Visionaries 2018

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Visionaries 2018

By Peter Breen & Nicole Gillo - 06/12/2018

There’s a lot of conversation these days about the ways in which artificial intelligence will drive the future of consumer goods. But we probably shouldn’t forget the fact that this industry is still being guided by some pretty solid, old-fashioned human intelligence. If you need proof, we have all the evidence you need right here.

Business vision manifests itself in many ways, and the 10 executives spotlighted by CGT this year illustrate many of them: from innovative business models that are disrupting the entire consumer goods marketplace to unique strategies that help existing companies build out new capabilities and stronger connections with customers and consumers.

But while each of this year’s stories is unique, there are obvious commonalities among this group as well, such as a tireless work ethic, a relentless desire to learn and a spirited willingness to try new things — and also fail on occasion as part of the learning process. Another is the understanding that one person’s vision often takes a whole team (or even organization) to execute; all of this year’s Visionaries readily assert that collaboration — and the kind of leadership that inspires it — is critical to success.

Without further ado, CGT is proud to present its 16th class of Visionaries. Nominated by their bosses, peers, partners and even the occasional competitor, the innovation and leadership of these 10 executives have proven invaluable to the recent success of their organizations. If you read closely enough, they might even help you develop some visions of your own.

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Jon Brandon Collins
Vice President, E-Commerce Sales
Corsicana Mattress Co.
5 months with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: One of Collins’ greatest achievements has been establishing digital partnerships that helped position Corsicana for strong e-commerce growth while improving internal efficiencies and speed to market. In previous roles, he also introduced a new approach to client services that improved retention by 43% and co-authored a selling methodology for B2B sales to smaller companies.

ON THE HORIZON: Collins and his team are focused on building and launching a fully compressible “mattress in a box” for online-only sales that will substantially improve Corsicana’s e-commerce positioning in the home furnishings segment. Ultimately, the product will help drive sales growth over the next 12 months. Elsewhere, Collins is working on the second phase of a recently launched corporate website.

TECH BENEFITS: Most helpful to Collins has been a fully customizable CRM solution that can integrate with campaign and marketing automation tools.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “Winning is not a culture, it’s a by-product of the culture you create,” says Collins. “Define your culture and be intentional about driving it.” This philosophy inspires Collins daily and encourages him to build a unified workforce.

LOOKING AHEAD: “There is so much competition in the market,” says Collins. “Whatever you commit yourself to, devote every minute of your time at work for your company to it. Do not waiver or waste any time. Just two unproductive working days per month amount to a full month of unproductiveness at the end of the year.”

"Winning is not a culture, it’s a byproduct of the culture you create."

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Zahir Dossa
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Function of Beauty
3 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Making Function of Beauty actually happen took a heck of a lot of vision: The company uses proprietary algorithms to develop unique hair care products for every single customer. “It’s one thing to have an idea for individually filled and formulated products,” says Dossa. “But it’s a whole other thing to see it actually happen.”

ON THE HORIZON: Working to expand the young company internationally in response to a large number of requests is a current priority. “We’re very excited to share Function of Beauty and the products with the world,” he says.

TECH BENEFITS: Web development and design have been vital to the company’s growth. “I was able to design and code Function of Beauty to begin selling products at the onset without having to rely on outside sources,” Dossa explains.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: At the end of the day, more time is spent with your co-workers than anyone else, Dossa notes. “I therefore try to create an awesome workplace that is super-collaborative and aligned with a common purpose.”

DISCOVERING THE UNKNOWN: “I really love strategic board games,” says Dossa. “When work seems a bit overwhelming, I take a step back and imagine it all as a super-challenging board game. I’m able to get a ton of perspective that way.”

"I try to create an awesome workplace that is super collaborative and aligned with a common purpose."

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Ann Dozier
Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer
Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits
4.5 years with company; 3 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Over her 30 years in the industry, Dozier has enjoyed many great experiences, all driven by leaders that provided her with wonderful opportunities to learn and grow, she says. “Today, I try to do the same for others on my team and across Southern Glazer’s.”

ON THE HORIZON: The company’s technology team is currently focused on three key areas: integrating and strengthening the foundational systems and infrastructures brought together through the 2016 merger of Southern Wine & Spirits of America and Glazer’s Inc.; delivering a “single source of truth” for the company through a data lake with capabilities ranging from day-to-day reporting to predictive analytics; and expanding sales and service capabilities through digital eff orts for CRM, sales force effectiveness and e-commerce.

TECH BENEFITS: Dozier was fortunate to get involved early in her career with electronic data interchange, which led to e-commerce, then e-business, then B2B and B2C as the internet evolved. “Although the technology and terminology have changed over the years, the benefit it offered my career was the ability to stay connected with the customers and partners that drove growth and effectiveness for my company across almost every area of the business,” she explains.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “Collaboration is the key to success for any leader, but especially when you lead IT,” asserts Dozier. “It takes collaboration across the team to ensure a solution moves from ideation to implementation — and most importantly, it takes a seamless partnership with the business. As an IT leader, I practice servant leadership, as IT touches so much of what we do today in our business. My team must be strong partners, advisors and enablers to the business while operating in an environment of empowerment and engagement.”

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Amy Endemann
Head of Marketing
Sun Basket
3.5 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Endemann has been helping build Sun Basket’s brand, team, and business since its inception three years ago. (The company offers meals and recipes featuring fresh organic ingredients by subscription). “It’s been incredible to be involved from day one,” she says. “I remember packing kale into bags in the cold room at our first facility, sweating over whether we would be able to pack all 30 boxes that we sold that week.” Since then, “from scaling marketing spend to constant team hires and reorganization, Sun Basket has taught me how to roll with the changes that come with rocket-ship growth.”

ON THE HORIZON: Most recently, Endemann has been working to understand how the concept of “food as medicine” can fit into the company’s long-term strategy. While Sun Basket already offers meal plans that can help combat specific health problems (obesity, diabetes, and heart disease), she strives to get more healthcare professionals and insurance providers on board with the idea that it’s healthier and more economical to prevent illness by eating right than to treat it later with drugs and surgery.

TECH BENEFITS: Database platforms such as Nielsen, IRI, and Looker have helped Endemann learn how to pull her own data and get comfortable asking the right questions. “When I am lucky enough to have an analyst, these tasks are often overlooked,” she comments.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “Be nimble and be humble,” instructs Endemann. “In a startup, everyone has to be a player-coach. Nobody is too busy or important to get in the weeds when we need to focus on solving a problem.”

LOOKING AHEAD: “Don’t forget about the consumer while you’re swimming in data,” she cautions. “Remember to listen to the real words and emotions that your consumers are feeding back to you to get the right perspective.”

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Amjad Malik
Vice President, Global Revenue Growth Management
Kellogg Company
22 years with company; 3 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Malik was part of the team that led the implementation of a revenue growth management program across the globe for Kellogg. Key to the project’s success was starting with a clearly defined framework around the key pillars of RGM: price, promotion and trade. The next step was to ensure Kellogg had the appropriate analytical horsepower, systems, tools and training to support the initiative, and then to rewire the existing process to bring KPI visibility and cadence. Lastly, and most importantly, was gaining support from upper management to drive prioritization.

ON THE HORIZON: The question Kellogg is trying to answer now is, “If I have a dollar to invest, where and how should I invest it to drive the most profitable sales growth,” explains Malik. The goal is to leverage data and analytics to measure the ROI of all sales and marketing tactics to maximize the return on commercial investment.

TECH BENEFITS: “SAS was my go-to during my early years. It taught me how to analyze huge amounts of data, make sense of it, and create insights to drive sales,” says Malik. “More recently, I would say cloud-based solutions that improve speed and accessibility have been extremely beneficial.”

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “I strive to be a collaborative leader and a team player,” he says. “I love and live by the quote from Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.’”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: Young professionals entering the field should leverage data and analytics to drive insights, posits Malik. “However, always remember that storytelling is critical to bring your insights to life.”

"Always remember that storytelling is critical to bring your insights to life."

Shamim Mohammad
Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer
CarMax
3 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: In recent years, Mohammad has been fortunate to partner with other senior leaders in leading the company’s digital transformation. “It’s been incredible to be part of a journey that is empowering our associates, sparking innovation, and driving a more seamless shopping experience for our customers,” he says.

ON THE HORIZON: A few years ago, CarMax embarked upon its digital journey to better meet evolving customer expectations and revolutionize car buying — yet again. The company has created a product-centric organization that delivers technology-enabled products and services that have earned high marks from customers. The next phase of transformation will focus on the key IT priorities of efficiency, reliability and maturity.

TECH BENEFITS: One of the most influential technologies for Mohammad has been cloud architecture, which he says has opened up unimaginable possibilities for both technology executives and their companies by providing speed, agility and exponentially increased opportunities for innovation.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Mohammad believes that workplaces should be highly collaborative, entrepreneurial environments. “I grow and promote people who embrace change and aren’t afraid of it. Great talent wants to work at an innovative company, so I strive to create a great, innovative workplace that helps my talent stay engaged and achieve their goals.” “I also recognize associates who embrace the opportunity to learn,” Mohammad says. And he holds himself to the same standard. “Leaders who don’t want to learn can’t move an organization forward, which leads to frustrated teams and ultimately a standstill,” he notes.

LOOKING AHEAD: “Invest time in getting to know people and building those relationships,” Mohammad advises young professionals. “In my early career, I did not invest enough time [doing that]. I’ve learned that a healthy, vibrant, eclectic network is extremely important to be successful as a leader. I would advise talented men and women to cultivate a strong network of relationships inside and outside your company.”

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Zak Normandin
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Dirty Lemon Beverages
3 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Normandin believes his “ankle biter” brand — which sells to consumers only via text message — is well-positioned to take a leading role in the traditional beverage category. “To realize our mission, I’ve assembled an incredible team of progressive thinkers to disrupt beverage distribution through conversation,” he says. “This vision is unique and differentiated in a stagnant industry that lacks any true innovation. I feel genuinely lucky to be building the company with a strong foundation made up of thought leaders and innovators that challenge the status quo daily.”

ON THE HORIZON: Last summer, the company launched its first retail concept, The Drug Store, in New York City. The idea was to showcase the craft that “mixologists” use to make each bottle of Dirty Lemon in a physical space, with visitors enjoying made-to-order cocktails from some of New York’s most talented bartenders. The concept proved successful enough that Dirty Lemon decided to reopen The Drug Store in a new space, with a custom layout and comprehensive event schedule designed to elevate its brand positioning.

TECH BENEFITS: Perhaps obviously, the technology Normandin has found most useful in his career has been SMS, the core component of Dirty Lemon’s business model. The technology has helped the company connect directly with consumers and build meaningful relationships with its growing base of loyalists worldwide.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “I have high expectations for my team and value the opinions and strengths of each member,” says Normandin. “I recognize the importance of building a team I can confidently rely on, and the culture of the company reflects that.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Do not start a business unless you are willing to risk losing everything in the process,” Normandin advises young professionals. “Building a company is not easy. It is emotionally taxing and forces you to make sacrifices that aren’t always readily apparent.”

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Matt Pierre
Director of E-Commerce, North America
General Mills
28 years with company; 6 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Pierre and his team lead the company’s e-commerce shopper marketing activity across online retailers, driving brand-specific, day-part solutions and event activations across a portfolio spanning 26 product categories. “What I like about General Mills is that there are so many intelligent folks [who] challenge you on a daily basis,” says Pierre.

General Mills was “only dabbling” in e-commerce when Pierre was placed in charge of the emerging practice seven years ago. “In the digital and e-commerce worlds, sales and marketing are braided together. Because I had a lot of industry experience on the finance, brand, shopper sales and retail channel sides, I was able to marry them all together, bring it into the e-commerce world and influence the organization.”

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “I’m fortunate to have what I consider the best team in the industry,” says Pierre. “Even our most junior people have an advantage because they are native to this space. I tell them to be bold and share their instincts because, frankly, they should have the largest voice in the organization when it comes to e-commerce because they understand it better.”

LOOKING AHEAD: The biggest difference between traditional marketing and e-commerce “is that there’s a lot more data,” explains Pierre. “That means the ability to make changes in real time and a lot more iteration. And there will need to be a lot of iteration because this isn’t an environment where companies can ask consumers what they want. They don’t know.”

Editor's Note: Pierre was inducted into Path to Purchase Institute’s Hall of Fame this spring. The above information was excerpted from an interview first published by Shopper Marketing magazine.

"Even our most junior people have an advantage because they are native to this space. They should have the largest voice in the organization … because they understand it better."

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Mary Rodgers
Director of Marketing Communications
Cuisinart (Conair Corp.)
23 years with company; 10 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Some of Rodgers’ most significant accomplishments include implementation of technologies that changed both thought and people processes, impacting employee behavior, speed to market and the organization’s bottom line. “But I believe my biggest accomplishment to date is continuing to be relevant in the everchanging arena of marketing and technology,” she says.

ON THE HORIZON: At the top of the to-do list is bringing together all disparate data in an enterprise CRM platform. This project will enable Cuisinart to improve its systems and processes, personalizing marketing to consumers while driving greater efficiency. Also high on the list is launching a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform fueled by a new pick-pack facility. By bringing “aftermarket” sales of parts and accessories in-house, Cuisinart will gain greater control and improve profitability as it takes hold of the entire shopping journey for consumers.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “It’s my job to inspire people who work alongside me,” says Rodgers. “I pride myself on not being a micromanager. I keep an open mind so individuals feel comfortable bringing fresh ideas to the table and everyone who touches the business has a role in keeping us on the cutting edge.”

LOOKING AHEAD: Never let the clay harden, Rodgers advises. “You must stay malleable and open to new ideas and processes in order to continue to contribute and be relevant in an ever-changing world. Also, read: Stay on top of business news, startups, and technology improvements and use this knowledge to contribute ideas to your business. Lastly, get out in the world — the view from your desk is not a direct reflection of our reality.”

"Stay malleable and open to new ideas and processes to continue to contribute and be relevant in an ever-changing world."

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Tina Sharkey
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Brandless
10 months with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Sharkey’s visionary view of the industry was more than adequately illustrated simply through the launch of her anti -brand, pro-consumer business last year (see CGT’s April 2018 issue).

ON THE HORIZON: Brandless has had so much success selling “clean” beauty and personal care products that Sharkey can’t wait to continue building out the category. “Everyone deserves to have extraordinary products that are rid of the things that we don’t want to put on or in our bodies,” she says. Therefore, expect to see several new items coming out in those categories.

TECH BENEFITS: For the co-founder of an e-commerce company using data analytics to drive consumer engagement and product development, Sharkey’s favorite technology is a relatively simple one: She loves the “incredible efficiency of collaborative editing” provided by Google Docs.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “I strive to hire the most extraordinary people, and then give them the tools to push themselves and succeed,” says Sharkey. “When new employees start, we ask them to set an intention for what they want to achieve that year, and then we work with them to make sure they have all of the support needed to meet and exceed that goal.”

FINDING INSPIRATION: Sharkey is an avid believer that magic has no formula. “Success is achieved by an alchemy of high-achieving people who are committed to a greater purpose or cause,” she says.