Magazine article New Zealand Management

Face to Face: Carl Bergstrom Boosting Corporate Energy; the Man Who Heads Energy Drinks Company Frucor Has His Own Recipe for Boosting Corporate Vitality. Fun Plays a Part -- So Do Words like "Trailblazing" and "Straight Up". Why? Carl Bergstrom Shares His Ingredients for Leadership Success

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Face to Face: Carl Bergstrom Boosting Corporate Energy; the Man Who Heads Energy Drinks Company Frucor Has His Own Recipe for Boosting Corporate Vitality. Fun Plays a Part -- So Do Words like "Trailblazing" and "Straight Up". Why? Carl Bergstrom Shares His Ingredients for Leadership Success

Article excerpt

It could be something of a cliche -- but talking recipes with Frucor managing director Carl Bergstrom is a fitting analogy. One of his other potential career paths might have seen him on the celebrity chef circuit, rather than heading a beverage company.

"I did think about becoming a chef when I was young -- and it's still a hobby..."

He also contemplated law for a bit because the idea of being paid to argue seemed rather appealing. That was before he had daughters and got the whole arguing thing out of his system.

But then, he probably would have been wasted tucked away in a kitchen because Bergstrom is very evidently a people person.

Personable and easy going, he shuns the notion of hierarchy in favour of a corporate climate that is both informal and professional. Fun is good -- but it's underpinned by solid commitment to business goals.

To illustrate how that works he tells a story. It revolves around a corporate fundraiser that prompted Frucor staff to give up something they loved for a day. Bergstrom sacrificed his coffee, someone else gave up walking -- instead spending his day whizzing around the office on a kid's scooter -- and one of the company's sales managers quit talking.

"Unfortunately it was the same day that he had to come and discuss a major business proposal with me. It was a multimillion deal, quite complex and he couldn't speak. So instead, with the help of a whiteboard, he sang me through the whole thing.

"It was a bit hard to keep a straight face but it really showed commitment -- if we say we're gonna do something then we do it. You support a good cause but you don't put work on hold. It's about innovation, commitment, fun -- I left for home that day knowing that's why I want to come here every day. That is the sort of environment I want to create."

Seems he has succeeded. This year Frucor Beverages was one of only two New Zealand organisations awarded Best Employer status by Aon Hewitt -- an honour it shared with Frucor Australia. The company had set that as a goal for 2012 two years ago, making it a year ahead of time. Last year, it similarly achieved its goal to be market leader in the Petrol and Convenience Channel.

"Our salesforce is recognised as best in the convenience trade -- as assessed through independent surveys," says Bergstrom proudly. "It's really about blending those aspects -- of being a great place to work and a competitive goal-focused successful business."

The ingredients for that are not so secret -- or difficult. If there's one thing that 50-year-old Bergstrom has discovered during his years in business, it's that people are prone to over-complicating the process.

"One of the businesses I was responsible for when I worked for Carter Holt Harvey was Raleigh Paper -- a great little private company they'd bought whose owner stayed on to run it. I remember he had a sign over his desk that said 'nothing happens until you sell something'.

"It's a fundamental statement, but one that is often lost sight of by people in a corporate environment. I think people who run private companies have a knack of simplifying business and they know with crystal clarity what creates value. They may be less able to articulate that eloquently in a power presentation like their corporate counterparts but they know it, everyone in the business knows it. I think that helped shape me."

Bergstrom's career started at Caxton when it was still owned and run by the Spencer family. He was fresh from university with a degree in applied mathematics. Really? Maths?

Well, there had been a career plot involving overseas MBA study, says Bergstrom, but it never happened. Meanwhile, the maths was put to very good use in areas like production optimisation, supply chain management and logistics.

"At the end of the day, it's a way of thinking about how to solve practical problems with empirical techniques," notes Bergstrom. …

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