Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The only constant is change

I'm truly enjoying being back at writing, capturing some of the moments that have made up the last year. As I think through the last many months, it's pretty remarkable how much happens in any given year. A whole lot of little things which, when added up, turn out to be the big things in life. Along the way, though, there are also the big things. Those momentous events and life changes that even in the moment, you recognize as a big thing.

Not too long ago, you may remember that I made a pretty big professional life decision, leaving P&G to go to work for an agency called Shopper Events. It was a tremendous opportunity for me to accelerate my career from a leadership standpoint, and to expand my skills and broaden my experience by moving over from the manufacturer side of the Consumer Packaged Goods industry to the marketing agency side.

As it turns out, agency life really isn't for me. There were all kinds of challenges with the company itself, from leadership to clarity of purpose to unfathomably unrealistic business objectives. Even so, I learned a lot, and the year I spent there was invaluable. No, it wasn't the company issues that convinced me I'm not quite right for agencies; it was the fact that no matter how good an agency is, no matter how valuable to its clients, the work that we did only contributed to the success of a product or a brand. Even with the best possible plan, I didn't own the sales results of the product, and I didn't have ultimate accountability for sales success.

As it turns out, I love being in sales. Love it. I landed in a sales job when I left the Army way back in 2002 primarily because it would pay the bills and because it was in Baltimore, where we were headed for Justin to attend law school.While I didn't love medical devices, neurologists or operating rooms, I did love the selling. That held true through all of my years at P&G, and after six months at Shopper Events, I knew it was still true.

Now, I'm not one to advocate for job hopping. For years, I truly thought P&G would be where I would retire after a long, successful career selling household staples to America's retailers. Here in Northwest Arkansas, though, you see a surprising number of people who build successful, rewarding careers doing just that. With countless vendors selling to two of the world's largest retailers, there are frequently more jobs than there are qualified local candidates.

Knowing that, right around the first of this year I quietly began talking to friends to ascertain what opportunities might allow me to continue to grow right here in NW Arkansas, but back in the traditional manufacturer's side of the CPG industry. After four years here, I've made many wonderful friends, many of whom are in the industry, so I had the good fortune to be able to "job hunt" just by listening and asking a few questions.

After a few months of casual comments that turned to serious conversations that ultimately led to interviews, I was presented an offer to go to work for the Kraft Foods Group. Kraft, the company I always thought of as the P&G of food! Not only would I have the chance to work for a world-class food company, I would be working for someone I'd known socially for a couple of years, taking the guesswork out of whether or not I'd like my new boss. With visibility to leadership opportunities in the short term, I was excited to be back in a bag-carrying role, representing a company and brands that are in 98% of households in America.

I accepted the job and - no exaggeration - enjoyed the idea for exactly one day before rumors of a merger slash acquisition arose in the press. Heinz, owned by the private equity group 3G Capital, was apparently intent on bringing the two companies together, creating a new mega-company that had the potential for hundreds of millions in cost savings and sales growth through the leveraging of a global business model. Bleh, bleh, bleh... what everyone wants to know, ultimately, is what does that mean for me? As it turned out, it meant a promotion roughly 90 days after my start date. Kraft Mac & Cheese and Jell-O are my brands, and I have the honor of leading the fantastic Kraft Heinz Walmart Meals & Desserts team.

New company, new culture, and new opportunity lie in front of me. I look forward to going to work every day, back in the industry I enjoy and working with fantastic people, every day. I am incredibly grateful for my year at Shopper Events because more than anything, it clarified for me that the CPG industry is the right place for me. It might just be Mac & Cheese to you, but to me, it's exciting and, yes, even fun, to try and figure out each day how to grow this business. While this might sound a little bit like job hopping, I'm approaching this new gig with the same attitude I had at P&G. If everything works out, I may just someday be able to call myself a Kraft Heinz retiree.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! So exciting! I wish I could work with you some day...