March 2, 2017 – Boutique leadership provider Hilmar & Ross in conjunction with Yellow Folder Research has recruited Greg Schlafer as senior vice president of sales and marketing for J.R. Simplot’s Food Group. Ken Smuland, chief executive officer of Hilmar & Ross, led the assignment.
Mr. Schlafer previously served as president of Lamb Weston, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods. Before that, he was a vice president and general manager at General Mills. He has also served on the board of directors for the International Dairy Del Bakery Association, Ardent Mills, and Project Success. His skill sets, according to Mr. Smuland, include strategic and financial planning, team building, and talent development.
A Step Laterally, or Backward, Not Uncommon
So, why did Mr. Schlafer agree to take on a lower ranking position than his previous role with Lamb Weston? According to Mr. Smuland, Mr. Schlafer’s last assignment was changing due to a restructure. “Simplot offered a new challenge with opportunity, a good culture, and it required no relocation.”
In a mature industry where the number of leadership assignments can be harder to find, moving laterally or even slightly down the totem pole happens more often than you think, said Mr. Smuland. “However, the key factors critical to a candidate must be satisfied in the new position if an executive is going to step backward,” he added.
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Sometimes executives have to take a step back, said Mr. Smuland, in order to make that ultimate leap forward again, and this seems to be the case for Mr. Schlafer. Insiders said that J.R. Simplot’s Food Group has potentially laid down a framework for him to be considered for the company’s president post.
J.R. Simplot is a $6 billion privately-held food and agribusiness global company based in Boise, ID. The business has interesting roots: it was started by an energetic entrepreneur in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression, and grew from a one-man farming operation into the food and agribusiness empire it is today. The company’s vertical integration – seed production, farming, fertilizer manufacturing, frozen-food processing, and food brands & distribution – has nurtured a diverse array of internal talent and resources, creating a symbiosis that few other organizations achieve.
For its part, Hilmar & Ross specializes in finding leaders for foodservice groups, hospitality concerns, human resources and private equity outfits. For over 25 years, the firm also has recruited senior level management, sales, and marketing professionals.
Seeking New Leaders
A number of food businesses and agricultural organizations seeking new leaders have turned to executive search firms in recent months, as they seek talent from inside and outside their respective sectors. Here’s a small sampling taken from the Hunt Scanlon archives:
- Herd Freed Hartz Executive Search Partners recruited Chad Vincent to serve as chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a non-profit organization of dairy producers that promotes the consumption of milk, cheese and other dairy products made in America’s Dairyland.
- Taylor Winfield placed Constance Cullman as president and CEO of Farm Foundation. The foundation works as a catalyst for sound public policy by providing objective information to foster a deeper understanding of issues shaping the future for agriculture, food systems and rural regions.
- Hobson Leavy recruited Paul Gunn as CEO of Smales Farm. With a strong, sustainable community at its core, Smales Farm’s open spaces, access to transport, green technology and dynamic buildings are people-focused, encouraging innovative interaction.
- Kincannon & Reed recruited Federico A. Tripodi as CEO of Calyxt, Inc., a Minnesota-based company developing healthier food products to benefit both consumers and growers. The firm also placed Lucas Lentsch as CEO of the Midwest Dairy Association, a non-profit organization which manages dairy farmer checkoff funds in a 10-state region.
- Barton Executive Search recruited Chris Neugent as a member of Welch’s board of directors. Welch’s is owned by 1,000 family farmers across America and in Ontario who make up this cooperative.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media