PepsiCo understands the value of nurturing future leaders within the independent grocery sector and does so by enabling the growth of small retailers.
With support from PepsiCo, the National Grocers Association's Executive Leadership Development Program helps independent retailers and wholesalers do just that — develop leaders who can respond to challenges and changes in the industry. As the sole sponsor of the program hosted at Cornell University, PepsiCo has provided annual financial support since its inaugural session in 2004, contributing to the leadership development of more than 300 rising grocery industry executives during the past nine years.
PepsiCo’s steady support, which also includes sending top executives to speak at the program, has won the company SN’s Supplier Leadership Award for Support for Small Chains/Independents.
“They are the local retailer, which is an important avenue for us to grow and nurture our brands,” said Lisa Walsh, PepsiCo’s vice president of customer management. “We feel very strongly that the future of the industry is highly dependent upon the development of our leaders in this space.”
Peter Larkin, NGA president and chief executive officer, said the Executive Leadership Development Program is one of the most-valued programs that NGA offers its members and that PepsiCo’s financial support prevents the costs from being prohibitive for most members. “We couldn’t do it without them, so if we didn’t have their long-term support for this program, it never would have happened,” Larkin said.
PepsiCo declined to disclose details regarding financial commitments to the program.
The success of the workshop, which caps annual attendance at around 35 students, led NGA to start a similar program last year, held at University of Southern California and sponsored by Unilever. During the five-day programs in June, academic and industry professionals aid attendees’ transition from manager to leader through interactive instruction on being an effective leader, managing teams and realizing leadership capabilities.
“PepsiCo recognizes both the importance of the independent supermarket sector and the fact that growth and vitality begins with strong leadership,” said William Drake, director of executive education of Cornell University’s Food Industry Management Program. “Participants in the program repeatedly tell us that the program has made a difference — in their careers, in the fortunes of their companies and in the continued strength of the independent supermarket sector as a whole.”
A commitment to the professional development of its executives will also make independent retailers stronger competitors, Larkin said. “Many of the larger organizations have these kinds of programs internally or have the resources to be able to send their people to these kinds of programs at universities throughout the country.”
NGA accepts students into the program based on nominations of up-and-coming executives who delegate tasks to others and are candidates for increased management responsibilities. Walsh, who spoke about transitioning from a manager to a high-level leader at the most recent session in June, said PepsiCo appreciates that NGA scopes out applicants who would apply the program’s teachings back to their businesses.
“[NGA is] very strategic about who they send to ensure that there’s a good return on that investment,” Walsh said. “That means a lot for a company like ours when we’re choosing where to invest some of our resources and funding because we know that if we can develop good talent across the industry, it’ll also benefit PepsiCo long-term.”
The Cornell-hosted Executive Leadership Development Program enters its 10th year in 2013, as does PepsiCo’s sponsorship.
“I think that milestone is important because it demonstrates that we’ve had a very serious and long-term commitment with NGA to develop leaders within the independent retailer sector,” Walsh said. “It’s definitely not an initiative that we do for one year and then we pull back. It’s something we’ve been very consistent about because we have such a strong belief in the value.”
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