Failure Can Be an Option, Says Panel

ORLANDO, Fla. — Taking risks and being willing to learn from mistakes can be important tools for both personal growth and business success, according to an industry panel at Food Marketing Institute’s Future Connect [4]conference here on Wednesday.

“When I look at failure — I don’t see what most people see as failure; it is really just things that don’t work. And often, finding the things that don’t work leads us to the things that will,” said Marnette Perry, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and operations, Kroger Co., [5]Cincinnati. “I like to spend a lot of time looking at what we learn from a situation, rather than whether or not it was a failure.”

Joan Toth of the Network of Executive Women, far left, led a panel on "leadership Lessons from the C-Suite" that included Andy Callahan of Hillshire Brands Co., Marnette Perry of Kroger Co., and Stacy Pugh of Coca-Cola Refreshments.
Joan Toth of the Network of Executive Women, far left, led a panel on "leadership Lessons from the C-Suite" that included Andy Callahan of Hillshire Brands Co., Marnette Perry of Kroger Co., and Stacy Pugh of Coca-Cola Refreshments. (Photo by Greg Cohen/ProView Events)

Andy Callahan, president of Hillshire [6]Brands Co., added that “risk taking is important to growing as a person, and growing as a business,” although he cautioned to look out for “cavalier risk taking” and stressed the need for balance.

He agreed with Perry that “if you do focus on the failure, you may become conservative, and lacking confidence.

"You need to focus on what you learn, whether you are successful and win, or whether you fail,” he said. 

Perry said organizations “need risk takers in their businesses.”

“We need people looking out for the next idea, and who are agile to change,” she said.

Read more: Panelists Debate Impact of E-Commerce [7]

Callahan also pointed out that some of the biggest career risks he has taken, when he did not fully believe he was right for a role, have actually turned out to be his “greatest accelerators,” teaching him new skills and building confidence.

Stacy Pugh, chief customer care officer, Coca-Cola [8] Refreshments, described how she learned from a brief stint seeking to turn around a small ice cream company. Although the company failed, and went out of business, “I learned some skills I never would have had the opportunity to experience at a larger company,” she said.

Read more: SN's 2013 Future Connect coverage [4]

“I got to work with banks on financing, and in marketing, and on things that people at large, silo’d organizations never get to experience,” Pugh explained. “I learned so much from that experience, and I don’t regret it at all.”

The panel, which was moderated by Joan Toth, president and chief executive officer of the Network of Executive Women, also discussed topics such as mentoring vs. sponsorship, nurturing diversity in business, and lessons they have learned about building their careers.

Pugh, for example, stressed the importance of networking — something she admits she had not done enough of until she was suddenly out of a job.

Photo by Greg Cohen

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