Snack Food Executives Discover New Frontiers

Leaving their ties and business attire at home and donning jeans, cowboy hats, leather jackets and other Western wear, executives in the snack food industry took time off their busy schedules to enhance their leadership abilities at the Snack Food Association’s 29th annual Top Management Seminar.
Held in Big Sky Country against a backdrop of fall colors decorating the mountainside in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the seminar offered a unique variety of presentations, including one by a “horse whisperer” that explored how to transform their businesses so that they not only survive, but thrive in these challenging times. SFA’s Top Management Seminar, which took place from Sept. 25-27 at the Four Seasons Resort in Teton Village, also provided fine opportunities for networking during a variety of social occasions, including fly fishing, excursions and sports activities.
The seminar promised that attendees would “discover new frontiers,” but the seminar taught executives new and different ways to lead their organizations to success.
For example, Michael Deaver, deputy chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, suggested how snack food industry executives could improve their leadership skills by following the four fundamental lessons of the Great Communicator.
First and foremost, Deaver explained, business executives must know themselves. People within organizations will not be comfortable with leaders who are not comfortable with themselves.
That means, secondly, that the heads of companies must realize their strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, executives can delegate their weaknesses to strong people within their organizations and focus on what they do best, Deaver said.
Third, effective leaders stay focused on the long-term goals and do not get distracted by day-to-day events. Sometimes, and this is Reagan’s fourth lesson, developing that focus may mean working backward to find out what has been accomplished over the last six months to paint the background for what needs to be done over the next six months to a year. After outlining that plan, stick with it. By following Reagan’s lessons, leaders can develop a clear, lasting image of themselves.
Trust was the central theme for Grant Galliher, the horse whisperer from Diamond Cross Ranch. Using a non-violent approach to discipline and reward a wild horse during a 90-minute presentation, Galliher showed attendees that they can earn trust and loyalty by clearly communicating their goals instead of using an authoritarian approach to get the job done.
To find out what makes business successful, Jason Jennings, a consultant and authority on business leadership and productivity, and his firm examined more than 70,000 public and private companies worldwide to discover which ones were the best and why they were the most successful.
Jennings told Top Management executives that he first narrowed the field by including only those companies that experienced consecutive double-digit sales growth over the last 10 years. Next, his research team narrowed it again by selecting those companies that had both consecutive double-digit sales and profit growth over the last decade or more.
Talking about the findings in his new book titled “Think Big Act Small: How America’s Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive, ” Jennings described the small list of companies that made the cut, what they had in common and how they did it without using gimmicks or short-term manipulation to be successful in economic good and bad times.
Overall, they did it by acting entrepreneurial. Their leaders had big ideas, but acted humble. They didn’t wear the CEO label on their sleeves.
Those successful businesses, additionally, don’t rely on mission statements to succeed. Rather, Jennings noted, they have a clear vision of what their “cause” is and how they are going to impact, if not, reshape their section of the world. All of them succeed by not trying to be all things to all people. Instead, he said, they devise ways to exceed customer expectations instead of merely satisfying consumers by providing innovative products and unexpected service.