Alumni Leading Our Community

  • David Berg

    CEO, American Crystal Sugar | Mass Communications

    "Take chances to try something uncomfortable and unfamiliar because those are the things that will transform you as a leader."

    How did your time at MSUM develop you as a leader?

    I received a grounded education in mass communications. MSUM’s involvement with local media allowed me to get my first job with Fargo-Moorhead’s TV ratings leader, which was a dream job for somebody my age. MSUM gave me the degree I needed to get out in the professional world.

    What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve had as a leader?

    The 2011 labor disruption at American Crystal was a very difficult time and took an emotional and economic toll on a lot of people. People looked at American Crystal, and me personally, as doing something really wrong for the people that worked here. But the growers who own this company bought into the idea that we wanted a fair labor contract that would keep the company sustainable and strong for the long-term—that was always the objective. One of the things I’ve learned throughout my entire career at American Crystal is to be transparent and honest with our owners in every single way so they understand what we’re trying to do and why we’re doing it.

    What do you attribute to your success?

    I think I am a born communicator, but underlying the ability to put things into words is understanding what the farmers want to know about their business. I have used my ability to communicate to them what’s going on in the business, and allow them to feel some level of trust in what’s going on within the company – that’s probably been the biggest thing that's helped me be successful.

    How did you grow professionally at American Crystal?

    I had worked in the corporate office for 15 years and was asked to work at the factory in Moorhead as a shift supervisor. A wise person I worked with at the time told me that as a shift supervisor I will have my fingers on everything that makes us money and costs us money, minute to minute throughout the year. I learned an awful lot about how the factory operated, what made us money, labor relations, supervision, etc. It was an incredible learning experience that was extremely uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but at the end of the year I was transformed as a businessperson. It was a pretty cool opportunity.

    What advice do you give to young people entering the work world?

    Do the best you can do. Avoid the whispering campaigns, the political deal making, worrying about how much attention you get, and who is perceiving you in the right way. Just bear down and and do your job to the best of your ability.