IN “Pass It On,” AP beat reporters ask executives to share experiences and insights that will resonate with anyone managing a business.
Stephen M. Badger, chairman of Mars Incorporated, recently sat down with The Associated Press. The family-owned business is best known for selling M&Ms and Snickers. But it also makes Pedigree dog food and Whiskas cat food and is now expanding into veterinary services. The conversation was condensed for clarity and brevity.
Q: What advice do you have for somebody starting out in business?
A: Place a huge importance on who you hire. Do they have the skills that you’re looking for that compliment you and that you need to build your business? And then secondarily: do they have the cultural and value fit for the kind of company you want to create?
Q: What is an early career mistake you made?
A: Not listening to my gut. I think that intuition is something that should be valued and at times can be diminished in terms of how much you trust it. And if I had done that earlier in my career at times I would not made some of the same mistakes I did.
Q: How do you prevent an old company from becoming obsolete?
A: Being a 100-year-old business, we’ve actually had to reinvent ourselves any number of times. What leads us as much as anything is what consumers are looking for. And as long as I think you’re paying attention to that and keeping your ear to the ground, you’re by definition staying open.