SAP platform, and optimize various business and IT functions.

All of those experiences helped set him up for success at Costa Farms. One of the largest horticultural companies in the world, Costa Farms has experienced rapid growth in recent years and now generates more than $500 million annually. As senior vice president and chief information officer, Watson strives to establish the systems necessary for helping the company manage that exponential growth—and even put it on the path to becoming a billion-dollar organization.

“For the last three years, it has been all about getting the organization ready for our enterprise-wide ERP implementation,” Watson says. “We project that half of our future growth will come from acquisitions, which will require us to quickly integrate new acquisitions.”

An “enterprise way of working” is critical to achieving that level of agility, Watson explains, which is why he and other Costa leaders conducted a rigorous search for the highest-quality ERP platform available. It was a process that took more than eighteen months.

“We developed our capability matrix of our requirements and must-haves and conducted two on-site, in-depth product reviews of our short list vendors,” he explains. Watson and his team eventually selected Sage X3 as Costa’s ERP platform, a testament to Sage’s strong manufacturing functionality.

Watson was looking for more than just a fulfillment of Costa’s technical needs. He also conducted several meetings with Sage’s management team to assess how well their culture aligned with Costa’s. “Implementing an ERP platform moves you into a long-term relationship,” Watson notes. “I like to refer to it as a marriage—you want to ensure there is a good fit.”

“Great ideas deliver no value unless adopted and executed by the organization.”

“When Doug started working with us, we knew he had a special vision for Costa Farms,” says George Seymour, vice president of sales at Sage X3. “Moving from a small company organization to an enterprise-level operation requires an experienced leader with a solid plan and an innovative approach. It has been an honor to help bring this vision to reality for Doug and the Costa Farms family.”

In conjunction with selecting and rolling out this ERP platform, Watson has also been working to optimize Costa’s project management capabilities and establish an enterprise-wide governance structure. All of these efforts have kept the SVP and his various team members on their toes, and fortunately, Watson has cultivated an IT team that (much like himself) understands how to drive strategic value.

“We look to hire people who are positive and dedicated, people who have a natural curiosity, are continuous learners, and can think strategically while still getting into the details,” Watson says. “We look for people who are never happy with the status quo.

“Lastly, these individuals also have to have strong communication and persuasive skills,” Watson continues. “Great ideas deliver no value unless adopted and executed by the organization.”

It doesn’t take long for the impact to be seen across the organization, Watson says. In fact, that is partly what has kept him in this line of work. “It is challenging; it is very difficult,” he admits. “But once you successfully deliver, you see the benefits almost immediately, and it just feels great.”