As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Stuart Kronauge of Juice Plus+.
Stuart Kronauge is the first female Global CEO of Juice Plus+ who brings her passion and knowledge of plant-based nutrition to work with the Corporate Team and Sales Partners to continue to drive success and growth across the global markets. She began her career at Coca-Cola in an entry level marketing role and worked for the company for 20 years, where she held a number of executive leadership roles, including serving as President of its Sparkling Brands segment. In January 2020, Stuart joined Beyond Meat as Chief Marketing Officer where she led marketing and was involved in global market expansion, working on the forefront of the plant-based nutrition movement.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
It is not really one story but a compilation of things and events that have come together to form an experience. It is about meeting and learning about the many lives of our global Partners who work tirelessly every day to help take the Juice Plus+ mission of Inspiring Healthy Living Around the world to more people in more place more often. What has been the most interesting is the incredible passion and belief and really the fact that the Juice Plus+ mission has become many Partners’ lifestyle and purpose. Each of them seeks to help change people’s lives in small and large ways. It has reconfirmed for me that small actions by many empowered people can change the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made many mistakes, not really the funniest, but assuming that when I am talking about some activities and initiatives, that everyone understands and is “soaking in” what I am communicating. In a direct selling environment, there are so many people that listen in to communications that I have learned that you need to tell, depict visually, and reconfirm. This is a good habit to get into in our new Zoom world too. This way, we can communicate to people in the ways that they learn or listen.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people that believed in me and helped me along the way but my #1 fan, besides my dog, Lulu, is my husband. He has sacrificed for me to be able to continually try to do what I feel called to do and achieve many great things in my work career. There is no way that I would be where I am today if he had not let me be my true self every day and you can bet that at times that was not easy!
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I think that DEI is one of the most critical aspects of success in any aspect of life, including business. If everyone is the same, then evolution or sometimes even revolution cannot occur. I have found that a lack of diversity in a team causes statis and often not everyone on the team participates because someone else is doing the thinking for them. As related to diversity, equity and inclusion it is critical in both business and in life that everyone feels truly seen and heard and can contribute and be themselves. Otherwise, progress is limited.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
The master step is to continually try to be better and to give others the benefit of the doubt.
I also think that we all need to continue to have the hard conversations and expand ourselves to do things that are new and different, every day. But you have to be vulnerable and honest and know that you are probably going to make some mistakes or not know something that is important. There have been times on my journey where I have made mistakes that have been unintended and that have caused conflict. For me those times create huge personal disappointment, but it reconfirms to me that if you acknowledge and own your mistakes, without excuses, that growth is always the outcome. One of our family mottos is that you should try something new every day and that has created some of my greatest moments of surprise and joy.
I also read somewhere that if you wait to listen in any conversation for 8 seconds longer than you would usually before you jump in or respond that your entire perspective can change. 8 seconds to potentially change one’s point of view is cool to me.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
It is a combination of jobs from the head of strategy, people, and culture to being the lead escalation desk. All of that while you are focused on driving growth and value for your employees, stakeholders, and business. Basically, you are the Chief Buck Stops Here Officer.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I think that many people may think that being a CEO is glamourous. Yes, it is nice to have worked hard to achieve the title and it has perks, but I think that some people would be surprised to find out that in my experience being a CEO means:
- You must have a relentless pursuit of curiosity and optimism towards success…for me that sometimes means pep talks in my car in the morning!
- That sometimes you are lonely, and it is a much more solitary job at times than I think people would guess.
- Energy management and your own mental and physical stamina is imperative to staying sharp and even keeled.
- Confidentiality and trust are critical and your “kitchen cabinet” of advisors and people, really matter to your personal and company success…and diversity of this group is important so include people that you may not agree with and that possess experiences, strengths and cultural backgrounds that are not like your own.
- You may have a big title, but it is so much more about the organization and the customers than yourself.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
This is my first turn as a CEO so I am not sure what I expected but what I am learning is that you must really be thoughtful about when you empower and back away from some work and when you need to get into the depths of other initiatives…that can be a hard balancing act at times.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Everyone is an executive of something in their lives. Your house, your job, your health, taking care of your family, etc. I have often said that being a CEO is like being a parent. You need to clean things up, sort and place what needs to happen and build others and the business for the future. Plus there are always things that come up that you may not expect!
Traits of a person who may want to be an executive: resilience, authenticity, humility, curiosity, energy, and a willingness to sacrifice all while being able to not take oneself too seriously.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
It has been said that culture is about what happens when no one is looking but there is a great video of a speech by Sumantra Ghosal called “the smell of the place”. Ghosal contends that context matters and the type of context that the leaders create can revitalize or constrain teammates. He also talks about how it is most important to change the context and environment rather than seeking to change people. He talks about creating values and a context that enables stretch, discipline, support, and trust. So, the advice I would give is figure out what the smell of the place is and then decide what if anything needs to change. However, know that changing established environments, especially during COVID hybrid working, is no small task and takes more effort, authenticity, and presence than ever before.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Share what you get and don’t ask for credit.
Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Get in shape…mentally, physically, and emotionally as managing your energy and the way that you operate matters more than you think.
- Tell your friends and family that you may be distracted or have your attention taken away from them, especially in the beginning.
- There is no right way to do things, just do what you think is right.
- The highs are high, and the lows are low but how you show up and what you want to achieve as a team is the most important.
- Have some fun and cut yourself some slack.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Education in any form.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Dive through the wave”-My Grandmother, Momet
What does that mean? She used to take me to the beach when I was little, and I was scared of the white cap waves, but I desperately wanted to get into the water. She would hold my hand and say to me if you dive through the wave not over or under you will breakthrough on the other side more safely. She did not tell me that it was not going to be scary but what she was saying was that if you want something and you are faced with something scary, uncertain, or different that if you push through to the other side, you will be rewarded, and it will get easier.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Dolly Parton. I am a huge fan. She’s obviously talented but couple that with her fierce, generous, hilarious, smart, and wily attitude…well, I just think she is awesome.