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DecisionNext Blog

3 ways meat leaders can navigate The Void

Published by Janette Barnard November 03, 2017

We’ve all observed a trend play out across the meat industry in the last 18 months as executive leadership has been a bit of a carousel, a roller coaster, or <insert analogy to convey chaos>.

Seventeen CEO’s of publicly traded food companies stepped down this year, according to Fortune.  Attribute it to activist investors or the frenzy to prevent their involvement, low growth, labor challenges, etc.

But in the article,  “Why Big Food Is Having a Mass CEO Exodus: No wonder so many have stepped down—they’re up against a changing landscape.” the author points out that the typical tricks of economies of scale for manufacturing and advertising are no longer enough; sustainable growth is getting hard to achieve. Because the world is moving faster than ever before, especially in the food industry. Especially in the meat business.

This leaves leaders facing shorter tenures with more external pressures in a time of accelerating change. And bonus - it’s not just CEO’s grappling with these dynamics, all senior leaders at all food companies will face some degree or combination of these.

So where can these leaders turn?

Let’s start with Netflix.

Actually an example buried inside the Netflix documentary, “The Free Man”, about extreme athletes and how they prepare to overcome wild obstacles to defy physical limits (stay with me).

One story about a highliner speaks to our topic. Never heard of highlining? Think of a tow strap tied between cliffs that are a long ways from the bottom of the canyon below - with no safety net. The space between the cliffs that the highliner must navigate across is called The Void. By definition it’s uncertain and dangerous.

Here are 3 strategies for successfully conquering the void, according to one high liner:

  1. Face fear and manage it. “You’re overwhelmed with fear of falling but at the same time you fight to stay balanced.”
  2. Stay focused. “You cannot avoid The Void. You must embrace it. You must accept that it’s all around you.”
  3. Once you become comfortable in the void, you can navigate it with some ease. “The most energy is expended early on as you are entering the void, you have to fight fight fight then you become calm.”

They all ring true for the challenges facing meat company leaders, but that last one is poignant.

How do meat industry leaders manage their energy and “fight fight fight” as they approachthe void so they can successfully move across it?

  1. Build a culture of innovation, of adaptation. Build a culture where a growth mindset wins. This can no longer be the industry where the good old boys go to hide until retirement.  The meat business needs leaders that daily ask themselves and their team, “What got us here that won’t get us there?” Maybe this means shifting your mindset from that of a transactional, opportunistic trader to a strategic partner. Maybe it means incentivizing employees differently. Chances are, asking that question means a lot of things for the organization.
  2. Leverage technology - not for the sake of a press release that makes the company sound innovative, but as part of meaningful solutions to the most pressing business problems. The best technology solutions serve long term strategic objectives but quickly generate results.

You may not be wild about the idea of walking across a thin line with no safety net and a roaring river waiting 900 feet below, but it’s possible.

How will you successfully cross The Void?

 Download this white paper to find out more about how Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is one driver in a changing meat industry.

Download the White Paper: Assess your Analytical Horsepower

This article was originally published on Meatingplace.