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2012 Power 50: No. 46 Leslie G. Sarasin

A key characteristic of life inside the beltway is that change is always in the air — legislators come and go at the whim of the electorate, new issues rise to prominence and fade away, as do the organizations that support or oppose them.

Against that backdrop, Leslie G. Sarasin has spent her first 3½ years at the helm of Alexandria, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute seeking to make it a more nimble, more responsive organization that will withstand — and influence — the winds of change over the long haul.

This year’s FMI show — which took place in Dallas in late April and early May — illustrated Sarasin’s approach to continuous improvement.

“I think what you will see from FMI is continual re-evaluation of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, but always with a focus on making sure we’re doing what it takes to meet member needs,” she told SN at the time.

She cited the conference, which helped mark the association’s 35th anniversary, as one of FMI’s key accomplishments for 2012.

“FMI seamlessly connected our rich past with a bright future by hosting a very successful FMI2012 show in Dallas,” she said. “Educational offerings focused on the theme of ‘Know Your Customer,’ effectively linking what participants heard from the research and the experts’ presentations in the educational sessions with what they experienced on the show floor — especially in the realm of technology.”

The FMI team’s greatest successes this year, she said, “must be counted in the arena of strategically building on our traditional strengths and bringing a renewed energy to crucial, but often unglamorous, concerns.

“We have fortified FMI’s core competencies that provide maximum member benefit, strengthening our advocacy efforts, food safety offerings and communication assistance.”

Sarasin, whom FMI members credit with building a strong team at the association, is quick to extend credit to her group.

“Growing up in Kentucky, I was told that a congratulatory pat on the back is ‘on the back’ for a reason — as a reminder there was a host of people working behind you that got you to this point, and that it is a ‘pat,’ which is a nothing but a gentle push urging you go even further,” she said. “So, as I look at FMI’s accomplishments this year, I am acutely aware of the enormous team effort — among FMI members, my fellow FMI staffers and our collaborating partners — that contributed to FMI’s effectiveness as the voice of food retail.”

She said this year FMI still has a few items left to accomplish on its current three-year strategic plan — topped by a call to create the next three- to five-year strategic plan.

“With a solid membership foundation to build on, the support of an engaged board of directors and some excellent outside resources, our strategic thinking committee is aggressively examining where the food retail industry is headed, exploring new roles associations must play to best support its members and leaving no aspiration unturned in establishing a road map for FMI’s immediate future.”

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