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7 Questions with Pablo Cussatti
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7 Questions with Pablo Cussatti
Name: Pablo Cussatti
Current title: SVP Manufacturing
Current organisation: Ventura Foods
Nearly 30 years of Food Manufacturing and Operations experience and a proven record of improving Safety, Quality, Service and Costs. I started my career as an engineer building and designing Food Manufacturing processes and now have run large multi-facility operations for Pepsi, Dean Foods, Pinnacle Foods, Blue Apron and now Ventura Foods.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
When you think about taking on any large organization, you have to think People, processes and Systems. People have to come first and building a strong team is always the most challenging. If you are going to build and define a strategy, you have to have trust and confidence that your team can and will execute. You have to allow them to challenge and engage in conflict to improve the outcomes of the strategy, as well as feel that they are a part of building.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started my career as an engineer building food manufacturing facilities all over the world. I was never satisfied because I realized the best systems in the world will not run effectively if not left in the hands of the right leadership. That's when I decided I needed to be accountable for the Operations, this is where I felt I could make a broader impact. I was lucky to work for leaders who taught and mentored me on Lean / Six Sigma processes. More importantly I learned that your role as a leader is to give the tools to your teams to solve their own problems. By empowering our teams, leveraging the right processes, and then supporting a good process with automation, the teams that I worked with made significant improvement on all our metrics. Over time I was given more and more responsibility.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
It is critical as a leader that you define the right operating model. How do you engage with your teams, how do you review results, how do issues get escalated, and how do you capture ideas for improvement. This is always job one when taking on a new role. Each of my teams have Quarterly Operating Reviews where we go deep into the objectives, key performance indicators and results for the past quarter. They review their actions on how they will change methods to solve for areas of opportunity in their business. We have a monthly All Hands meeting where the teams present aligned upon initiatives, we review performance across all departments and celebrate wins. We have weekly tactical reviews to assure we are delivering the week and teams can escalate issues that could derail our performance. On a monthly basis, each team has a monthly cost review of performance to review the month and year to date financials as well as align on actions to close any gaps. Additionally, I have one on ones with each of my team members to calibrate on performance and the how.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
We should never let our egos get too big, as executives we at times can believe that no problem is too big to solve. Although I know this, there are times that I can take on too much because we all want to solve everything. Taking time to prioritize and define your top 3 things to solve as a team, and not let anything detract from that is critical. It is always tempting to work on something new or the latest problem, but you should only do so if you reprioritize and decide it is more important than the current top 3. Otherwise, get one of the top 3 off the list and then start working on it.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are many great books, but the top one for a long time for me has been Principle Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey. It not only reflects on the 7 habits of effective leaders but also reminds us that we as leaders are under a microscope, and how we behave and act in front of our teams will be reflected in how they behave and act. We have large organizations and we need to hold our principles close to assure our teams follow the cues and are constantly doing the right thing. You could say it is an in depth interpretation of the golden rule.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
First you must have the right operating model to assure your teams have access and time together. Then in the model you must constantly calibrate on performance. I don't just mean the metrics, but how the team engages and behaves. The how can be more important than the results. You can deliver the results as a team, but if it means stepping on others to get the results, your teams will be dysfunctional and the distrust will derail future performance.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
When I was younger and first started my career in operations, I remember having a disagreement with a colleague of mine where he turned to me and said, "I have been doing it this way for 30 years" I turned back and said "Well then, you have been doing it wrong for 30 years". I look back in regret as to how I could have handled that situation better. But fast forwarding, I was meeting with a manager who worked for me (this manager was 15 years younger than me), and we were discussing how we did a process in my organization, and he gave me his thoughts on how I could do things better. For a moment I thought to myself, "I have been doing it this way for 30 years'', and then I realized what a younger me would have said back. You can learn from everyone and you need to be open to new ideas. Just because you have been successful doing something one way, doesn't mean there isn't a better approach.