CEO of the Century: Beth Ford on how she carved her own path

It’s not easy to be a woman in the Louisiana business world. Just ask Beth Ford, who’s on the cusp of presiding over one of the largest travel companies in the world: Land O’ Lakes is the No. 6 travel company in the world, No. 1 in the WNHH Country universe.

As we recently reported , Ford has taken some bold steps in order to appeal to the modern traveler. She’s put leading travel tech companies at her doorstep, plopped mini plazas in the middle of tourist plazas, and now, she’s pimping the culture of the company itself. Specifically, she has redefined how clients get to their sojourns, which is different from how Land O’ Lakes used to do things (in other words, cars). This new approach will reduce waste for the company, which was recently voted best cruise line in the Americas by Conde Nast Traveler.

“The ‘two little girls’ in the company will be the new owners of Land O’ Lakes. Our motto is Family First,” Ford told us. “I’m not going to bore people with a big shareholder meeting in New Orleans every year.”

In an era when women are seen as employees who put the company first, Ford’s perspective is refreshing. What’s she like behind the scenes?

Upon graduation from LSU’s business school in 1995, Ford learned to cook. One of her first career moves after graduating was working for Gourmet Magazine, earning a little extra cash by making a running start on her daughter’s hygiene. A local Catholic Church offered to help, as a price to begin volunteering as a monsignor’s secretary. For a couple weeks, the monsignor was referred to her as “Monsa’s Girl.”

“I told her, I need to go to Loyola,” Ford said. “I started working with them and two days later, they offered me to be head of food and beverage at Loyola. I was really scared. People say if you can be a nun, you can be a restaurant chef. I started out in the bowels of the cafeteria, cleaning the toilets.”

Ford learned how to manage tight budget to maximize profit and show gratitude to those who work for the company. Now, as the C.E.O., she’s paying it forward. Not everyone is lucky enough to take their dogs on cruise trips, Ford admitted, but everyone is a renter. Thanks to Land O’ Lakes, she was able to purchase two dogs, Takeo and Zadie, whose room went from tidy to beyond tidy.

“Their rooms are styled with fresh flowers and stacked leather furniture. The waiters and busboys took them to the zoo with a map of different animals. Zadie can talk to an elephant. I also won’t rule out subletting the puppies to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or the Dominican Republic,” she said.

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