John Church is currently the Executive Vice President of Supply Chain & Global Business Solutions and the Chief Supply Chain Officer at General Mills.
General Mills is one of the leading American producers of packaged consumer foods, especially flour, breakfast cereals, snacks, prepared mixes, and similar products. It is also one of the largest foodservice manufacturers in the world. General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands.
John has global accountability for Procurement, Logistics, Manufacturing, Engineering, Human Safety, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability. In 2017, Church was also tasked to assume leadership and oversight of General Mills’ Global Business Solutions function, which provides business process solutions, information technology, and shared services to the Company.
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Hello everybody. And welcome to the leaders in supply chain podcast. I am your host radicle, Armani managing director of ELCA global. It's my great pleasure and delight to have with us today, John Church, who is the global head of operations and chief supply chain officer for general mills, many of you know, and as many of us are , are eating their products. So general mills is one of the leading American producers of packaged consumer foods in the flour , breakfast, cereal snacks. We put mixes and similar products. It's also one of the largest food manufacturers and food service manufacturers in the world operating in a hundred countries and marketing in more than 110 consumer markets. John has the accountability for wide spectrum of functions. He is responsible for procurement logistics, manufacturing, engineering, human safety, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability, as well as in 2017 , he took on the leadership for the general meals , global business solutions function, which provides business process solutions across the world. Also information technology and shared services to the company. So John much, much appreciated your time and led to have you today.Speaker 2:
Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.Speaker 1:
So let's start with the , with, I guess the situation we're in COVID-19, it's , uh , there's some glimmer of hope more and more vaccines are coming and they seem to be quite potent, which is great. But I want to talk a little bit about how general mills has adapted to the current disruption. And you actually said in a recent interview that you used to have monthly meetings to look at demand coming and where we are now, you're doing that every day, or you are doing that everyday to consider all the factors. So tell us a little bit about how general mills has adapted to the new COVID-19 reality.Speaker 2:
Great. Thank you for the question. So, you know, the, the challenges that we've all faced with, COVID-19 the , the unexpected lockdowns, the many of us working from home, et cetera, has caused a tremendous shift in our business while we do indeed support a lot of away from home eating the predominance of our business. And most of our geographies is really at-home consumption. And so as people have stopped going to work they've in many cases, stopped going to school. Those meals have gone from outside to inside, and that's really caused an unexpected demand surge in our business. It really started as, as far back as February and moves through , uh , as , as move through and continue to this day. And we're seeing different on average, maybe 15 to 20% surge in our business, but in some categories, baking mixes and flour , as a, as an example, we've seen as high as 3400% increase in demand. And so it's really been around how do we maintain our operations? How do we keep people safe and our food products safe while we're dealing with this unexpected demand so that we can meet the needs of our consumers and our customers. As they really struggle through the pandemic as a global company, we got to learn early about this. We , uh , we have operations in China. We got to understand what was going on, see the restrictions that were put in place and see the operating strategies that worked. We could transfer that learning to Europe and to the United States, as COVID sort of worked its way across.Speaker 1:
And if, if you're to kind of look back a little bit and think of the , some of the biggest learnings that you've got from this pandemic and how that might've changed, you know, your strategy moving forward, you know, fundamentally or not so fundamentally, but, you know, practically , um, prioritizing digitalization, decentralized sourcing manufacturing, or not what has changed.Speaker 2:
So, you know , first and foremost, the safety of our products and our people has always been our priority, but clearly that was, that's been more difficult during COVID because we were able to see this, this phenomenon evolve around the globe. We were able to become very early adopters of mass, squaring of social distancing of, of monitoring symptoms and temperature checks. And those sorts of things that's really helped us maintain the integrity and resilience of our supply chain. Not only by having that be true in our plants, but sharing that information with our suppliers and ensuring that we could step up and meet the needs. As , as you mentioned, the thing that we had to evolve to was we saw disruptions that used to be very minimal and our business was relatively predictable. And suddenly we had significant disruptions as well as unprecedented demand surge. And that's where it required us to really form some control towers that would have met maybe on a monthly planning basis to , uh, to tweak our plans. And instead, we had to move to a , uh , a daily basis , uh , dealing with the new issue and forced us to develop very continuous conversations with our suppliers who have been terrific in this and partnered with us, but also with our customers asking them, look at , we can't get you exactly what you want today. We can get this and this, how do you want us to think about it? How can we best meet your needs? It's been important for us and you talk about, well, what lasts into the future? I certainly hope the level of transparency and agility we've had to put in place quite honestly, early on through brute force over time, through better visibility, more digitization, et cetera, will serve us well and allow us to continue to grow our business accordingly and serve our customers differently .Speaker 1:
Mm . So John, I also have a , I have a question in terms of the shift in consumer behavior, right? Obviously a lot of us have been stuck at home now, unfortunately in many areas in Europe and parts of the world, it's coming back, confinement measures and people being in lockdown, I was looking, and I think your financial numbers show a very strong growth on obviously at home consumed food. How did you, and how do you respond to perhaps distorted or let's call it fast shift in demand that may or may not last , you know, indefinitely a great question. SoSpeaker 2:
We , we did , we pulled a number of levers because as you know, in a business that feeds people, you don't see tremendous surges in business. I mean, if it grows with the population you might steal share here and there and your marketplace, but you don't expect that 20 and 30% surgeon a business. And so first thing you do is you get really clear on what you're going to make and you rationally, you, you temporarily rationalize your portfolio. So in , in the U S we ha we have a , uh , a line of canned soups called Progresso , which is, which is quite popular. And as you might imagine, as people came home and the soup was something that was easy for them to prepare, it was, it fed a lot of people and it was a delicious alternative. Well, we might've made 90 soups prior to COVID-19. We said, look, if we're going to make 50, you can choose from your 50, but we don't need six different kinds of chicken noodle soup. We don't need, we don't need five different kinds of beef soups. We , we made the selection smaller so that our suppliers could run more fully loaded with fewer changeovers. Our manufacturing plants could run more fully loaded. And we did this in partnership with our customers, with the idea of being, we have to feed the most amount of people. This wasn't about this, this wasn't about profits. This was about service and , and simply satisfying our consumers and demand during their time of need. Now, the carry on impact of that is a simpler, more heavily utilized, less distracted supply chain happens to be a one that runs better and might be burning more efficiently. The other things we've done, we had put into , into place some processes that allowed us to continue engineering projects. We were in the project, that process of building a a hundred million dollar capital line to expand our cereal production here in the U S and the way in which we'd use technology, the way in which we use digital digital footprints and allowed us to do work digitally and in a distributed fashion in small workshops, and then ship it into the manufacturing sites. So it could be assembled in sub systems , allowed us to dramatically reduce the amount of manpower on site allowed us to accomplish manufacturing and the construction without , uh, without compromising social distancing. And so we continued to implement some of our organic capacity projects that we had underway that has served us very well. And those, those projects have come up online both on time and on budget, but also , uh , the startups been phenomenal for us , uh, because we've leveraged distance tools that we had to create. And then , uh , the other thing we've done is we've reached out to partners. We engage new new manufacturing partners. And sometimes we, we double the amount with existing partners. Sometimes we had to go find new ones, and then we had to, we had to inspect them from a distance. We had to train them on our requirements from a distance and engage them. And , uh, that's been, that's been a real challenge, but also a success story for my team. The teams have figured out, how do we engage the right way? How do we ensure that our products are done well at the same time? How can we do it faster than we would've done it before? Because it just, the business has demanded it.Speaker 1:
And I want to, I want to just add and build on your point. I was sharing with professor Yossi, Sheffi from MIT. He runs the logistics and transport side there, and he was actually arguing the case that whilst a lot of media outlets showed those empties , you know , empty shelves in supermarkets. And all of that usually showed empty because it was at the end of the day when normally it's empty because it needs to be replenished. But his point was that the supply chain and all the people within food and, and, and, you know, manufacturers like yourself did an amazing job in terms of making sure that there were no food shortages in, I mean , in none of the markets and ultimately, you know, we had food to consume, even if that obvious demand the lower choice or less choice. But again, to your point, I mean, how many types of, you know, chicken noodles or beef might you need when the point is to have chicken soup in the first place? So , uh , love your, your point there. I want to also talk about food safety, because it's a , it's a big, big topic it's and it became even more important. I had a conversation with somebody in India that runs a large FMCG company there and use his point was that people tended to go more for brands that they knew, because obviously that safety element became increasingly important. I want to, I wanted to ask you a general meals. How do you approach that? Obviously it's a , it's a huge topic is a big topic. How do you think about food safety?Speaker 2:
So it's , it's the first requirements . It's the one thing with human safety of our employees that we're just unwilling to compromise for any reason. And , and, you know, we're a company that's been around for 153 years. You don't get to be around for another 153 years. If you shortcut and potentially compromise your consumers, we've invested a tremendous amount of money into our brands. And we ensure that they're going to deliver from a safety standpoint every time now during COVID, that's a, that's a challenge you're finding new capacity, your , but you have to make sure that you've built the safeguards in place. So as we brought on new suppliers, we'd actually meet with them. We'd meet with them virtually we'd partner with others who had been an inspected and say, look at what did you find? What do we need to be aware of prior to COVID? We obviously, at some point had to go in and see, had to go see the manufacturing plants, but we've ensured that the new manufacturing partners and our existing suppliers, as they've ramped up their capacity have been up to the same high standards. We ran a two hour webinar for new suppliers to say, look what you're doing business with us. This is how we think about things. These are the things that are important to us, and that has been very helpful because it's been in the spirit of , of partnership. And how can we pull together as an ecosystem to, as Yosi said, keep the shelves full. Everybody feels a responsibility to do this in the right way. We've just had to make sure that people are clear on what the expectations are. And, you know, quite candidly, the , the expectations around the world that are different, but they're not different for general mills. We operate the same way everywhere in the world. And we have to hold our suppliers and ourselves to those same high standards, because that's how we show up every day.Speaker 1:
Hmm . I'll take, cause I see it popping up in a few of the questions. So I'll take this one. Now, a few of the folks that , that are on Marco Papa for good, and a few others are asking a variation of since you moved to monthly to daily meetings. And, and also, you know, this, this whole shift obviously relies heavily on technology and digital and , and solutions. What are some, and you don't necessarily need to name , um , you know , not from the point of they have marketing anyone on top of the other, but what are some of the , the tools that helped you most from a technology software platform perspective to do this?Speaker 2:
So, you know , we had our existing, our existing ERP system and our existing planning systems, to be honest, they're not adequate enough. There was a lot of stuff done on the side. A lot of new information that came in that used to be fed automatically, but the batch times and the cycle times, weren't adequate to keep up. We're in the middle of a process or of a, a supply planning transformation journey. Anyway, we're continuing that, but we weren't able to accelerate it to meet our needs. So a lot of it, quite candidly Radu has been brute force. Now what we did do is build a lot of visualization and we built some process for communication and sharing. So , uh, in the case of , uh, you know, we, we became really good at Tableau. We became really good at Smartsheets. We became really good at understanding how our plants running. What's the absentee, what's the presenteeism of our employees. And , and what, for what reasons are they out of the plant ? So we can keep track of COVID and the infection rates. We applied data and analytics to the local community infection rates. So we could predict when a community might be at a tipping point, because eventually that will impact our employees. We've been very good at ensuring that we're not getting spread of COVID in our plants, but we can't control what happens out in the community. And so what we've done is we've taken data and analytics and forecasted when we might have potential disruptions at a supplier potential disruptions at our , uh , and our manufacturing plants, potential disruptions at warehouses, based on the community spread rates of COVID, that's allowed us to move inventory around to schedule potentially differently. Those kinds of things have allowed us to be more agile. And then quite, quite honestly, we had to change the cadence of how often we met. So every, every plant in North America met for a half hour every day to share best practices, to share concerns. And most importantly, to identify what were common needs that we could take off of their plate so that we could solve it at the corporate level and then provide them something that looked like help. Oftentimes corporations try to help the field locations and it doesn't feel like help at all. And so what we tried to do is listen really hard to what are the things that our field locations are dealing with? You know, I'm sitting, I'm sitting in my house and , uh , but we've got employees all over the world on manufacturing lines that are trying to make sure they stay, they stay safe, that the manufacturing was resilient, but some of the times they have problems that we can resolve at the corporate level either. How do we treat employees? Do we need policy shifts? Are there best practices that we can share? We just connected them in a way that allowed for a very, very fluid communication. And that's served us very well so far.Speaker 1:
Mm . I will take this question cause it's a really good one from , uh, from , uh, I think it's all the way from yeah. From Europe. Can you assess a new supplier only online from Constantine is asking, did you do that? Or you also had somebody actually physically going, you know, at the ground level,Speaker 2:
If it was a brand new supplier, we did a combination. So we would do self-assessments . We would do visual tools. And so we've invented , we've developed some very simple technology of how can we be in place. We used to do it for troubleshooting and bringing subject matter experts into manufacturing plants that couldn't transfer. We're using that same technology to inspect lines in place audits, to be compliant with our auditing systems, et cetera. But if it's a new supplier we had to go see. And so we did, we did indeed do that. We tried to minimize the contact and we were very, very judicious in terms of how we allowed for travel and, and almost all travel that ever crossed a co a country line had to be at the executive leadership team level for approval. And so we tried to minimize it as much as possible. Now, if we'd been in plants before we understood we had a long-term relationship, we might've had a , a different way of doing that, but certainly no new suppliers without us having a chance to look and understand their processes and feel comfortable that they can live up to our standards.Speaker 1:
Hmm . And what do you see as your greatest risk when you look at end to end value chain now, knowing also, you know, COVID-19 which none of us had no business continuity plan habits in it. What do you look from, from, from where you stand John and say, okay, this is a risk that we really need to take care of.Speaker 2:
Yeah . We maybe like a lot of supply chains over time had built, we'd built centers of excellence in scale. And we leveraged the fact that in a lot of the nineties and early two thousands, you know, really there were bilateral trade agreements around the world. And that open that open marketplace allowed for us to be quite efficient, to build expertise and to be very thoughtful in terms of a global network that could be agile to serve the business. But at the same time had an implicit, you're not going to have borders close for political reasons. You're not going to have borders closed for security reasons. You're not going to have borders. You're not going to have tariff Wars. You're not going to have Brexit . You're not going to have trade Wars between countries. That's been the biggest, biggest challenge for us is how do we balance this? I want to have scale. I want to build expertise with, you know, I can't have everything. I can't have a fully global network of anything. Now, what I would tell you is we have a combination of in China, our supply chain for China is largely for China. Our supply chain in India is largely for India, but we do have some product lines where we felt like we should have global centers that could be able to distribute. That probably is something we're going to have to challenge, or at least have many more options, because it's clear to us that the world is changing and that what we enjoyed maybe from an opportunity to , to optimize and create a, a nimble just in time network. Now probably we'll have to have more capabilities with the disruptions that we're seeing. Pandemic certainly has brought some of that to light, but whether it's cybersecurity or tax or taxation and import duties, hurricanes, all of the disruptions we've seen in the last year have just made that more pronounced for us.Speaker 1:
Yeah, no. And to your point with the geopolitics center , we , we, we had a discussion at our summit that just ended yesterday and that's, that's kind of flipped the whole thing upside down as well. And the pace, I mean, it's, you know , in us, it happened over a tweet sometimes, and hopefully that will change in the future, but, you know , it's pretty hard to comprehend. Now we have, as you know, in Asia, they just announced the largest trade deal. That that also helps in many ways, hopefully, but again, it , it, it requires a fast or fairly fast to, to capitalize on it , adoption and adaptation of the supply chain. So , uh, I, I want to ask one more, we getting a lot of questions on the human resources skills and telling us that as well. So I want to take some of those, but I want to ask very important topic that we should all care about, which is sustainability and along the lines of that, what is general mills doing in terms of, you know, some of the key initiatives and also are you passing some of them to your providers, to your , you know, to your service providers and vendors, and how do you approach it in general?Speaker 2:
Great question. And , and we believe one of the most important questions we have to answer over the course of the next several decades. And , uh , we were one of the first companies actually to create a greenhouse gas goal that was inclusive of the entire scope of our supply chain. So, you know , I've been in this role for 12 years and as we started our journey around sustainability, you know, I remember us talking about, look, we can only control our manufacturing plants , uh, how we run them, the energy efficiency, the water usage, et cetera, you know, as we learned more and we understood not only of the accountability and responsibility that we'd have, but what our consumers expected of us, you know, the commerce that we have drives the footprint and the case of food, or at least in general mills know , 52% of our greenhouse gas footprint comes from agriculture and we don't own any farms. So if we're going to be accountable for the greenhouse gases, we have to work all the way up to the dirt, to the soil and all the way through to the consumer and how they use our products and the retailer and how they shelve them and store them, et cetera, all the transportation in between. And that's really been a game changer for us. It's , it's forced us to think far more creatively and inclusively. So to your point on, do you, do you hold other people accountable for me, it's around, how do I partner with them? Because I can't achieve our goals unless we're finding a win-win in this. And so our model has been one, we have to be accountable for the entirety of our greenhouse gas footprint, our water footprint, and the humanitarian footprint, the human rights aspect of that. If we're buying and making money at somebody, to somebody whose expense it has to also be to their benefit, we have to make sure that we're holistic in terms of how we think about that. And as a company, we take that very seriously. We've spent it , we've committed in the U S to what's called regenerative agriculture. The idea that if you look at our soils and modern farming, very broadly around the world, it's an extractive process. We're pulling, we're pulling chemicals out of the soil. We are, we're using the soil simply as a holder for crops, we believe, and we've proven to ourselves. And we believe over time that good farming practices, farming practices that ensure that we don't till the soil as much, that ensure that there's always something growing that you're rotating. The crops that you're worried about soil health will build up. Actually the amount of soil will add carbon that could have gone up into the air to the soil , uh, and that it can instead , and can indeed improve the yields of those farms with less inputs and with less water usage and with , uh , less greenhouse gases generated. And so we've committed to over the next 10 years, driving a million acres in the U S to regenerative agriculture practices. We think that's going to be an , a really important step in our remarkable step to helping offset some of our greenhouse gas generation and agriculture. Now a million won't be enough. And so we're going to have to partner with more. And he said, well, how do you do that? If you don't own any farms, the way we approach that is we say, look, we've got to prove the business case that what's good for. The environment is also good for the farmer because the farmer has to wit it can't be at the farmer's expense, certainly. And so we've done the research. We're bringing the best practices to the farmer. We're actually helping them by, by providing and linking them up and providing some of the services and consulting services so that they can start and find it indeed not only are their yields positive, but the profitability of their farms increases and it's better for the environment. So we believe that's a very virtuous cycle and a huge part of our sustainability journey. In addition to that, we're offsetting our electrical usage in the U S a hundred percent of our , uh , North American , uh , power consumption, both in our manufacturing plants. And our offices is offset with wind power that we've put in place. And as some of our waste products, we're using that to generate we're using the bio gases to generate electricity as well. And so we are trying to find innovative ways to offset the footprint. The idea would be by 2030, we will reduce our greenhouse gases by 30%. That's a science-based target. We've taken a look at what's required in order for us to ensure we're doing our part to ensure the Earth's temperature, doesn't raise by a degree and a half of centigrade . And then by 2050, we need to be carbon neutral and potentially regenerative where our enterprise actually adds carbon to the soil and not to the greenhouse gases because of how we do business. And it's incredibly important, certainly for our consumers is as you mentioned, petty , which we should all care about this. We have one planet and for a company like ours, where literally our enterprise starts at the dirt are , uh , it's important for us to maintain our, our company and our longevity that said, it's, it's super important to our consumers. It's important to our customers. And it's important to our employees. Our employees want to work for a company where they feel like the work they do every day helps make the world a little bit better. And so what I tell them is look at you could , you could vilify big industry, but I would tell you is if big industry done well is a huge opportunity for you to make a real difference in the world. And so that's what we endeavor to do.Speaker 1:
No glad, glad to hear. And that's quite a holistic yeah. Holistic approach, and we've barely needed one planet. And I recently saw, and you might've seen a lot of people have seen the documentary on Netflix by David Morrow . It's quite a call to action. And then I think we, well individually, we should all do our parts. My daughter in school is being taught and she's eight years old and she's coming home. And I think the education needs to do its part and big companies need to do their part. So it's encouraging to hear moving to the soft skills people assigned , which is ultimately people, may companies. We are getting a few questions in terms of skills, talent, and what type of specific, hard and soft skills do you see badly needed and most needed moving forward in the supply chain as , uh , let's, let's call it supply chain end to end, right? Plan procure, make , deliver high . You have a very high responsibility across many functions, but what do you see John, in terms of hardness of skills badly needed for the future inspiration ?Speaker 2:
I believe that, you know, supply chain is actually a fairly young career. I mean, it's not like we've thought about these w we've we've had procurement forever. We've had manufacturing forever. We've had logistics forever. The stitching together of them. Actually, hasn't been something people thought about for a long period of time. So the idea of systems thinking and end to end thinking, there's still lots of opportunities there where people have done stuff to optimize their manufacturing network. They've done stuff to optimize their procurement, potentially goals. They've done stuff to optimize their customer service, but when they haven't done as optimize the end to end, as we've partnered with customers, even our biggest customers, I tell a story, our , our biggest customer in the U S we , we ran a value stream map on one of our largest products and product that literally we make every day of the year. And we're never more than 10 hours away from any store of theirs in the United States. And we said, we went to one of our plants and sure enough, we were making that product, honey, honey, nut Cheerios. We were making honey nut Cheerios. And then we went to our distribution center. Sure enough, stuck to the ceiling, honey, nut Cheerios. We went to their distribution center, honey, nut Cheerios, far as the eye could see, we went to, we went to their store, no honey nut Cheerios somewhere. It would be , we have lots of inventory, but no flow. And it's because this very large, wonderful company had established its processes to optimize its supply chain. And we had done the same to optimize our supply chain, but they didn't come together. That's the opportunity that exists. And so, yes, there's about stitching procurement to customer service within general mills. But the bigger opportunity is establishing procurement to it's to our supply base and our, our customer service mission to the supply chain of our customers and the end consumers to ensure that we're driving the waste out, that we're, we're delighting the consumer. We can find new opportunities to grow systems thinking is super important. And I think that too many of us have experienced a supply chain that is really a silo that we've smashed together and hoped for the best. That's an opportunity for us. I'd also looked at, I said, that's going to be informed by data and analytics. There's no question that things can be done predictively . They can be done with a lot more automation. It isn't just the visibility, but it's the fact that machines can do a lot of the stuff that we do every day. And that should free up the humans to work on the projects , the products we don't know how to do yet to work on the problems we've never solved. So I don't, I don't see digitization as a , as a threat for, for either general mills or its employees. It's an enabler that allows us to go work on the next problem so that today's work can be done in a more automated fashion. That skill sets going to be super important. When I look at what are the soft side skills, I'd say there are a couple is this idea of end to end requires you to be a collaborator. You need to be a good listener. You need to understand and have empathy to where the other person or the rest of the ecosystem is coming from because each one of them needs to be heard. It needs to win. The , the only way this works is if we can create win-wins the same way that the win-win for how we work on our environment has to kick come at the expense of the farmer, but it has to create good for them. Similarly , the win-win has to come with our customer. It has to come with the supplier or else it's not a sustainable solution. I think he or she who collaborates the best will win in the new world because things are going to be more specialized. There's going to be more data to make things easier to connect to people. And I think that people that can think holistically and be able to work together with others, that's going to be really, really important. And then maybe the other thing that I think about a lot is whenever you're in a technology profession, I consider it . And certainly to your point, supply chains, robot people, but they're also, there's a lot of technical parts around the supply chain. Sometimes we get caught up in our own language, our own, our own measurements, et cetera. And at the end of the day, we're all trying to do business and we've got to speak the language of business for us to have credibility, but more importantly for us just to understand the needs of our customers and in the end, our consumers, we need to understand what's important to them in business terms, and then be able to translate that and do a technical solution. That agility is a , I think really important. And it's offered by what we call it , general mills, a learning mindset. And I would tell you that we're a company that grew up with a , we hire a bunch of straight a students. We help people account for how smart they were and their ability to predict the future. And I think we're finding that the future is unpredictable. It is instead, the question is, are you willing to immerse yourself and learn and have that be what informs your journey and your next steps? And so we've said we want to move from a culture of knowing to a culture of learning, because we believe that that's, what's going to be really unlocking general mills has potential in the future. Hmm .Speaker 1:
Um , like , um , I think there was a , the future is that said that the illiterate of the 21st century are not the ones that can't read the right is the ones that cannot learn relearn and learn. Maybe I'm mixing the order, but you get disrupted and you get, you get disrupted. Now in our profession, it is executive search. We have seen a shift and sometimes companies specifically, I'll give you some examples that we've had a couple of pharma and life sciences linked or healthcare linked big companies that have actually hired specifically people from FMCG, because the intent is, and as you know, in a lot of all this, and that's no also in healthcare now, the margins , so they're trying to optimize, they're trying to be faster, more agile. And then the thinking was, okay, let's get people from FMCG, cause they've done it for a long time, or let's get people from a technology commerce background because again, you know, the speed or how do you see that for, you know, for FMC ? And we actually got this question like , uh , it sounded like in terms of mid-level or not necessarily maybe a top, top level, but mid-level do, would you be open to take non-industry people and what attributes would they need to have in order to add value to the FMCG business?Speaker 2:
Great question. First of all. Absolutely. And we, we have a combination in terms of our employee development. We hire, we used to hire a lot of people at the university and grow them through our ranks. That would be my career path, but I'm very unusual nowadays. Now we hire former people from mid mid career and we hire the talent we need. And oftentimes to be honest, that comes from outside of FM that from FMCG, I think that when I look at the food industry, we were one of the last industries to be disrupted. You know, a decade ago, food was very, very local people, traveled food, didn't travel much across borders. We weren't all walking around with iPhones. We couldn't Google anything we wanted. And , uh , and we weren't asking the sorts of questions around how the ingredients were grown or who, who participated in the supply chain. It just wasn't even something we thought about now we are having to deal with those questions all the time because people, and we feel this every day, there's a very intimate relationship we have with our consumers. They literally ingest our product. And so the responsibility that comes with that, but also their need to know things is much, much higher. We have to find people from other retail industries, for sure, but also from technology, from banking, from finance, where they've been disrupted earlier, they've had to develop skills earlier in the journey. And so , uh , I'm glad we can be a source of talent for, for pharma. I would tell you that, you know, we're having to find other people that have had to rethink, and re-engineer both digitally having more urgency for change. Being able to re react to a marketplace and channel shift . That's just been unprecedented. We were late to the party, I think, over the timescale, but we're going to have to hire more people in from the outside. And we're doing that. We think that it's an important part of helping us get better in real time and allowing us to develop the rest of the talent along the way by seeding in specific folks.Speaker 1:
Hmm . And we're getting this question . You are exactly your career has been tremendous. I mean, you've been quite unique as you rightfully said in today's world where we have the generations wise and , and you know, millennials and sets generation wise . So I'm fairly young. So I'm going to put my hand up there. I've been one of them. Uh , I am one of them. So you've been with general means for a long time, most of all of your career. And then you have quite a few executives like that and you know, that's great. And it's a , it's also a sign of stability for the leadership, which can be a big, big plus and has been a big plus for general using specific. I guess the question that comes is how do you ensure that you keep yourself open to this plethora of new? I mean, it's a way of, it's a , it's a whole tsunami. If you want, have new technologies, new ideas, new, and it's popping startups everywhere is there. And you mentioned the culture of learning. Tell us a little bit more, maybe, maybe we double click a little bit on that as well .Speaker 2:
Uh, so absolutely the, any strength, because a overuse strength becomes a weakness and a, and a company. If, if the entire company was full of long tenured employees, that wouldn't be sustainable because we don't know enough and we can't learn enough fast enough in order to evolve our company. And so it's the reason that we used to hire from campuses exclusively. And now we hire the vast majority of our folks from other industries. Mid-career bringing new perspectives, diversity of thought, diversity of skill sets that we couldn't have developed fast enough internally. I think that, you know, the way you do it at the, at the top is you surround yourself with people that constantly challenge your thinking. Constantly remind yourself that there's a lot you don't know, and that there's always somebody smarter than you in the room and make sure that you're leveraging them. And you realize that the role you play is around providing a vision and catalyzing where we need to go, but not being so precious about how you get there, because there's going to be people bringing very, very different thinking. And also acknowledging that those folks are going to want to determine where the company goes as well. And you have to find ways of ensuring that their voices are heard, that they feel included in the solution. We spend a lot of time on the HR side, around diversity and inclusion, making sure that you feel like you can belong at general mills and that work matters. And so we , we train on specific , we train on 12 different leadership characteristics around how do we build a culture? How do you make sure you're engaging your employees? And we're getting the most out of those employees because to your point, you know, I'm , I'm a , I'm a gen X-er, but , uh , you know, gen X-er should not be making all the decisions. We don't have the information and we're not the consumers of the future. We need to make sure that all of those voices are heard. And as the marketplace changes that we're willing to listen and react to that. And so a process becomes one of moving people in a lot of giving them a place where they can be successful and engaging them as soon as possible. You know, at the top of the house, our , uh, our CMO is from the outside, our chief digital , digital and technology officers from the outside, our CFO joined the company mid career . We have a number of people that are in very key leadership positions for us as a company that came in with outside experiences. And that's been important for us in order to ensure that we're around for the next 153 years. You know, the, what I, when I tell people 153 years, this out , that's not possible, and you must be old and stodgy. And I share with them, you know, you don't get to be around for 153 years. If you didn't changeSpeaker 1:
Very well said. Final question for you, John, looking back on your career, what would be one or two pieces of advice that have helped you the most in getting where you are and you , that you might want to share with our audience?Speaker 2:
So the first one is, think about every job that you're in as though you're going to be in it forever, because you won't be you'll, you'll move on to the next job in 18 months or a year or three years, even if it's within the same company, but make sure you're making decisions that become foundational for the progress of the business. For a couple of reasons, first of all, employees can smell you out. If they think that you're just doing something for short-term gain, and you're not about their longevity, because your employees will be there a lot longer than the leader will be there. And so I always tell people, make your decisions with a lens toward what are you leaving as your legacy? Why , what you don't don't feel like you have to work 30 years somewhere to leave a legacy. You leave a legacy every day you come in and you either positively added to the, to the ecosystem, to the infrastructure, to the, to the foundation and level of skill that is general mills or your extract from it. And you get to make that choice every day. The other thing that I would say is, is maybe the flip side of that, which is leadership is best judged through the eyes of the followers. And I think sometimes we look at whether people look up to see if they're being a good leader or to look for them to get patted on the back in the shoulder. And that's never the measure. The measure is what happens when the leader is in around, does he or she continue to have an impact because they've created a team that can do things they couldn't have done any other way without the, without the care, without the encouragement, without the skill building, without the challenge. Envision leadership is a , if you're a leader and you look back and there's no one following you you've missed the boat. I think some people, some people judge their leadership on our ration and , uh , uh , their ability to , to master PowerPoints . And , uh , always it's judged by the actions of the others that you're trying to lead .Speaker 1:
Wonderfully said, if you have nobody behind you, you're just taking a walk. And Winston Churchill said that, but it's , it's, it's, it's so true. And, and I will, I will want to build on your points because it's such one it's so wonderfully said, so the number one area, again from it is the truth. And let's, let's call a spade, a spade that unfortunately still in many corporations, a lot of people that rise to two ranks because of, you know , politics or pleasing the boss, or, you know , putting up a facade, but ultimately people smelled it, people feel that. And I'm also shocked that a lot of companies don't do enough, you know, ask the teams of the person, you know, about the leadership skills, because they will tell you the truth, not your perception necessarily. So I think that needs to change. And we still have a lot of work to do in big organizations on that. But secondly, I wanted to build also on the point that you made with making a positive impact and I had on PodcastOne Schmidt, and I will mention him by the name who is a CEO, actually in the U S forwarding in three bill company. And he actually went to the level of saying, brother, when I go to work, I try to make every interaction meaningful. I have eight virtual goals and I have 200 emails nowadays or whatever it may be. I try to everyone, even if it takes me three seconds, five seconds, I get an email. I can't help directly. I say, look, I can't help, but hear CC mr. X, mrs. Y she might be able to help good luck. I think that type of mindset , and of course we're not machines. And of course we have bad days. And of course, you know , I mean , okay , you know, in a , in a ideal world, we are all positive in reality, but not, but I think that level of intent, like you rightfully said is so important and people feel it. And , and there's the Mark patrol leaders . I'm very grateful that you mentioned that. Thank you super well, John pleasure to have you, and , and really thanks for the very practical endowments worth sharing. And I'm a , you know, we got a few questions that, you know , I won't take now, but I'll tell you later, so you might want to answer it offline. Great, great , uh , session and many, many things for making the time to join us.Speaker 2:
Thanks so much for having me. I hope you have a great day. Thank you.Speaker 3:
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