2014 Visionaries

By Ali Ackerman Orr — 05/28/2014

There is a reason that the word “people” comes first in the phrase “people, process and technology”. The people aspect of any organizational change initiative is far and away the most important of the three elements. Ultimately, it’s an organization’s people that are held accountable for failure and celebrated for success.

CGT is proud to celebrate the success of 11 people in driving notable change both within their respective organizations and throughout the consumer goods industry as a whole. They are leaders, change agents, masterminds, advocates and executors. And for that, we have named them “visionary”.

Beginning with a tribute to the architect behind The Procter & Gamble Company’s groundbreaking “1, Consumer Place” initiative, we shine a spotlight on the triumphs that each person has achieved — from holistic supply chain planning to understanding target consumers like never before — and preview what they are planning to conquer next.

Steve Aaron
Sr. Global Enterprise Architect
Global Business Services (GBS)
The Procter & Gamble Company

24 years with company; 7 years in current role

The world of marketing has radically changed with the dawn of the digital age. With $84 billion in revenue in 2013, 4.8 billion global consumers and more than two dozen $1 billion brands, The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) quickly recognized that its traditional, anonymous, mass media campaigns would no longer be enough. A massive change was needed in the way the company managed consumer information, and luckily, Steve Aaron was there to envision it. With the support of business leaders, he architected 1, Consumer Place, a figurative street address designed to consolidate all of P&G’s marketing programs into a single, secure and scalable global marketing platform and ecosystem, enabling coordinated, analytics-driven decision making across the entire company. For the first time, P&G is now able to see what is working and share solutions and best practices across brands.

CGT: Can you explain your initial vision for P&G’s 1, Consumer Place?

Consumer is boss at P&G. The initial vision was sparked in 2010 when we observed that our boss had expectations we could not consistently meet on a global basis. Even more challenging was the observation that the boss’ expectations were changing more rapidly than we were on a global basis. We realized we needed fewer, yet more capable, consumer relationship marketing (CRM) capabilities that could be deployed in a scaled manner across the globe.

In 2010, we had 500 CRM programs around the world operated and run as independent business processes and IT operations. This model was inefficient. We had consumer-provided data in each CRM program, but we did not consistently use that information to understand preferences or ways to serve the consumer better. Independent CRM systems often made cross-system analytics difficult. Along the way, we found other opportunities that created the perfect storm for transformation.

CGT: How did you execute on this vision?

The initial execution started with an enterprise architecture design for CRM that enabled key foundations of P&G’s digital marketing vision. Critical to the architectural design was having regional thought leaders from Marketing and Legal provide input on key topics. The ability to create traceability of thought leader needs to system and data model architecture was critical to creating global interest in the vision. In GBS, we are business professionals with an expertise in IT. This skill set enabled us to identify unspoken business needs and lay a foundation that is capable of scaling to new needs that we knew time and geographic variation would present.

With a global architecture and core designs complete, we had to localize the capability in a way that acknowledged real differences in markets. We enabled this by looking through the spoken word of a business partner in a market to uncover the intended meaning, then delivering against the meaning in a way that reused core capabilities or built more capability that could be used by that market and future markets. It can’t be understated how critical this was to the vision. Once we reconciled or reengineered the delivery of all key business needs, the agreements were turned over to more specialists in various disciplines to execute.

Collaboration with our business partners was critical early in the process — for key issue resolution during the project and for business sign off at the end of the project.

CGT: What role did technology play in bringing 1, Consumer Place to life?

Teradata was our partner of choice for this initiative. It helped us architect, build and operate a secure, scaled CRM platform to manage data from our consumer programs around the world. Standard storage of data, scaled analytics, consistent maintenance of data and automated campaign execution are some of the key functionalities Teradata provided. The breadth and scale of sources, services and applications included in 1, Consumer Place also required contributions from additional partners.

CGT: What does 1, Consumer Place look like today, and can you share benefits realized insofar?

We have created a cloud-based, solution-as-a-service capability with our partners. Services include campaign creation and execution, consumer data management, loyalty account management, data cleansing and quality, results reporting and analytics, solution development and operations. Services are consumption-based, structured upon performance-based metrics, clear SLAs and associated penalties for non-delivery.

In Asia, we were able to combine more than 70 consumer knowledge databases into a single secured platform, reduce the governance and support complexity in consumer data management, remove the technical component from the digital marketing manager’s work plan, so he or she can better focus on engaging with the consumer via actionable insights, and improved e-mail marketing effectiveness by as much as two times.

In the Americas, we integrated more than 140 marketing programs and data sources, removed inactive consumers and unused data fields to improve target effectiveness, created a single consistent measurement approach and increased marketing return on investment via more efficient spend and deeper consumer segmentation.

In the process of transforming global systems, we have put in place a new common set of definitions and KPIs for what CRM is and how to measure it. This has effectively given us a cultural change in that the measures and terms we use in one market are the same used in another. This has given us greater business agility.

CGT: What type of leader are you?

I find personal satisfaction as a “connector” within the organization and, as such, I seek to listen to diverse perspectives and generally approach those that report to me as people I work with rather than manage. Most of the successes I have had in my career relate in some way to connecting ideas of the organization with a new situation or opportunity to create a new business opportunity for P&G.

CGT: Who do you admire most in business?

Over the years I have come across a handful of talented leaders that really push the bounds of my thinking. What they all have in common is a deep understanding of the business, broad multi-company experiences and the ability to translate that experience into opinions of how we will use technology in the near and long term to get closer to consumers. I have long considered it a real job benefit to get to interact and work with these key thought leaders.

CGT: Is there one piece of advice that you work by?

I have found “Think strategic but act pragmatic” can be a key enabling thought in creating global scale.

Patrick Bower
Senior Director, Global Supply Chain Planning and Customer Service
Combe, Inc.

7 years with company; 4 years in current role

Vision in Action: Personal care company Combe, Inc. has been on a mission to refine supply chain planning. In the role of Senior Director, Global Supply Chain Planning and Customer Service, Patrick Bower played an integral role in building a strong team-based collaborative demand consensus process. Now, all of the right participants are in the room, from sales leadership and marketing to operations, market research and finance, to conduct a reality-based conversation that is focused on examining level shifts, consumer consumption trends, competitive activity and gaps to the operating plan while planning bilingually, speaking in both units and dollars. “As the process has evolved over the last seven years, inventory has shrunk, schedule changes are far less frequent and the re-planning scramble has lessened considerably,” says Bower. Out of the office, Bower takes every opportunity to advance the discipline of business forecasting through writing and speaking engagements.  

On the Horizon: “One of our best opportunities for improvement is to leverage lessons learned in North America to improve planning processes globally,” says Bower. “We have smart, talented people around the world that we can enable with well-worn processes, learnings and maybe even toolsets from our planning process. Likewise, we expect to learn from our colleagues around the globe. Shared learning will be the key to success.”

Next Gen Wisdom: “Learn the tools of the trade. Learn how to analyze data, understand the sources and uses of information, examine the flow of data throughout an organization. Watergate’s Deep Throat said ‘follow the money’. I offer that young professionals should follow the data.”   

Little Known Fact: Bower got his start in IT. Understanding the movement of data through an organization helped him tremendously when making a mid-career change to focus on supply chain.

Jody Cnossen
VP of Retail Sales and Merchandising
Suja Life, LLC

3 months with Suja Life and in current role

Vision in Action: Jody Cnossen has spent much of the last decade leading a national retail sales team of 85 for a larger consumer goods company. Recently, he made a big switch to build a similar team for a smaller organic juice maker called Suja Life, LLC, which was named the country’s fastest growing beverage company by Forbes magazine in February 2014. During this short time, Cnossen supercharged Suja’s growth by building a team of 18 retail sales reps that are spread throughout key markets within the United States. “With the retail grocery industry being so competitive, this team is critical to helping establish the Suja brand in the marketplace,” explains Cnossen. “My previous experience has afforded me the ability to build out this team quickly.”

On the Horizon: According to Cnossen, the key to building a national team is constructing the proper infrastructure that ensures a streamlined reporting process and establishes a robust data loop. Currently, he is partnering with Flowfinity Wireless, with which he worked closely previously, to launch a highly customizable mobile technology platform for Suja’s retail sales team. “The efficiencies in reporting will help increase our sales call coverage by nearly 20 percent and the platform will give us the ability to capture real-time store level data,” he says. “This valuable data will be utilized to better understand our corporate customer base allowing us to develop highly targeted sales strategies.”

Finding Inspiration: The quote Cnossen chooses to live and work by comes from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. He expands, “Excellence is predicated on character, focus and perseverance.”

Julie M. Francis
Chief Commercial Officer
Coca-Cola Refreshments

19 years with company; 4 years in current role

Vision in Action: As a leader, Julie Francis strives to live her values through collaboration, integrity, accountability, passion, diversity, inclusiveness and quality. An accomplishment that exemplifies this motto was the role she played in the integration of Coca-Cola North America and Coca-Cola Enterprises, the single largest vertical integration in North American business history. “Our destination was to become the best brand, sales and customer service system in North America. “Through courageous leadership and commitment to our vision, we meaningfully improved our position with our customers. Prior to the integration, we ranked No. 13 in core channel versus all participating suppliers. Post integration, we ranked No. 2,” reports Francis.

On the Horizon: Francis has an imperative for the U.S. team to drive long-term sustainable and profitable growth. “Winning in our flagship market is critically important, however, that goal has unique challenges due to the multiple, large categories and the significant mix of diverse customers,” she says. “At an outlet level, development and implementation of a segmentation methodology will enable our success in each distinct market.  This requires that we segment at the customer level to align our investment strategy with the best opportunity for our customer’s growth. We must segment at the outlet level based on the attributes, growth potential and the shopper dynamics that exist in an individual outlet.”

Leadership Philosophy: Francis advocates that culture is the reflection of the action of leaders. “An organization’s environment is created by leadership’s actions, decision-making process and demonstration of values and goals,” she says.

Call to Action: Research shows that empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth. “Simply put, developing female leaders is a good business practice,” urges Francis.

Ben Gadbois
Global President and Chief Operating Officer
Spin Master

1.7 years with company and in current role

Vision in Action: When Ben Gadbois joined Spin Master, the company was at a critical juncture. “We had to initiate restructuring, which is never an easy process, but it was necessary for us to strategically realign our human and financial resources in order to reposition our company for growth,” he explains. Ultimately, it was the best thing for the company as it grew nearly 20 percent in 2013 and is now on pace to beat that growth in 2014. “We returned to strong profitability and received multiple accolades, including two Toy of the Year Awards,” adds Gadbois. Spin Master is now strategically focused on driving immersive extensions to its toy lines through the creation of entertainment properties, companion applications, games and digital experiences that are suited for changing consumer play patterns.

On The Horizon: Spin Master is currently reorganizing into global business units. “We now have teams that are leading category based business units to provide clear focus and rainmaking innovation to propel our growth,” says Gadbois. This structure creates a disciplined, business operating platform that is expected to facilitate sustained growth, create a more agile, flexible and consumer-focused company and develop talent. “It allows Spin Master to become best in class and adjust to an ever-changing global economy. We are also positioned and ready to tackle on key acquisitions that will create sustainable and long-term value.”

Leadership Philosophy: Gadbois strives to empower people to drive results. “To do this you must create a clear strategy, stay focused, create clear measurements, empower accountability and reward people.”

Little Known Fact: Although Gadbois is a diehard heavy metal music fan that rides and designs customs choppers, he has a softer side that often enjoys musical theater.

Monica Lopez Gonzalez
Vice President Consumer, Shopper,
Market Insights and Advanced Analytics
Georgia-Pacific LLC

3.6 years with company and in current role

Vision in Action:
Monica Lopez Gonzalez established consumer-driven foresight strategies across Georgia-Pacific. “It is very difficult to step back from day-to-day tasks to think about what is going to be important in the future and how to go about it,” says Lopez. “Therefore, I embarked on assessing, crystallizing and quantifying the major consumer trends that will matter for our paper business. It all came down to five consumer focus areas. I worked with my team to convert them into Multidimensional Targeting Frameworks that set the tone for every brand in the Georgia-Pacific portfolio to define short- and long-term consumer priorities that enable better consumer engagement. Furthermore, we worked as a team with the sales organization to apply the same lenses to our retailers’ shoppers. The result is a company targeting framework to create strong action plans in the market — to help retailers win where it matters the most to them (now and into the future) and helping Georgia-Pacific brands win where it matters the most as well.”

On the Horizon: Building off of the consumer-driven strategies to ensure retailers and Georgia-Pacific brands win where it matters the most, the company is moving to building “Brands of the Heart”. Lopez explains, “That entails strengthening our brand equities and our emotional connection with our consumers in a relevant way. We will embark on improvements rooted on our Market Based Management (MBM) philosophy to drive innovation via creative destruction, which means that our brands seek to challenge the status quo established in our categories to work harder, better and more effectively for our consumers and shoppers in their daily lives.”

Leadership Philosophy: Lopez strives to be an agent of change who creates the most long-term value for Georgia-Pacific, its consumers and its retailers. “I do this by seeking to improve my skills day-in and day-out, attracting, developing and retaining the best talent and, ultimately, being the best MBM practitioner I can be.”

Nick Lynch
Global Planning Excellence Manager

7 years with company; 4 years in current role

Vision in Action:
Shell’s branded lubricant business comes with a complex supply chain with 60,000 SKU/location combinations and more than 50 plants supplying lubricants, including Penzoil and Quaker State, into more than 120 countries. In the role of Global Planning Excellence Manager, Nick Lynch was charged to lead Shell’s journey toward supply chain excellence. He and his team completely redesigned Shell’s S&OP process and instituted analytics to make value-based business decisions. Part of this project was the global rollout of Terra Technology’s Demand Sensing and Multi-Enterprise Inventory Optimization, which was completed through close coordination between the company’s global and regional organization as well as between business and IT functions. “It’s clearly a game changer for us,” says Lynch. “Recognizing that we share much in common with fast-moving consumer goods supply chains, we have been able to leverage our global SAP platform and make a significant change to our planning capabilities — right down at the SKU/depot level. We’re the first in our industry to do this.”

On the Horizon: Lynch is now working to extend the reach of the company’s E2E supply chain. “Using tried and tested CPFR techniques, we are building on the benefits that we achieved with the demand sensing solution,” he explains. This is good for Shell’s internal supply chain but also a win-win for its key customers — especially in the indirect channel. Better visibility and demand accuracy will also help drive out waste and reduce the working capital along its extended supply chain.

Sound Advice: “Get the basics right. Only then can you build new and innovative practices for a competitive supply chain. Lose sight of the basics and it undermines the very foundation of a business, no matter how sophisticated it might be.”

Little Known Fact: Lynch loves to play table tennis. “It’s not as easy as it was when I was 18 but it is great fun for folks of all ages,” he says.

Federico Muyshondt
Vice President - Sales Strategy
The Dannon Company (Danone)

4.5 years with company; 1 year in current role

Vision in Action:
Over the last five years, The Dannon Company has taken share leadership of the yogurt category, become a driver behind the Greek Yogurt boom, and expanded category consumption at record levels. However, for Vice President of Sales Strategy Federico Muyshondt, no accomplishment is larger than assembling the team that did it. “Having the right people in place in the Sales Strategy Team and the Sales Organization has been key for us to winning in the marketplace... and that by far is what we’re most proud of,” he says.

On the Horizon: As an organization, Dannon continues to feed its obsession with category growth. “The fact that the United States is still an under-developed market in terms of yogurt consumption means the opportunity is huge,” says Muyshondt. “We plan to continue to drive yogurt consumption by addressing all consumer needs through our portfolio offerings as well as addressing key white space opportunities and creating new consumption occasions.” Offering a multiple segment and need approach is expected to set the category up for success in the years to come and continue to make yogurt the growth engine of both the dairy aisle and the total store.

Finding Inspiration: Muyshondt’s mentor at Dannon always tells him that he “would rather us be sure than right”. “This quote embodies not only the entrepreneurial mindset of the company, but how we pursue ideas and initiatives that we strongly believe in and are committed to,” explains Muyshondt.

Next Gen wisdom: “In consumer packaged goods, companies are like marriages. Once you find the right partner that challenges and complements you in many ways, you will thrive professionally and personally. Strive to find the right fit.”

Mark J. Nichta
Director, Sales Information Strategy

32 years with company; 14 years in current role

Vision in Action:
“While many projects can be cited as major accomplishments, no breakthrough initiative can be started without first establishing credibility and trust,” explains Mark Nichta. “It is the ability to build constructive and effective relationships, and to maximize team contributions, that allows us to achieve organizational goals. Developing collaborative relationships with executives, peers, employees and vendors are requisite building blocks to success.”

On the Horizon: As Director of Sales Information Strategy, Nichta is currently rolling out a big project to deliver category insights, updates and sales presentations to Nestlé’s field teams via Interactive Edge’s XP3 solution. In the past, custom presentations were created for major accounts, but not for all accounts. These other accounts received national-level data and then customized presentations on their own. “With the introduction of sophisticated software, we now deliver one presentation for all accounts. Sales managers need only select their account, and the customized presentations are created in moments,” says Nichta. “This adds tremendous value as the time they spent pulling and integrating the data is now used to develop insights and selling strategies.”

Finding Inspiration: An ancient African proverb states, “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” Nichta elaborates, “Balancing speed versus alignment and collaboration is challenging in large organizations, but while it may take longer, cross-functional engagement provides superior results that the entire organization can get behind.”

Next Gen wisdom: “Be a sponge!” urges Nichta. “I can’t say it better than Stephen Covey, ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. Be humble and listen, as there is much to learn! Then look for opportunities to impart your considerable knowledge, especially regarding the tools and new technologies you use regularly.”

Jason Reiman
Vice President, Global Logistics
The Hershey Company

18 years with company; 2 years in current role

Vision in Action:
Over the course of his 18-year-long career with The Hershey Company, Jason Reiman has led a total of four sales and operations planning (S&OP) process implementations. “Each time we gained more insight and momentum, but did not reach the full potential until we transformed it into Integrated Business Management,” he says. “The process has grown from being a demand- and supply-balancing meeting to a process for executing our business strategy. It’s very rewarding to see this become a core process that has been deployed globally.”

On The Horizon: At present time, Reiman is leading a team that is focused on transforming The Hershey Company’s knowledge and insights culture into a capability trademarked “Insights Driven Supply Chain”. He explains, “Our initiative around Insights Driven Supply Chain focuses on leveraging big data and advanced analytics.” Thus, using a “Sense, Make Sense and Respond” approach, Insights Driven Supply Chain has the ability to transform the planning and replenishment processes throughout the supply chain by reducing variability, which is expected to lead to improved on-shelf availability, freshness and costs for The Hershey Company.

Leadership Philosophy: Reiman enjoys inspiring others with a vision of what might be possible in the area of supply chain. “I get energized working with teams that continue to build on our vision… making the end result even better.”

Next Gen wisdom: “Work hard every day and try to find ways to not just contribute, but to make a difference,” advises Reiman. “Ask yourself, ‘How can I bring game-changing ideas that help the company and my team achieve our goals?’”

David W. Stahl
Chief Information Officer
The Hillshire Brands Company

2 years with company and in current role

Vision in Action:
Sara Lee Corporation was a $20-billion international holding company that adopted a divestiture strategy to maximize shareholder value. The result was the formation of The Hillshire Brands Company, a domestic $4-billion operating company whose vision is to become the most innovative branded food company in the United States. Yet, the new company was saddled with an application and infrastructure footprint built to support a $20-billion company. Since joining Hillshire in 2013, David Stahl’s strategy focuses on four major areas: Simplification, modernization, building capabilities for the business and transforming IT to a new operating model. The result of this strategy includes a 38 percent reduction in operating expense as well as a 30 percent reduction in applications. “Additionally, the new operating model provides a governance framework to manage IT like a business and enabling IT to deliver solutions and services that meet Hillshire’s needs,” says Stahl.

On the Horizon: Hillshire is enhancing trade excellence capabilities and building advanced trade analytics capacity via an enhanced CAS-based TPM/TPO system. “In addition, we’ve implemented a customized post-event analysis tool,” says Stahl. “These efforts establish Hillshire as a best-in-class consumer packaged goods organization relative to effectively managing trade investment. These upgraded trade capabilities support both our revenue management category growth strategy and our customers’ category growth strategies.”  To simplify the trade excellence initiative, Stahl implemented Teradata’s EDW to centralize and report information in a consistent and accurate manner.

Leadership Philosophy: Stahl believes in building a team of results-oriented people who are experts in their fields. “I strive to make myself available and accessible to everyone and communicate, formally and informally, as often as possible.”


Like the consumer goods industry, retailing is at a critical inflection point with the rise of the omnichannel, big data and stiff competition for shopper wallets. Here are five noteworthy executives who are redefining retail with business and IT initiatives that establish a clear lead on market-changing trends.

Excerpted from RIS News March 2013 cover story

Dave Finnegan
Chief Interactive and Information Technology Officer
Build-A-Bear Workshops

Less than a year after Build-A-Bear Workshop was founded, Dave Finnegan joined the company as it quickly grew from a handful of stores to a national chain. For the past few years, Finnegan has driven the redesign and transformation of the Build-A-Bear Workshop store. The newly imagined stores, which Finnegan refers to as “half retail and half theme park,” merge hands-on bear-making with innovative technology.

Michael Moore
Moosejaw Mountaineering

Moosejaw Mountaineering is known for using silly humor in its customer communications. But the retailer is quite serious about using IT to measure its impact on the business. Bringing analytical rigor to Moosejaw’s multi-channel marketing has been a big part of Michael Moore’s mission. Mobile POS, which accounted for 70 percent of total orders in early 2013, also allows associates to stay by customers’ side as they research what can be complex purchases of specialty outdoor apparel and equipment.

Phil Shelley
Former CTO

Phil Shelley was instrumental in Sears Holdings Corp.’s accelerated use of big data. Data storage costs lowered enough, and analytical tools grew powerful enough that Sears can collect and keep every tiny granule of data. This approach to big data has shortened the time needed for analytics projects by 60 percent to 70 percent, while improving promotion conversions, lowering inventory levels and boosting sales. Not surprisingly, Shelley has since left the company to start a big data consulting firm.

John Salt
SVP of Supply Chain
Canadian Tire

Despite its name, Canadian Tire has been referred to as Canada’s closest equivalent to Walmart. The desire to maintain optimal in-stock levels of its “signature” product was a big reason that Canadian Tire began nearly daily deliveries of tires to its stores in July 2011, a move orchestrated by John Salt that quickly produced measureable business benefits. Despite a mild winter in 2011-2012 that didn’t motivate tire replacements, the retailer grew both tire sales and market share in this category since implementation.

Jack McKinney
Destination XL Group

Destination XL Group has some 500 stores under three brands as well as e-commerce and catalog operations. Jack McKinney and the IT department discovered that merchandise planning and analytics were unified, but each channel and brand had separate reporting systems and methods. With McKinney’s leadership, the retailer evolved its e-commerce division into a consistent customer experience platform with a unified multi-channel reporting capability on the back end.


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2017 Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Summit