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1-on-1 With New NGA CEO Greg Ferrara

WGB’s September Endcap guest talks industry outlook, rolling up his sleeves
Greg Ferrara
Illustration by Olivier Balez

Greg Ferrara assumes the role of president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based National Grocers Association (NGA) this month.

Welcome to Endcap, Greg, and congrats on beginning your new role as president and CEO of the National Grocers Association this month. The torch has been passed to a new generation—what’s that feel like for you?

Greg Ferrara: Thanks, Meg. I’m truly humbled to have an opportunity to lead an organization that has played such a vital role in our industry for nearly 40 years. I feel like I’ve spent my entire professional career preparing for this role, so I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work on behalf of our members.

You joined NGA in 2005 after managing your family’s independent grocery store in New Orleans before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, just one year shy of its 100th anniversary. What did the experience, including your transition from grocer to association executive, teach you about yourself?

I learned early on from my grandfather and father that the supermarket business is a people business, and the same is true for a trade association like NGA. We exist to serve our members, just as grocers exist to serve their communities. Running my family’s supermarket also taught me how to lead a diverse team and be able to adapt to change. That experience has helped me at NGA. Stay nimble, focused, honest and positive and you will achieve success.

You’ve served admirably as NGA’s chief lobbyist in recent years. You’ve represented your members before Congress, federal agencies and the executive branch. What sparked your advocacy of government relations, which is often a thankless, frustrating pursuit?

I have to give a lot of credit to my experience serving as a board member for the Louisiana Retailers Association back when I was running our store. I was often asked to testify before the legislature or meet with an elected official to explain, in real-life terms, how a particular piece of legislation would impact my business and customers. When lobbying for NGA’s members, I’ve often found that I’ve had my greatest success when I can get a member of Congress or a congressional staffer to understand, in simple terms, the impact on their local independent supermarket. I’ve always been grateful to the NGA members who come to Washington or host members of Congress for store tours back home. Their engagement is often the push we need to achieve success.

Your passion for the grocery business in general, and independent grocers in particular, is admirably contagious. What else are you passionate about in your personal life?

I am lucky to have a wonderful family who has supported my career, and for those of us in the grocery business, we know it isn’t a 9-to-5 job. My wife, Nicole, my son Matthew (who’s 11) and daughter Katelyn (who’s 9) are a big part of my success, and they keep me pretty busy outside of work with their activities and sports. I also love the outdoors and camping in particular. I’m an Eagle Scout and the Boy Scouts played a big role in my life and, frankly, helped make me into the person that I am today. I’m enjoying watching my son enjoy scouting as much as I did.

What do you think the next generation of grocery leaders must be prepared to face?

Change is occurring in our industry faster than it has in generations, if not ever before. We must have eyes open to what is going on in our industry and with consumers but be careful to not abandon who we are. Local is a powerful brand, and independent grocers need to own it.

Speaking of the next generation, please get involved in your industry. Participate in organizations such as NGA and your state grocery or retail association and help guide our industry into the future. Our industry needs you!

 

Lightning Round

Excluding your car and mobile devices, what’s the most useful thing you own?

A pen and notebook. I take a lot of notes and would be lost without them.

What is your personal motto?

Service to others; do your best and do it with integrity.

Do you believe in karma?

Not really. Just work hard, respect others, never burn a bridge.

Do you play a musical instrument?

I don’t, but wish I could play the fiddle.

Name one company outside the grocery industry that you admire, and tell us in one sentence why.

Chick-fil-A. I admire their ability to consistently put out a good product, operate clean restaurants and have some of the friendliest employees around.

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