The Shelby Report and The Grocery Group have partnered on this series entitled People to Watch to focus on current and future leadership in the grocery industry. In this installment, The Grocery Group Founder and CEO Cindy Sorensen interviews Tiffany Crandell, territory sales manager, Mars Wrigley Confectionery.
Tell me a little bit about you and what you like to do with your time away from the office.
I am a firm believer in work-life balance. In my case, I also squeeze in education. Aside from work, I am finishing up my degree in food industry management at Arizona State University. Spending time with my family, which includes six kids and two grandchildren, is definitely at the top of my list. After that, it would be fishing in Montana, where I spent a lot of time as a child. I love to take opportunities to better myself. In addition to pursuing my degree in food industry management, I have a real estate license. At some point in the future, I would like to learn more about real estate. I enjoy continuously learning and setting goals. It is very important to me to be a good example and set high expectations for myself, hoping that it has a positive impact on others.
Please provide a brief description of Mars Wrigley Confectionery and your role and responsibilities.
Mars Wrigley is the world’s leading manufacturer of gum, chocolate and fruity confections. In addition to confections, Mars globally manufactures pet foods, has animal care services and invests in creating more sustainable techniques in cocoa farming. Being one of the top 10 largest privately held family-owned companies, it supplies jobs for more than 34,000 associates. Mars operates under five principles: quality, freedom, efficiency, responsibility and mutuality. These five principles are at the core of the Mars Wrigley business, and associates do not only practice these in the workplace but also live this culture outside of work.
In my role as a territory sales manager, I reside over 22 Walmart stores in Arizona. I am responsible for increasing profitability and market share in the chocolate and confection category through the management of merchandising displays, inventory and, importantly, relationships.
What was your career path to this position?
My journey in the food industry started as a cashier for the Arizona-based family grocer Bashas’. I quickly moved up the chain into management as an assistant customer service manager. My next promotion was to customer service manager, category manager and ultimately, store manager in the company’s other format called AJ’s Fine Foods. I learned many skills related to overall store operations, such as category management, food safety practices, inventory management and profit and loss analysis. I worked in a total of 12 stores, which gave me the opportunity to learn many different management styles and techniques. I remember when I started I wanted to learn all the aspects of managing a store. Once I felt I had a solid understanding, I didn’t want to stop there. I made the decision to change my career path to gain a further understanding of the vendor side of the business with Mars Wrigley. I have no doubt that the experience I gained along the way has given me a better understanding overall of how to build partner relationships through mutuality and trust.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for workforce and leadership development within the grocery industry?
In my opinion, there is plenty of opportunity for leadership development within the industry, and I think first and foremost it begins with being great leaders ourselves. Studies have shown that many people do not have the best perception of the food industry and it is looked upon as a boring, dead-end job with mean managers. This is due to a lot of people in leadership positions that should not be; managers that expect employees to adapt to them when in fact it is the other way around. Our industry is full of diverse great individuals with many talents. Helping them grow and develop themselves without a limit is what would help our industry thrive. Companies that take a firm stand in training and development are the ones that will succeed to the highest level. Investing in education is investing in the company. I have rarely seen the “do as I say, not as I do” or the “sink or swim” approach end up being successful. I believe that education and training create confidence, which in turn creates providing exceptional customer service.
In what ways does Mars Wrigley focus on developing future leadership?
Annually, we create development plans that consist of either improving in the current role or growing for the next role. We do this in the creative leadership model, which consists of 70 percent internal experience, 20 percent working with others and 10 percent formal training. Mars Wrigley is very committed to development and giving associates plenty of opportunities to grow and advance. They invest in employees in ways such as tuition reimbursement and online classes to assist in education expenses.
Do you personally play a role in helping to develop/coach/mentor future leadership in the industry either internally or externally?
In my current role, I have the opportunity to coach and mentor fellow associates in ways such as sharing working and success stories in stores. I have been a part of a group that organizes meetings and communication regarding seasonal execution and merchandising. I also have the privilege of working as part of a team with an outside broker company to plan tasks and build relationships with our accounts. My previous leadership experience came through being a store director at AJ’s Fine Foods, where I led a team by guiding in-store operations. When working in retail, employment is more than a job, it’s a home away from home with a second family. In addition to teaching and training, there are strong relationships and friendships that develop through trust, honesty and respect for each other.
Did you utilize or participate in any mentoring/coaching experiences as you developed your career?
I have had many different opportunities to participate in mentoring and coaching throughout my career. My success has come from several different individuals who were willing to take me under their wing and have an open line of communication. One of the most important things in any job is to not only have someone to go to, but also being humble enough to ask for help. Asking someone for help is beneficial to both sides and creates bonds in the workplace. I have had many great leaders that noticed something in me that I did not see in myself. I was open to listening and taking advice, and in turn, it has led me to higher education and advancement. I am thankful they reached out.
What advice do you have for college students and young professionals looking at the grocery industry as one where they can build a career?
My advice is to think big and continue to take any opportunity to increase your knowledge. Take chances and continue to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The avenues in which you can venture into the food industry are endless: store operations, account management, category management, data analysis and many more. Make yourself available for change and try to always look at new positions as not the end but a stepping-stone. In my opinion, the best leaders in the industry have an extensive background of experience; a lot of them started at the bottom of the pyramid and worked endlessly to get to where they ended up. Get your degree, work hard and be passionate about what is yet to come. Make sure you have work-life balance. It has taken me close to seven years to get my degree due to raising a large family and working full-time. The old saying “where there is a will, there is a way” has proven itself to be correct in my journey.
What pieces of advice that you received as you built your career to this point have you found most helpful?
Find things about your job that you love and remind yourself daily. Be excited about challenge and know that it leads to knowledge. Take all opportunities to better yourself looking forward to where you would like to end up, and always try to be a great example to your coworkers and those around you.
What else would you like the readers of The Shelby Report to know about you, your employer and/or other relevant industry information and insights?
My favorite quote is one that was told to me years ago by someone who believed in me: “First seek to understand, then be understood,” by Steven Covey.