Podcast: Growing Supply Chain Teams & Careers – with Stacy Green, SVP at Keurig Dr. Pepper
Hosts: Rodney Apple and Chris Gaffney
In This Episode:
We speak with Stacy Green, Sr. Vice President of Sales Operations for Keurig Dr. Pepper. Her career journey started shortly after she graduated with an industrial engineering degree. Unsure at first of what her career path would be, her first supply chain job gave her some much needed clarity.
Having enjoyed some success with a career in supply chain, Green attributes a lot of that to resiliency and a hunger for growth and knowledge. She counsels her peers and mentees to be ready for challenging moves up, down, and across supply chain functions. She is a confident leader of supply chain teams, highly valuing individuals and their stories. Stacy enjoys focusing on strategy and how to build organizations. She emphasizes that success comes from providing a clear vision, articulating it succinctly and convincing teams that the vision and goal is achievable. Above all else, Green reminds folks that success comes from adversity and learning all you can from the various leaders you encounter on your supply chain career path. She closes by reminding us of one of our favorite phrases: that the supply chain is people.
Who is Stacy Green?
Stacy Green is Senior Vice President of Sales Operations for Keurig Dr. Pepper and is responsible for all distribution center operations, transportation, routing optimization, and overall distribution logistics for the company. Additionally, she leads the development and execution of strategic initiatives across the DSD network focusing on increasing efficiency and productivity. Prior to joining the Company in 2020, Stacy worked for P&G, General Mills, and Coca-Cola. Her career has focused on leading large-line organizations in various parts of the supply chain across multiple CPG industries. Stacy has always held a deep-seated belief that a leader’s job is to clear barriers and create environments where individuals and teams can succeed. One thing critical to her success is working for a company whose values closely align with her own and whose leaders demonstrate values such as honesty, integrity, and inclusiveness. Stacy holds a BS and MS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University.
normal kind of what you would expect, linear, so to speak. But what I found was that you really have to be nimble and you have to be open to different opportunities when those opportunities knock. They’re not always gonna be what you expect, but sometimes you have to be willing to take a little bit of a gamble on something that might not be what you necessarily anticipated. I’ll tell you, some of my best opportunities have really come out of adversity, which I think also is maybe not necessarily what you think you’re gonna face when you start your career.
One of the first examples I have of that is actually before I came to work for Coke, between working for General Mills, which I’d had a fairly linear career path with General Mills, P&G, then General Mills and I just successfully moved up the ladder. But I took a bit of a flyer move and I was president of an ice cream company for not even a year, and I did it for personal reasons. I wanted to get back to Texas where we had family and so there was some personal things involved. That role ended up not working out so well. The company did not turn around. We went into bankruptcy in less than a year, and I found myself out of a job, and that was something I’d never really contemplated. In the first 15 years of my career, I’d never thought about, Oh my gosh, what do you do when you’re out of a job? And what it did was it really forced me to think about what is important, What do I really like to do? What do I really want to do? And to get away from chasing the next title or the next role, focusing on what I like. What I did is I realized that I really like line leadership. I really like supply chain leadership. I really like line leadership. And that’s how I got on with Coca-Cola Enterprises at the time. And so that was the first time where you’re in this moment of adversity, you have to flex and change and think about something different.
The second time was not long after that. I had been with CCE for about two years. We were purchased by the Coke company and the role that I was in was eliminated. And so I found myself facing potential unemployment again and having to decide what to do next. I actually was offered a role leading the field service group for Coca-Cola refreshments, which for people that don’t know, that’s the group that installs and maintains anywhere where you might get a cold beverage. So, coolers, fountains, vending machines, all of that sort of stuff. These people install, repair, and maintain that equipment. I knew nothing about it. I was confused why I was even offered the job.
Honestly, I didn’t get it at all, but I thought, I don’t really wanna be unemployed, so I’m gonna do this for a bit of time and see how it works out. It honestly ended up being my favorite job. Ever. I loved it. I loved the people, I loved the process, I loved everything I learned about it. So it was really quite interesting and quite motivating. So what I take out of all of that is that I think we often focus on the job we want because of a title. For me at least, that’s typically born of ego and sometimes those jobs aren’t necessarily the best jobs. You don’t end up being the happiest in those jobs. You got the title, but you may not really like the work. And so what I always try and stress with people that are at a crossroads is think about what you really, really enjoy, and then find a role that maximizes that element of the work so that you actually have a role that you enjoy and
you’ll ultimately be more successful with that, and then be able to progress from there. So that was a very long winded answer to your question, but it has served me well on multiple occasions.[00:08:03] Chris Gaffney: That’s why we do this series is that these journeys, particularly for supply chain professionals, everyone wants a linear path, but it doesn’t really exist, at least in our experience. And so I think your perspective and your journey is super valuable for the folks who are listening to this. So that’s a great way to dive in. So fabulous. [00:08:24] Rodney Apple: And so, Stacy, you’ve worked in various functional areas and you’ve crossed over and you’ve got to figure out the kind of work you do. I’d love to hear a little bit more about these transitions, cuz I’m sure you’ve had some large teams, moving in from manufacturing, to logistics, to equipment services, to chief customer care officer. Those are vastly different roles. What would you attribute to your success with transitioning into these roles? [00:08:49] Stacy Green: I think the commonality to all of those roles is they are at their heart people leadership roles. They all involved large groups of people. Typically distributed across a broad geography. Understanding how to create strategy, get people aligned against that strategy, helping people to execute that strategy and be successful at whatever the adventure is, and then celebrate your success, like that’s the commonality through all of those roles. So again, if you focus on what’s like versus what’s not a like, it’s a lot easier to transition, right? Because you can find where you’re comfortable. You can rely on experiences that you’ve had where you’ve had success and be able to quickly reapply basic processes, basic techniques, regardless of the work.
The other thing that I always try and do is be curious. I had a boss early on that taught me you have to be respectful of those who came before you. I think often people that transition into new organizations or new roles in an effort to make a name for themselves, come in and tell the new organization all the things that they’re doing wrong and how in their past world or their past company, they did everything right. And that is an immediate turnoff for most people. And so I always try and go in with an inquiring perspective. I want to understand the history of how people got to where they are without being particularly critical of that journey. And then collectively with the people that you’re coming to lead, come up with a new strategy of where you wanna go in the future so that everybody’s bought in and everybody feels a part of it, and it’s not some new leader coming out of left field with a completely different direction. You have to build. Build it with the new organization and help people feel a part of things if you want it to be successful.[00:11:01] Rodney Apple: That’s a very good perspective and I reflect back on long
time recruiting in supply chain and usually these leadership roles, I’d say more often than not, when we’re asked to do a confidential search, it’s oftentimes around that top down command and control. These are my ideas, this is what we’re gonna do, versus the way you describe more ground up, getting them involved with a solution and so forth.[00:11:23] Stacy Green: I think I was really lucky, my very first few roles with P&G were in, back in the day we called them high performing work systems, but they were these very egalitarian organizations where everyone was valued, everyone’s opinion mattered. Everyone had a say. And as a leader, you were much more of a facilitator of getting to the right answer. And so, that’s another key lesson that I’ve learned over time is, your early career circumstances will have massive impact on your long term leadership style. Right? So my early career was in this very egalitarian sort of a environment. And so that has been a lot of how I’ve approached my work throughout my career, because it just cemented how I wanted to work as a leader. [00:12:11] Chris Gaffney: Stacy, I’m gonna build on Rodney’s question and look forward. You and I have been part of some very large organizational transformations and we didn’t necessarily get to control those, but those were in our big forks in the road. And I guess my question for you is learning, because we both did both acquisition and divestiture. What did you learn from that in terms of when you don’t control everything, how do you manage and lead yourself and others effectively through those massive times of change and in an operational setting, maintain that operational continuity. [00:12:48] Stacy Green: Well, I mean, it’s not easy, right? Whenever an organization is bought by another organization, obviously everyone gets very nervous. You get personally very nervous and I don’t care who you are at what level you’re at, you’re gonna have some anxiety associated with that sort of change. What I have always personally tried to do is as much as physically possible, remove my personal self from the situation and focus more on the organization and the people within the organization and the people that have worked for me, making sure that they land successfully, that they transition appropriately into a role where they could be successful.
Back to my comment about sometimes the best opportunities come out of times of adversity is you have to have a bit of confidence in yourself that regardless of what happens, you have skills that are valuable, you have perspectives that are important, perhaps not for your current organization, but for a future organization. And while that white water can be very unsettling, you have to remain a level of confidence in yourself, in your ability to continue to contribute and find the right position for you to be in. One of my big things is I just wanna contribute. Often people ask me what I’m interviewing for a new job, well, what’s most important to you in a job? What’s most important to me in the job is being able to make a difference. I really like knowing that I am in some form or
fashion making a difference. And so, as long as you stay confident in your ability to make a difference and to contribute, you will make it out of the white water.
Now to your second part of your question about how do you maintain focus on the operational aspects, what’s interesting is I don’t think the true operators of the world really care much about organizational change. It very rarely impacts your frontline at all. Supervisors really don’t hardly ever get impacted. Even through middle managers very rarely get impacted by what we call organizational change or restructuring, right?
They’re still doing the job they’ve always done. So helping them to maintain focus on whatever your KPIs are, whatever your strategy is, whatever your organizational objectives are, and I think that’s healthy for everybody. You know, you can stay focused on the work and not worry so much about the swirl that’s happening around you.[00:15:15] Chris Gaffney: Now that’s great advice. I think as I listen to things that I’ve heard, that self-awareness is huge. And obviously that’s something you build over the course of your career that allows you to try hard to stay away, even though you know those emotions are real. And I also think that idea of being externally focused, if you’re serving others, you typically can kinda settle yourself down because you’re empathetic towards others. So I think those are great insights. [00:15:40] Stacy Green: And I think you just have to recognize that it’s normal to be unsettled. You have to do some self-care, right? It’s just probably not at the office. You have to spend some time nurturing your own needs and concerns and you can do that a lot of ways. Talk to friends, talk to family, talk to whomever. And you have to recognize that, but you need to lead from the front and help calm people’s fears, not throw fuel on the fire. [00:16:04] Rodney Apple: Things have been, let’s just say a little crazy here in the last two to three years, in all areas of supply chain. But when you think about the talent side, we talked about leadership quite a bit. What about attracting talent, the retention of that talent? You’ve got the great resignation, you’ve got people moving into remote and hybrid roles, and just a lot of change. What’s been your perspective on this and have you had to make any big pivots to better attract or better retain your people? [00:16:32] Stacy Green: Yeah, I agree. It’s the strangest time I’ve ever experienced from a people leadership perspective. I think we’ve all had to throw everything we learned over the last 35 years out the window and adapt, and pivot as you mentioned. To do things differently. I just think the whole workforce has changed. Now, I get a lot of insight personally from, I have two young adult children who have recently entered the workforce. Both are in supply chain sort of roles. So, it helps keep me grounded in what the next generation of supply chain professionals, how they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. And I think that we are all gonna have to learn different ways of working.
Certainly, the remote working was thrust upon us, right? We didn’t really have much choice, but it honestly worked in a lot of places better than anyone ever thought. We were able to do a lot of roles remotely that who would’ve ever thought you could do ’em remotely for that long? And my first day at KDP was the day of the lockdown. And so, for my first six, eight months of working, I hadn’t met anybody face to face at my new organization, and yet I was still able to re lead relatively effectively. Now that’s very different when you talk about your true frontline, your essential workers, you had to work the whole time. I think that we’re gonna have to remain flexible. I know the younger generation is much more demanding about being able to continue to work remotely. My son’s doing a procurement job a 100% remotely and loves it. He’s perfectly happy doing it. My daughter’s doing a planning type role and she’s probably 90% remote and she loves it, so I think we have to be, as leaders, more open to new and different ways of working that allow people to be successful and allow people to have good work life balance. Something that, quite frankly, my generation didn’t get. There was no work life balance. You just worked. I actually think it might be very, very positive and beneficial going forward for us to think about different ways to work together.[BREAK at 18:34] [00:19:00] Chris Gaffney: Stacy, you and I have worked for some of the same people and obviously we’ve gained a lot of our insights along the way, but we also have been influenced by folks we’ve led and been led by. Are there a examples or people you would wanna call out who say have been really foundational in terms of your leadership style, philosophy, that type of thing? [00:19:20] Stacy Green: Oh, for sure. Ron Lewis always will be a standout for me. He’s just a terrific guy. A very authentic leader who would do anything to make his organization successful. He was a very loyal leader and just a super smart guy, right?
So, I was always very appreciative of Ron of the time I spent working with Ron, undoubtedly the best leader I’ve ever worked for. But I think that wanting to be on a winning team is very foundational to a lot of the ways that I try and lead.
We talked earlier about change and change management, and I think that tapping into that winning spirit that so many people have, like some people are super competitive, right? And supply chain is full of super competitive people that always wanna win, but even people that aren’t maybe over indexing on that side, nobody likes to lose, right? People just don’t like to lose. And so, when you think about how to motivate people, how to affect change. I have always tried to harness that, right? I have this three-step approach. You have to have a clear vision. You have to be able to articulate it super succinctly, and you have to prove to people that the vision that you have is actually possible, right? What’s it gonna take to get there? And it’s not totally crazy to be able to think that you can achieve whatever your particular goal might be, and then you just have to stoke that competitive spirit to get people to really go after it. And I found that to
be a super winning combination for me. When I go back to my earlier comment about, be careful about your early career and the leaders you surround yourself with, cuz they’ll really influence your leadership style for the rest of your career. All of those people have had strong influence over my leadership style and my success and I couldn’t have done it without them.[00:21:15] Chris Gaffney: I like to say people deserve to be well led. And when you get in a situation where you can have that impact to people, that’s how you get those discretionary differential results. And so, I think it’s a good lesson for folks listening to say, when you’re in a situation where you’re looking at a new role, who the leader is does matter. [00:21:33] Stacy Green: It does matter. It matters in a big way because I had someone early on tell me people don’t quit bad jobs, they quit bad leaders. And I really believe that. I’ve had jobs that I absolutely loved working for bad leaders, and I left because I just wasn’t comfortable or enjoying the work under a style of leadership that did not mesh with my own. And I’ve taken jobs and I didn’t think I would like, worked for great leaders and ended up loving them, right? So, it works both ways, but I do think the leader is absolutely critically important to your overall happiness in a role. [00:22:09] Rodney Apple: Stacy, I’d love to hear your perspective, if you were to get your crystal ball out, what would you say are gonna be some of the big changes coming in the years ahead and what are some of the soft and hard skills that it may need to be adapted? [00:22:21] Stacy Green: Well, I would start by saying I think technology has changed slower in the CPG world than I ever thought it would. Over my tenure, I would’ve expected us to have advanced more rapidly than we have. But so much of what CPG does is margin compressed and so spending lots of money on really high-tech equipment often doesn’t necessarily make sense. Now the game changer in that is what you mentioned earlier about the changing workforce, right? So those people that we used to be able to employ to do fairly repetitive, not super interesting tasks all day long, those people just don’t exist anymore. They have gone elsewhere. They have been able to find more interesting jobs, more lucrative jobs. They’ve gone back to school, I’m not sure, but they don’t seem to exist anymore. I don’t know where they went, but they don’t seem to be around anymore. And so, I think that will inherently put more pressure on various levels of the supply chain and to automate because the workers are not available. So it’s gonna become less of an ROI question and are we able to save a bunch of money, to are you actually able to operate your business because you can’t find the labor to do that job, so you’re gonna have to do it another way. I think that’s gonna be a game changer over the next 10 years, unless something completely shifts back as far as the labor market, which it could, it shifted this direction faster than I think any of us anticipated. It could shift back, but from what I’m seeing right now, I’m not sure
that it will.[00:23:55] Chris Gaffney: Stacy, we definitely are in a time of continued evolution in commerce. So, if you think about advice you’ve received over the years, as you share advice with people on your teams, what’s the most enduring advice that you’ve received that you continue to share when you’re coaching and guiding folks on your team in your circle? [00:24:18] Stacy Green: Well, I think it’s what we talked about a little bit earlier and that is, focus on what you love to do. Don’t focus on the title. Focus on what you enjoy and be willing to zig and zag in your career path, right? Like I have taken multiple steps back throughout my professional career for variety of reasons, and every one of those has allowed me to refocus on what’s important to me. Refocus on what I enjoy doing.
Rebuild some confidence. Oftentimes, you find yourself in those situations and you’re a little rattled. You’ve lost a little personal confidence. You can rebuild your own confidence and has allowed me at least to then springboard onto the next adventure.
Which has led to a very interesting career path for me. Not a very planned one, but a very interesting one that’s allowed me to do a lot of different things in a lot of different businesses. Remaining confident, remaining resilient, realizing that no matter how difficult a situation is, you add value, you have skills. You are a person of worth and can find the next role where you will be valued and move on and do something new and interesting.[00:25:34] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I think so many people need to hear that because you can probably also comment on that when you get in those tough spots, you can sometimes lose that perspective. And so, some cases you need someone to help you reframe, if you have thoughts on that. [00:25:48] Stacy Green: Look, in today’s day and age, we are all going to find ourselves unemployed at one point or another, and maybe for no fault of our own, could be circumstances, could be restructure, could be whatever. I don’t think anybody goes into their professional life expecting that. And so, I think making that less of a bad thing and just kind of a normal thing, it’s just a normal part of your career evolution and to me is super important, especially for young people. Otherwise, it does destroy your confidence, right? You know you’ve always been a high performer, you’ve always just been moving up. Everybody’s told you you’re great, and all of a sudden you find yourself without a job. It’s like, Oh my gosh, what do I do now? And it can be really debilitating if you don’t frame it correctly. So I try and always share that with people. Look, I have had a very successful career. I have been out of work multiple times. It happens. And it’s just what you do with it at that point in time that really makes the difference. That’s certainly a valuable lesson for others. [00:26:50] Rodney Apple: We just had a candidate we placed that did not work out.
That doesn’t always happen. Instead of learning from that lesson and a mistake that this individual made, chose to chastise the employer and take things out and sometimes it’s better to just cut ties, not burn any bridges.[00:27:06] Stacy Green: I think that’s a super important point, Rodney. The one thing that I have found is very interesting, moving through all the various CPGs that I’ve worked at in for over the years is, CPG is a very close-knit community and you continue to run into people that you’ve worked with before. It was so interesting when I interviewed with Keurig Dr. Pepper for the role I’m currently in, I interviewed with the Chief Human Resource Officer and I thought, Wow, that name sounds so familiar. I ended up looking back on LinkedIn. I’m like, Oh my gosh, we worked together at General Mills, 20 years ago, 25 years ago. And within the food community, it’s even tighter, right? It’s just a very small community. And so not burning bridges I think is very, very important. Just move on. Move on to something better. [00:27:58] Chris Gaffney: Stacy, I’ve got one more. And it’s not scripted, but you and I are kind of lifelong supply chain folks. And if we’re here this long, we have found a way to love it. But we have always worked with sales and commercial people, and in many cases, stereotypically they get the glory and the supply chain folks just kinda put their head down and shovel the coal or whatever. And as a career, supply chain is much more, I think, in the spotlight. But, what is your advice for those looking to enter the field, at the front end of their career, given your perspective? [00:28:32] Stacy Green: To me, supply chain and sales are just very different groups, right? And the personality that’s gonna work well in supply chain is not necessarily the personality or skillset that’s gonna work well in sales. You’re right, sales often gets the glory, and you have to just accept that and be okay with it. Because I know I couldn’t do a sales job. Like I am just not wired that way. I would not be happy in a sales role. I don’t want a sales role. I did that role as president of that ice cream company for a while, and that was about as close as I got to sales, and it wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t the favorite part of the job. To me it’s about how do you find joy in what you do. And I find tremendous joy in helping people be successful in setting strategic direction and getting people to line up behind it and execute it. Getting people, especially these large groups of people, getting them lined up and doing what you want ’em to do and getting ’em passionate about that.
You have to be a person that likes to score card. You have to be a person that enjoys numbers and math and tracking things and keeping score. If you’re not into that sort of stuff, supply chain might not be good for you. But at the end of the day, I would tell everybody supply chain is a people function, at least in the line leadership side. It is a people function. I have never been a super hardcore technical person. That’s just not how I’ve approached my role. I’m okay technically, but I think I’m really pretty good with people and that’s, I think, the game changer in at least in all the roles that I’ve had.[00:30:20] Rodney Apple: Stacy, thank you so much for a fascinating conversation today and sharing your insights on careers and supply chain. [00:30:28] Stacy Green: Awesome. I really enjoyed it. It was great to connect and meet you, Rodney. And Chris, it was always a pleasure to reconnect with you as well.