SOM grad and Nestle exec discusses everyday leadership
By Steve Seepersaud
Meat, cheese and sauce wrapped inside a dough pocket. Throw it in the microwave for a minute or two. It's hard to find an easier lunch (or snack) solution than Hot Pockets.
What could be better? How about Dessert Hot Pockets? Students in Kim Jaussi's "Leading Creativity and Innovation" class didn't just dream it up. They baked it and served it up. Fred Stapleton '02 was impressed with the creativity and ability to think about new spaces where the brand could go. The class works with chief innovation officers of global companies such as Google, Samsung, GE Healthcare and Hershey. The class is in its third year, and is setting the stage for a future innovation lab at Binghamton University.
"I want students to think about how big the market could be for an idea," said Stapleton (at right in photo above), who is director of category and shopper development for Nestle USA. "An organization has to invest considerable resources to bring a product to market, and there is a higher likelihood an organization will invest if it feels the potential is large."
Stapleton visited campus in late October and spoke to Jaussi's students about the consumer products industry and his own experiences. He has been with Nestle since 2002, and has held various sales positions and relocated several times as his career advanced. At a relatively early point in his career, he was placed into leadership positions for stretch development. In his current role, he works with marketing teams and customers to craft retail strategies that suggest how products are priced, promoted and merchandised by retailers.
"Take a category like frozen snacks," he said. "We engage retailers about how they can develop their category through key growth strategies, and how our brands can support that growth. We can help them grow their total business. I have to be an expert on retail channels and retailers so when our marketers develop new product ideas, I can advise on retail feasibility and success factors."
With annual sales exceeding $100 billion, Nestle is the world's largest food business. In addition to Hot Pockets, and a variety of coffees and chocolate bars bearing the company's name (who hasn't heard of Nescafe or Nestle Crunch), in the U.S., Nestle markets a variety of well-known brands such as Purina pet food, Gerber baby food, DiGiorno pizza and Stouffer's meals.
Stapleton credits the School of Management, and Jaussi's leadership class in particular, with his career success and his ability to drive sales for Nestle.
"I've always looked for opportunities to try new things, and to develop as a leader," Stapleton said. "I believe in everyday leadership. Every day, you can be a leader, regardless of the situation and who you are working with. It's all in how you treat others and how you handle situations."
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