How to keep your young talent….Invest in them!

Paragon new offering Q4 and 2013: Career Development for your Millenial Leaders. This recent article offers the business case you need to develop your young talent.



Leadership and Workforce Trends – Top 12 for 2012

Paragon Leadership is a future-centric executive and leadership development firm passionate about developing the future face of leadership. Whether it is at the senior level or early in career, we believe that we can thrive as a country while winning the war on talent.  These top 12 trends were developed by several of Paragon’s most forward-thinking associates, who believe in encouraging leaders to consider future possibilities and act accordingly for success.

  1. The world of co-operation will continue to rise. Leaders will need to find more ways to ‘cross lines’ when developing consortium, partnerships and networking opportunities across functions, companies and industries.
  2. Social media will continue to play a large role in how leaders communicate and act.  To stay up-to-date in a tech-savvy world, leaders must turn to mediums like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to increase direct communication at all levels and around the globe.
  3. The squeeze on middle managers to do it all will continue.
  4. We will see companies rely on consumer input and behaviors more than ever to shape strategy, product development, and overall operations.
  5. Attitudes, beliefs and values of consumers and future generation leaders will perpetuate changes in company behavior.
  6. Companies will continue to look for ways to save money, even at the expense of employee development. At the same time, companies will be forced to reconcile with and adjust to accommodating satisfaction-seeking next generation leaders.
  7. We will see a decrease in formal training and an increase in action-based learning. Work roles will provide new challenges and satisfactory work experiences.
  8. We will continue to be challenged by how to support global work mobility with non-restrictive boundaries, while trying to attract the best talent.
  9. We will see an increase in company efforts to return to locally made products.
  10. We will see companies continue to pursue sustainability initiatives at all levels of production to further social responsibility efforts as well as draw in consumers.
  11. We will continue to see a rise in “the man’s place at home”, including a potential increase in stay-at-home dads.
  12. Pure is the new natural. Future talent, as well as consumers, will continue to seek companies that are real – pure and strong-valued in a mission that goes beyond pushing profits to satisfy shareholders.

Compiled by Paragon Associates, Janice Krupic, Diane Ring, Kevin Sulaiman & Deb Peters


After years of dealing with inflammatory issues and connecting with various medical specialists, I am grateful to have been introduced to Dr. James Dowd, Founder & Director of both the Arthritis Institute of MI and the MI Arthritis Research Center.  With the help of Dr. Dowd, who is also certified in Interactive and Holistic Medicine, I was shocked to find immediate relief through dietary changes.

Growing up as an athlete and continuing a very active lifestyle of tennis, running, yoga, etc., I always took pride in the healthy lifestyle I live and encourage for my family.  However, what I learned from my visits with Dr. Dowd and his book, “The Vitamin D Cure” was not only new learning, but required a paradigm shift as well as lifestyle change.  Dr. Dowd writes that “Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in the United States today.  It’s mind-boggling how many health problems have a D deficiency element.”  Further, when Dr. Dowd put me on an elimination diet, which consisted of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and water, to explore what foods I might be reacting to, I have to admit my first reaction was “What am I going to have for breakfast?”.

After picking up on my initial reaction (or dare I say resistance), he asked what I did for a living.  When I told him I was an executive coach supporting leaders in improving their leadership effectiveness through behavior change, he indicated my profession was no different than his.  It’s funny…I had never compared our profession of executive coaching and organization behavior to human medicine, but the correlation is uncanny.   Whether we are trying to help others modify behaviors at work or change behaviors to better one’s health, it really is applying the same type of medicine . . . that of changing human behavior which starts with the openness and motivation to do so.

I am pleased to report that after the past month or so (and over the holidays at that!) of modifying my diet and removing those elements that were causing harm (i.e. gluten), I am nearly symptom free.  What better way to ring in the new year for our clients and anyone who may be reading this, than opening up to lifestyle changes that really can be a ‘solution’ to good health.   It is for this reason that we have chosen to highlight Dr. Dowd’s book as Paragon’s first book of the month for 2012.

Written by:

Janice Krupic (Janice is CEO, Executive Coach and Food/CPG Co-Lead for Paragon Leadership International, a MI headquartered executive coaching and leadership development firm).


Collaboration vs. Competition . . . Can companies share a seat at the table or just shelf space?

Recently Paragon Leadership had the privilege of partnering with Ahold,
one of the largest food retailers in the U.S., in developing their first ever
Sustainability Summit.

When interviewing executives from large food manufacturers prior to the
Summit, the one resounding hope communicated was the “collaborating and
committing [of leaders] to specific actions around game changer ideas to help
all of the participating companies thrive while at the same time contribute to
a sustainable environment for all”.

It’s tough to collaborate if you don’t sit at the same table, so on September
28/29 that is exactly what occurred.  Executives from well know brand name
food manufactures checked their competitive spirit and ego at the door and got
to work.  While in small ‘work out’ groups with their peers, Ahold
representatives, and in some cases their direct competitors, the executives came up with “game changer” solutions to complex global issues like hunger relief, childhood obesity and food waste.  Very quickly it became apparent that collaboration can be a healthy, prosperous and lucrative way to engage all parties where everyone wins.  This includes not only the retailer and manufacturer but also the consumer and perhaps most importantly, the world we will leave behind to future generations to come.

What if we could model this same type of collaborative behavior and
spirit at the city, state, and national level?  Perhaps the concept of
‘isles’ (i.e., dividing political lines) would no longer exist outside of those
you find in the grocery store.

Tell us your experiences of how you or your company
has put collaboration into action where it has lead to one of your business’  greatest outcomes.

Janice Krupic (Janice is CEO, Executive Coach and Food/CPG Co-Lead for Paragon Leadership International, a MI headquartered executive coaching and leadership development firm).

For more information about the work Paragon does with Food and Consumer
Product companies and their leaders, or if you are wanting to learn more about
what they have done in support of Supplier Conferences and Summits, please
call/email us at

One year later: Update on Food Safety Modernization Act

One year ago, Paragon did a report on the state of food safety and how legislation and leadership in the industry needs to increase regulation and accountability in all stages of the supply chain. We talked with Jerry Wojtala, the executive director of The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), who outlining the Food Safety Modernization Act that was in the process of being reviewed by the House and Senate and the impact the legislature would have on the food industry as a whole.

“With regard to changes to the food industry in general, we can expect all food companies to be required to have a hazard food plan in place and available for inspection (ex: HAACP), food traceability requirements for all raw and manufactured food, food performance standards will be used during inspections, and on-farm regulations will be established.” Jerry Wojtala

In January 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law. Six months since the law passed, what changes have been made? The FDA recently reported on the progress of implementation of FSMA.

The new law gives the FDA more power to demand full-disclosure of the source of food and also the power to detain food that could be potentially harmful to humans or animals. The first phase of the law also includes building food safety education through training.

“Very importantly, the FSMA calls for the strengthening of existing collaboration among all food safety agencies whether they are Federal, state, local, territorial, tribal, or foreign. Among other provisions, the legislation directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve training of state, local, territorial and tribal food safety officials and authorizes grants for training, conducting inspections, building capacity of labs and food safety programs, and other food safety activities. Building and leveraging the capacity of these food safety partners is how we can have a well-integrated, national food safety system that is as effective and efficient as it can be.” Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of Food and Drugs


20/20 Vision on Food Safety

Each year, 48 million people contract foodborne illness in the US, resulting in 3,000 deaths.  Who is responsible for this?  Everyone in the food industry.

This summer, Dr. Gary Vroegindewey of The University of Maryland spoke at Michigan State University on food safety as part of the 2011 Robert Leader Endowed Lecture Series.  Vroegindewey’s global health experience ranges
from working in key roles with dairy production in South America, food safety
in Egypt, and Avian Influenza global planning to developing international
training programs for the Middle East.

Dr. Vroegindewey’s speech, titled Safe Food – Safe Nation: 20/20 Hindsight
and 20/20 Vision
, discussed global food trends that we are currently dealing with, the leadership and regulation that is needed to effectively address these trends, and what needs to be done going forward in order to maintain food safety for the US and the world.

Dr. Vroegindewey discussed three trends in food safety that the industry is currently experiencing.  These key drivers of the industry must be considered when looking at the needs and concerns of food leaders.

  • First, there is a substantial and increasing portion of the US food supply that is imported. People are demanding a wider range of options to eat, yet the number of inspectors of food imports is not increasing at the same rate as the volume of imported food.
  • Second, consumers are eating more raw and minimally processed food.  This is a positive as well as a potentially negative trend. Although promoting natural and organic health food options to a nation that struggled with nutritious eating habits is important, it calls for even more stringent regulation, inspection, and education.
  • And finally, the largest trend, and one that affects most people in the food industry, is the consolidation of industry organizations. As companies merge and grow, food risks are amplified. Large batch processing means a larger risk for a broader segment of the population.

There have also been contextual shifts in the industry, changes in the mindset of stakeholders, which need to be considered when developing food safety procedures.  The most notable change is consumers’ value of a brand over an individual product.  With recalls, companies must not only protect the consumer from contaminated products, but also protect the brand impression change that follows.  Visibility and ownership are vital strategies for a company to survive a recall and maintain the trust and confidence of their customers. Transparency is a necessity in the US economy as consumers consider their safety and take ownership for understanding what they are purchasing.  Read more about the trouble Apple is experiencing for lack of transparency in their suppliers.

From a regulation perspective, there is a clear shift from a reactive to proactive approach to food safety and prevention of foodborne illness. The most recent and influential change in legislation comes from the National Food Safety Modernization Act (NFSMA).  This law, passed in January 2011, puts more responsibility on the food industry and helps move the industry from a reactive to proactive stance on safety.  It also gives more power and support for decision makers to reject food processes they do not trust. For more information on the progress of implementation of the NFSMA, see our follow up post.

So, what needs to be done?  First and foremost, we must consider the safety of the consumer.  We have to educate, inform, and empower them on their food decisions.  We must understand where people get their information. We must get in front of them, give them the tools to make educated decisions about the food they choose to eat, instead of hoping they will come to us asking for information.  An important question to consider from Dr. Vroegindewey;  How is confidence in food safety or brand lost?  What is the tipping point?  Your product could be completely safe, but if people don’t believe it is safe then it doesn’t matter.

What else needs to be done?  Managing a strong and trusted supply chain. Leadership, training, up-to-date technology, transparency, risk assessment, and partnerships are all vital pieces that need to be considered and constantly evaluated to gain confidence in a company’s focus on food safety.  Dr. Vroegindewey quoted a line from the book Food Safety Culture on the importance of focus on process, not just product.  “Most food outbreaks are linked to failure to follow known processes, systems, and procedures”

Finally, we need to bring the experts together, bring key players together to create and share ideas to move forward. The food industry has a huge number of players, all with their own focus and responsibilities.  We need to use this pool of knowledge to create a fluid process of safety and transparency.

Dr. Vroegindewey left the group with one over-arching takeaway.  Leadership. With all these moving pieces and players in the food industry, strong leadership is vital to bringing the process together creating an airtight food safety process that will help all parties succeed and ultimately help the consumer feel completely confident in the safety of their food.

What ‘New Trend’ Food/CPG Leaders Should Consider For Success

In a recent report published by NPD  Recruiting ‘foresight’ was identified as the single most critical skill for success in the 21st century. Foresight enables leaders to “navigate change, make good decisions, and take action now to create a better future”.  Today, industry leaders hoping to pull out of the economic slump have begun to look forward; surveying experts, utilizing computer modeling, and exploring simulations to identify the ‘Next Big Trend’.  One thing has become certain for leaders: whatever the ‘next big trend’, a more sustainable and practical approach to business operations is key.

Searching for new trends has leaders pursuing sustainable alternatives at the manufacturing level, utilizing new technologies at the retail level, and grasping new consumer audiences from various marketing standpoints.  Regardless of where trends lie on the production or marketing ladders, a growing number of leaders are making conscious efforts to exercise their ‘foresight caps’ to adapt to this era of sustainable change.

Leaders in the Food/CPG industries execute sustainability initiatives on a day-to-day basis.  In recent interviews with Campbell’s, Ahold, and Kraft, Paragon learned about how Heads of Sustainability are taking their own, authentic approaches to pursuing quarterly, annual, and long-term goals.

Campbell’s Head of Sustainability, Dave Stangis, recently described the execution of his company’s overarching sustainability goals in terms of four matrices:  environmental sustainability, customer/consumer promise, and workplace and community impact.  At Campbell’s, environmental sustainability
efforts are focused heavily on energy, water, waste, and agriculture.  Stangis’s sustainability team commits to regular corporate and public sustainability
reports. To gain support from leaders and shareholders, Stangis believes
transparency about his sector’s sustainability progress is crucial. In today’s
tight economy, corporations have buckled down on departmental spending/funding.  Stangis’s straight shooting technique has won him the backing of many bystanders in the business.

VP of Corporate Sustainability at Ahold USA, Harriet Hentges, “conducts business to have minimum negative impact and maximum positive impact”.  Her team focuses on making good decisions in sourcing, packaging, and distribution.  For example, in sourcing commodities for produce such as soy and palm oil, Harriet supports vendors who do not turn to deforestation for production of such goods as a result of increases in demand and pricing.  Food waste and consumer knowledge are also fundamental areas Harriet’s team strive to impact.  This September, Ahold, lead by Harriet’s team, will host the company’s first ‘Sustainability Summit’. Working with Paragon, Ahold is reaching out to company leaders about what can and should be done to forge a more viable future for Food/CPG industry businesses. Workshops, speakers, and most importantly, open communication, are planned for the big event. To read more about what Harriet and Ahold are doing globally to meet the company’s sustainability goals, click here.

Finally, VP of Sustainability at Kraft, Steve Yucknut, shares stories of how his team has helped delve into a more sustainable future in the Food/CPG space.  Focus on recyclable materials, less waste, and new technologies are all primary regions of focus for this seasoned executive.  The work he supports with renewable resources for the production of consumer goods such as Philadelphia Cream Cheese, as well as his team’s support to create ‘greener’, more sustainable solutions in other manufactured goods conveys overall passion and innovative spirit.

Another company making strides in manufacturing and retail sustainability is Kroger.  Since 2009, “Kroger’s manufacturing plants have reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills by 30%…a 22 million pound reduction”.  Also, Kroger has “improved bagging techniques and increased use of reusable bags to save an additional 159 million plastic bags”.  This past year, Kroger completed its first wind energy project, installing two wind turbines at one of the company’s major dairy factories.  The turbines will supply 25% of the dairy’s annual electricity needs…enough power to produce six millions gallons of ice cream for one year!  If you’re a Sustainability leader and you’re feeling comfortable at this point, kudos to you for keeping up with the pace of this emerging ‘business path’. If you’re sweating bullets on the other hand, don’t worry. Campbell’s, Kroger, Ahold, and Kraft each have their own unique corporate sustainability goals…and plans to reach those goals.  As Dave Stangis of Campbell’s mentioned in his interview, sustainability efforts across companies are dependent on a number of factors including corporate missions and location in the company’s value chain; so make your efforts your own, tailor them to your company’s mission, but do something that’ll impress even the toughest critic: your boss. Just remember: use the resources you’re given (work members, researchers, funding, etc.) wisely, and have a vision. Pursue sustainability in a ‘fresh’, ‘21st century way’, who knows, you might set off the next big ‘green’ trend and change the sustainable world!

You can also listen to the complete interviews that Paragon President Janice Krupic and associate Kevin Sulaiman conducted with Steve Yucknut, VP of Sustainability at Kraft as well as an interview with Dave Stangis, Campbell’s Head of Sustainability below.

Dave Stangis Interview

Steve Yucknut Interview

Written by:

Kevin Sulaiman, Marketing Associate

Paragon Leadership International