"I’m motivated by trying to be the very best version of myself I can be. I’m motivated by doing what’s right by my family, and I’m motivated by a very deep responsibility I have to the 4,500 people that work in this company. I have a real responsibility to them, and that gets me out of bed every day."

Fast Facts

Location Chicago, IL
Number of employees 4,500
Previous experience Served as COO of Unilever Best Foods North America. He later led Cadbury’s businesses, first in The Americas, and then in the Europe, Middle East & Africa regions, before joining Beam Suntory in 2009.
Five things he can’t live without His wife, his three children, and the BBC
First job Had a paper route, delivering papers in the morning before school.

 

Questions & Answers

What’s the toughest lesson you’ve had to learn as a leader?

You have to surround yourself with people who are hopefully better than you and different from you, and their competence and integrity are what you depend upon. The further you go in your career and the higher you rise, the more you realize that it is about getting your team right and the people around you right. Sometimes that involves making some difficult decisions, but you’ve got to get it right to be successful.

As a leader, how do you measure success?

We’ve got hard measures, such as profit and our market share. Those are very important, of course, but I think there are also soft measures: Are people engaged? Are they feeling fulfilled? Do I see the leaders in our organization growing themselves? These questions are less tangible, but just as important to be successful in your tenure.

How do you motivate others?

It’s important that we motivate people by laying out a clear vision and strategy for the company. We tell everybody what we’re trying to do as a company, but motivate them individually by telling them what role they will play in delivering that strategy. That puts a spring in their step.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by trying to be the very best version of myself I can be. I’m motivated by doing what’s right by my family, and I’m motivated by a very deep responsibility I have to the 4,500 people that work in this company. I have a real responsibility to them, and that gets me out of bed every day.

Who are some of the leaders you admire?

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Winston Churchill. I think they both have uncommon amounts of courage amongst many other characteristics, and I think that’s one of the highest of human qualities. Another leader I admire deeply is Bill Gates. Our vision as a company, which was born from Beam Suntory’s founder in 1899, is “growing for good.” Bill Gates has been a wonderful example of a successful leader and businessman who really believes in “growing for good” by doing good with his wealth and his position of power in the world.

Can you tell us about Beam Suntory’s company culture?

We’re sort of a big little company, and we describe our culture in a very simple way. We describe it as “entrepreneurs creating innovative solutions to beat the competition the right way.” It’s a lot of words, but we think people who come here thrive when they’re empowered, so we encourage them to be entrepreneurial and behave like it’s their company. They work together and have a competitive mindset, but that competitive mindset is driven by always doing business the right way, particularly for us, because we’re an alcohol beverage company—a highly regulated industry, where our responsibility is very important to us. We find that people who embrace that concept and grab the opportunity that it provides do very well here.

How do you encourage people to have entrepreneurial spirit?

We provide a team environment where you can take intelligent risks. If employees fall over, we’ll pick them up, as long as they learn from their mistakes and move forward. We tell employees: power is there. You can’t give somebody power, it has to be taken. So, grab the responsibility offered to you and run with it. If you work with the people around you and realize that none of us is as good as all of us, you’ll probably do OK.

If you wrote a book, what would you call it?

I would call my autobiography The Mañana Man because I’m never quite satisfied with what’s happening right now. I’m promising myself one of these days I might just enjoy today.

Interviewed by Chelsea Trautman and Andrew Zamorski and Natalia Sowa.