“I grew up on an agricultural kibbutz, which we joined when I was a child, and farming has been important to me ever since,” Chen recalls. “During my high school years, I was part of the team that grew and harvested cotton. The harvest was always exciting. We had to work together, under time pressure, to ensure a successful harvest ahead of the rain. Working in the cotton fields, with a very dedicated team, was one of the experiences that form the context for my thinking.”
His background in farming and love for outdoor activities, have impacted his focus on the environment.
“The environment is part of our business. Our customers work outside and depend on nature for their success. In my earlier positions at Adama, I placed a strong emphasis on decreasing our environmental footprint, reducing emissions and treating effluents. For Adama, this is an integral part of the way we conduct our activities, and we intend to lead in this area in every country in which we operate.”
The time he worked in China had a profound impact on his outlook.
“What has taken place in China in recent several decades, raising significantly the standard of living for hundreds of millions of people in a very short time, utilizing internal resources and in an orderly manner, is one of the greatest achievements of humankind,” he says.
“Listen more, speak less,” was a key lesson Chen learned during the time he worked in Beijing, as President and CEO of China National Agrochemical Corporation (CNAC), Adama’s parent company and a ChemChina strategic business division.
Distinct business insights from his Chinese peers surprised him at first, even after he had worked and lived in New York and London, in the thick of mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs. “There are deep ways of thinking and management we can learn from the Chinese people that are fundamental to business today.”
With a key part of Adama’s backbone being “get it done,” Chen feels upbeat as its leader. “I like to make things happen, to get things done. It was not straightforward to convince professors at Stanford that I should study for two doctoral degrees simultaneously, not less challenging than the studies themselves…," he smiles. I like to take on seemingly impossible challenges, and make them happen.”
One such challenge is to resolve the apparent dichotomy of a company that sells through distributors yet maintains its farmer-centricity, but Chen simplifies this view.
“We have a direct connection with farmers through their use of our labeled products. So any qualities we incorporate into our products, like efficacy, packaging or uniqueness in formulation, reaches the farmer and is linked back to us through the recognition of our brand. ”
Chen’s focus on the needs of the farmer will help extend Adama’s leadership position in the crop protection industry. “The company is currently in a transition from strategic design to execution,” he explained.
“We are focused on not just enlarging Adama, but also strengthening it. The Chinese market is growing quickly, and in the next decade will be one of the top three crop protection markets in the world; today we have unique attributes which can help us lead in the Chinese market. With our outstanding team, products, geographic reach, and strategic direction, we have all the necessary elements to move up the ranks of the world’s leading crop protection companies over the next five to ten years.”
Full Name: Chen Lichtenstein
Birthplace: Tel Aviv, Israel
Education: B.Sc. Physics, Hebrew University; LL.B., Hebrew University, joint doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and JSD), Graduate School of Business and School of Law, Stanford University
Family: Married; two sons
Hobbies: Orienteering (a competitive sport in which participants race to navigate unfamiliar territory), running, raising a white Labrador