Spotlight on Doug Franchot
Doug Franchot has spent almost his whole life helping others. As a young man, he proudly served as an officer in the U.S. Navy for five years. After earning an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master's from Harvard Business School, he went on to have a successful corporate career with General Mills and Shedd-Brown, Inc., started two of his own companies, volunteered for many nonprofit organizations, and helped raise two wonderful daughters. We at the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) are proud to have Doug’s talents as chair of the Northeast RSDP Board of Directors and a community representative on our statewide RSDP Executive Committee.
Mr. Franchot (who prefers to simply be called Doug) served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 through 1972 during the height of the Vietnam War. During that time he had a number of roles, including Chief Engineer, Weapons and Deck Officer, Communications Officer and Sonar Officer. “But the most fun was being the Officer of the Deck,” he said, “meaning I got to drive.”
Doug found his service to be immensely valuable. “I was and am proud of my ship and crew mates. We were tasked with several important missions [and] pulled them off better than was expected,” he said.
He said that though he was fortunate that his work in the submarine avoided close combat, he recalled, “The hardest part for me turned out to be all of the people I knew who went off to the Vietnam War and never came back.”
The Navy helped Doug attain an excellent undergraduate education at Yale and an MBA in Marketing and Operations from Harvard Business School. After completing his MBA, Doug went on to work as a Product Manager for General Mills and later as Executive Vice President and President of Shedd-Brown, Inc. “School taught me how to do a lot of good things, and General Mills taught me how to apply them,” he said. “General Mills did a wonderful job of bringing [people into] business and teaching them a very high standard of performance.”
Ethical corporate practices were very important to Doug. “We [at General Mills] had a very high ethical standard. … I was in the kids’ cereal [area] for a while. I had little kids, and we worked very hard to have products that were as good as we could make.” Later, he left General Mills to work for Shedd-Brown, Inc., as Executive Vice President and later President. “That was a great learning experience, too,” he recalled.
Doug spent almost five years with Shedd-Brown, Inc., before moving on to work with a business partner to start two of their own recruiting companies: Franchot and Associates, Inc., and Wood-Franchot. “It was challenging, but I spent my days meeting interesting people and interesting companies,” he said. “Partners have been a theme in my life for a while. … I had a great partner, and we made a nice little business in the executive search world.”
Doug’s volunteer work could be a full-time job by itself. He served several terms as Chair of the Voyageurs National Park Association and continues on its Board. He helped found the Heart of the Continent Partnership and chairs its Steering Committee. He has served on boards for nonprofits such as Voyageur Outward Bound School, Outward Bound USA, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, the Minnesota Environmental Fund and the Management Assistance Project (MAP) for Nonprofits, beyond his service for RSDP.
Doug brought valuable business experience to these boards, focusing on helping the organizations find an internal balance that worked for them. He volunteered countless hours behind the scenes to make sure that the processes that allow nonprofits to run went smoothly. “It is really valuable to bring those private industry disciplines into the nonprofit world. … Business approaches can sometimes be helpful in focusing on what you do well, because you don’t have to—and can’t—do everything.”
Noting that businesses can also learn from nonprofits, Doug said, “There’s this whole other side of the equation in what nonprofits can teach businesses. Having people from both sides of the equation—as well as academia—is a really good mixture. And the Partnerships [are building] bridges across those divides.”
Doug learned about RSDP when the Northeast region provided seed funding to the Heart of the Continent Partnership. As he learned more about RSDP’s work, he became more and more involved. He believes that the outreach and support that RSDP brings to rural communities is vital to everyone's success. “Doug’s enthusiastic and effective leadership attest to his commitment to helping ensure that success,” said Northeast RSDP Executive Director Okey Ukaga.
“As a strong, honest, visionary, yet practical and realistic leader, Doug has helped the Northeast RSDP reenergize our work groups and enhance engagement with both community and University over the past two years,” Ukaga said. “He has also encouraged us to be mindful about a bottom-up vs. top-down approach to program planning and project development, and implications for regional to statewide relationships as well as that between the University and communities. In all of these, Doug’s wonderful past professional experiences and extraordinary wisdom are evident. I am so pleased to have him leading the Northeast RSDP board at this time.”
In Doug’s words, “I find it very exciting to represent the University to the community. I’ve seen firsthand how a little bit of money and a little bit of technical help can really help a community project. So many times community members have a great idea, but don’t know what to do next, [and RSDP helps fill the gap]. I find that very exciting, and very rewarding.”
As rewarding as his work and volunteer experience have been, Doug’s family is an important life focus. “I think our state is as good as it gets for raising families,” he said. Doug and his wife, Karen, enjoy time spent with their two daughters and five grandchildren, and their extended families who live across the US.
Doug and Karen love visiting spectacular Voyageurs National Park, right down the road from their home. As Doug said, “We really enjoy getting outdoors whether it’s just sitting on a rock, boating, gardening, birding, or tromping around.”
Doug Franchot has spent almost his whole life enriching and helping others. When I [Elizabeth, a student assistant writer] asked if there was anything he wanted to add at the end of our interview, Doug emphasized, “I really feel a sense of gratitude for being able to serve on the Partnership and to work with all the people involved.”
We at RSDP would like to extend our own gratitude to Doug as well. Thank you so much for all you have done for the lands and waters of our beautiful state. Thank you so much for all you have done for our community. Thank you so much for your service to your country. We celebrate your service!