FMI Future Connect: Leaders Outline ‘Path to the Executive Suite’

Oct 15, 2009

By Ron Margulis,
Managing Director, RAM Communications

The Food Marketing
Institute’s first ever Future Connect Conference was held in Dallas this
week and one of the highlights was a group of four c-level executives
sharing the stories of how they made it to their current positions. The
session, called "The Path to the Executive Suite," featured an interesting
mix of two leading CPG leaders and two regional supermarket CEOs, all
of whom took very different routes to the top positions at their companies.

describing his ascension to the top of Hy-Vee, CEO Ric Jurgens gave
11 points to help the crowd of up-and-coming executives
make the leap to the corner office:

  • Treat your
    job as your last one.
  • Don’t separate
    work and home life.
  • Work harder
    for the success of others than your own.
  • Avoid negative
  • Don’t emulate
    your boss.
  • Tell those
    who matter that they do.
  • Treat everyone
    the same.
  • Never be
  • Set a good
  • Do the right
  • Don’t take
    yourself too seriously.

Don Knauss,
CEO of Clorox, added five key character traits of his own:

  • Integrity
  • Curiosity
  • Optimism
  • Compassion
  • Humility

Smith, CEO of K-VA-T Stores, and Beverly Grant, chief grocery channel
officer of Procter & Gamble, added that
senior executives had to be selfless and execute sound judgment.

Question: What are the key qualifications and
personality traits are needed in the next generation of retail c-level executives?
Which recommendations from Ric Jurgens and Don Knauss do you find most valuable?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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6 Comments on "FMI Future Connect: Leaders Outline ‘Path to the Executive Suite’"

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Susan Rider
Susan Rider
11 years 7 months ago

Vigor comes to mind. Tenacity and an understanding of the saying that you can’t continue to do retail like they’ve always done it and expect it to work in the new era, and an understanding of technology and how that will impact retail. Also, a little of the Jeff Bezos “thinking out of the box.”

The two most important areas in the list, in my opinion, are integrity and treating everyone the same. The new millennials entering the work force will need a leader that can build passion by igniting their individualism.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
11 years 7 months ago

There are many roads that can lead to success. Each has open highway on which to speed forward and each has conditional and political potholes. The wonderful words projected by Messrs. Jurgens and Knauss are excellent benchmarks but unless one has a clear understanding of what their meaning demands in ALL situations, they are just well-meaning words. If every aspirant who today honestly believes that they are following the advice given at that conference and are using integrity and fair play as their beacons, will they all reach the top? Perhaps.

Being a true believer in the value of all those human values outlined, I’d also add “perseverance” and my personal motto,

“Develop a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

Roger Saunders
11 years 7 months ago

Merchandising is still the home of the Merchant Prince/Princesses. However, any discipline that demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence, and an ability to keep the consumer at the center of the equation, can and should have the opportunity to rise to the “C” suite.

It’s a consumer-centric world, and retail leaders are driving the bus for manufacturers, brokers, and distributors.

Lee Peterson
11 years 7 months ago

I think it’s a combination of design thinking mixed with a solid knowledge of operations and execution–left brain/right brain combo–that will provide success at retail going forward. There’s clearly been too much focus on six sigma, and finance and operations in the recent past, but a move too far in the other direction–pure marketing for example–would be a mistake. It’s going to take innovative thinking to further retail’s ‘new normal’, but innovation without execution is a zero.

Eliott Olson
Eliott Olson
11 years 7 months ago
I like to view large companies like the military. Their leaders are found in three areas: NCOs, Staff officers and Warrior officers. While the NCOs are the spine of the organization they rarely are promoted to the officer corps except in retail. There have been some chains that hire for their executive (officer) corps. Jewel Tea before they were purchased had a strong executive recruitment program as does Kroger. At Wal-Mart their staff officers were more advanced than their warriors; while at Target the situation was reversed. However in retail, many promotions come from the ranks. Some of these are outstanding yet others maintain that NCO drill sergeant personality and can think tactically but not strategically. To be very blunt, the overall quality of retail executives does not match with other industries. This has exacerbated the consolidation of the retail industry. On the other hand, retail is quirky and the idea that any good executive can run a retail company is not true as Johnston and Nardelli found out at Albertsons and Home Depot. While… Read more »
Chris Hendrick
Chris Hendrick
11 years 7 months ago

Interesting information! I am continually researching a variety of job sites for open jobs at the management level or above and am always curious when I see position criteria that includes a list of “requirements” such as the aforementioned skills. Many of the requirements are in fact some of the skills mentioned here but are also evident among a variety of responsibility levels. What I wish I had seen in this “pathway” information is how the players got their first “C” level deal. There was obviously a time when they were NOT “C” level executives. Who named them “Chief” and why? If they had never been in a “C” level job, how did their manager/supervisor determine that they were “ready” or capable for Chief level responsibilities? How were their skills evaluated? I am curious because I often wonder why organizational “gatekeepers” and/or recruiters are reluctant to analyze skills as opposed to “must have been” job specs.


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