Tell me a little bit about your career. What events have shaped where you are today?
I entered the workforce during a time of high unemployment. The stability of the consumer packaged goods industry was highly sought after, as was the training and “pedigree” of working for a top-tier branded company. After a brief stint with Schwan’s consumer brands, I spent 18 years with the Campbell Soup Company in nearly every field and headquarter assignment one could have. Being near family was very important so I left Campbell’s and found GNP Company, a Minnesota based company where I became the Director of Sales and eventually the SVP of Sales and Marketing. After GNP Company was acquired, I had the opportunity to help a business friend set up Freak Flag Organics. As that role was transferred to the owner, I joined the ArchPoint Team. I was very familiar with ArchPoint, as I had worked with Richard Spoon at Campbell’s and had used ArchPoint as a resource at GNP Company.
How did you become interested in sales?
My degree was in Business Administration. As I networked with classmates while seeking employment, many of them were in some sort of sales position in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. My goal has always been general management. A sales path was simply a great fit for my skill set of being able work independently, build relationships, being analytical, collaborative, and building teams.
What advice can you give to leaders who want to improve their sales organizations?
Make sure both your strategy and value proposition are very well-defined and that you are able to communicate it so the entire team can articulate it through every initiative.
Spend as much time on building a high performance team as you do in the business. Your team will be able to take care of the business and deliver results if they have the capability and capacity to do so. It is my observation and experience that the sales team needs to be the most financially savvy team, top to bottom, in the company. The decisions made with the customer can drive or erode profitability more than what most c-level executives realize even with a significant management routine and constraints in place.
Once you have that in place, push decisions as close to the customer as possible in order to move with speed in the face of competition and at the pace of the customer’s business.
What is the most important trait you think a good salesperson should have?
Entrepreneurship. I define it as the ability to see what the future could look like, define the path to make it happen, and have the persistence to see it through. Most CPG and other industry salespeople are very good at business and process management. But great salespeople can see a better future and make it happen.
What is the one mistake you see leaders making most frequently?
Approaching accountability as a disciplinary action. Most leaders don’t give the feedback people need to improve and think of actions as corrective or disciplinary rather than improvement. This trains people to be defensive to feedback and leaders to fear giving it. Developing a culture embedded with accountability and routine feedback, helps teams and individuals grow.
What is the best business lesson you’ve ever learned?
Make decisions based upon your strategy versus on today’s business need. This is easier said than done. It is better to accept poor business results in the short-term to accomplish the long-term goal.
Are there any trends you find exciting/worrisome that CPG brands should be aware of?
I don’t know if it is groundbreaking, but consumers want great products as they define great. For some it is new flavors, pure ingredients, better performance, or company alignment with their values. Brands need to be clear about what consumers need and how they are delivering value. I see companies stray from the simple idea of creating or redesigning their product to meet their customer’s needs. They chase a new brand slogan or message instead of simply delivering great products and value.
What is your mantra?
It is pretty simple: make it happen. With vision, time, and discipline nearly anything can be accomplished.
What’s a quirky detail about you that might surprise your colleagues?
It probably is not a surprise, but my wife will tell you that I sometimes begin with the back half of a sentence.
What do you wish I had asked you?
What is my favorite book? It has been around awhile but I don’t know if it is widely read. It is “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews. The author has a take on the “Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success”, and is a great guide to a mindset to manage much that we deal with in the business world and at home.