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Speakers Focus on Responsibility, Humility

Opening-day speakers at the Food Marketing Institute Future Connect leadership conference here today focused on the importance of integrity, responsibility and looking out for the well-being of their subordinates.

“I’ll take the responsibility, and let other people take the credit,” said Steve Smith, president and chief executive officer, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., and the immediate past chairman of FMI, on a panel with other industry leaders.

Ric Jurgens, president and CEO of Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa, speaking on the same panel, cited a list of 10 keys to being an effective manager. Among them: “Work harder to help others succeed than for your own success.”

Other items on his list included not separating “work” and “life” – “Work can be such a meaningful part of life,” he said – and treating your job like it is the last one you will ever have.”

He also emphasized not associating with negative people: “They are like drug addicts, and drug addicts are not happy until you are addicted.”

Don Knauss, chairman and CEO of The Clorox Co. echoed that sentiment from the opposite perspective – noting that leaders are best served by associating with optimists. “It is a force multiplier,” he said, and cited his own wife as one of his mentors because of her positive attitude.

Beverly Grant, chief channel officer at Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, spoke about how she was humbled when, as a newly promoted single mother at corporate headquarters, she was told by a supervisor she might not be cut out for the job because of her commitment to her church and her family. She got some counsel from a higher supervisor, who remains her mentor to this day.