Leadership is not about profits, clients and mergers. It’s about building a sustainable, dynamic work culture and creating the next generation of leaders so that a company can continuously thrive, meet the challenges of today and create solutions for tomorrow.
As a third-generation grocer, Mark Skogen, CEO of Festival Foods, an independent grocery store with 32 locations in Wisconsin, instills a culture around servant leadership among his associates and puts a high priority on team building and career development at Festival Foods. As the industry continues to navigate difficult times, leadership and workforce development will be critical to growth and resiliency.
As a co-chair of FMI’s Future Leaders eXperience and recent 2020 Robert B. Wegman Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence recipient, the FMI—The Food Industry Association asked Skogen to share his perspective on cultivating talent, managerial styles and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cultivating Talent
FMI: On building teams …
Mark Skogen: Great attitudes. It’s important to hire for attitudes and train for skills. We look for associates who are open-minded, and we need people who will hold others accountable.
On succeeding in the grocery industry …
Those who enjoy a fast pace and who are personable, because of all of the interactions with associates and guests. People who can think on their feet and make decisions quickly succeed in grocery—they are service-minded and willing to go above and beyond to satisfy a guest.
Key characteristic of success…
Passion and determination. I learned these from my mom and dad but also from being involved in sports for a large part of my life. Team sports require you to get along with people; you have to work with a lot of different people for the end result of winning. We often talk about winning in grocery at our company; passion and determination will get us there.
Where great ideas come from at Festival Foods …
They come from all levels. We do "Kill a Stupid Rule" exercises and it’s a great check on whether we need to do things a certain way, or if there is a better way. Also, we are an employee share ownership program (ESOP) so we encourage our associates to think like the owners they are and find ways to be more efficient. Our associates take this seriously and we all benefit as a result.
Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Giving yourself advice for the future …
You can never plan too much and you can’t communicate too much—anything is possible. We could never have imagined that we’d be talked about the same way as medical workers, but the pandemic put a spotlight on our teams and our industry.
At the same time, so many other businesses and industries were affected in a big way. One day they were successful and the next day their business was taken away. It reminds us that we should never be complacent.
Foster inclusive leadership and diversity in the workforce …
As an industry, we should seek to include as many people in decision-making processes as possible. The more people that are included and the more diverse the conversations, the better the product becomes. Simply put, if everyone thinks the same, then why do we need a group of people to make a decision?
The last five months of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of how challenging times demonstrate the importance of innovative leadership in the food industry, much like Skogen discussed. To help leaders prepare to meet these challenges, FMI is hosting the innovative leadership program Future Leaders eXperience—now to be offered virtually. The Future Leaders Virtual eXperience will include all of the core leadership curriculum, the cross-industry group interaction and review of the food industry ecosystem that have been central components of this popular and impactful program powered by Root. The virtual program offers a convenient format with four virtual sessions over three months and an agenda of videos, skills challenges and discussion prompts done at the participant’s own pace.
Angelyn Pinter is the senior manager of education for FMI—The Food Industry Association.