PepsiCo ANZ CEO Kyle Faulconer shares his three key leadership lessons

Earlier this month we spoke to PepsiCo ANZ’s chief executive Kyle Faulconer about the business’ plans to evolve its snacking business. Here, we asked Faulconer about his journey through the retail industry, and the lessons he’s learned across his time in the industry. Inside Retail: Can you tell me about your journey through the retail industry? Kyle Faulconer: I started out with PepsiCo in the middle of the United States on a route truck. We still had direct-store-delivery over th

over there, so I’d be driving the product to the store, selling it to the store. And I had the opportunity to move up in the business from there. 

What’s probably unique in my experience is that PepsiCo has afforded me a lot of opportunity to do a lot of cross-functional experiences, so I’ve had the chance to run large front-line teams, I’ve done a couple of account executive roles for different styles of accounts, I’ve worked in the supply chain side of the business, and did finance and HR for a little bit. 

All of that has led to me having a really cross-functional background [within the business].

The two key roles I held before joining the Australia team were around enterprise customer teams, and most recently was with Walmart in Arkansas leading the strategic agenda for PepsiCo – that’s our largest customer in the United States. 

IR: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned throughout your time in the retail industry that have helped to inform the way you work today?

KF: I’ll give you three. My first one is that when I was younger and I got to my first large general management role,  I had a sizeable team of mostly front-line employees, and what I learned in retrospect was the importance of a “people first” agenda. 

Sometimes in business you want to chase KPIs, or you have a desire to win, but there’s really an art in how you bring people along through that journey. I had a problem where we had some of the best performance of any team in the United States, but our people weren’t happy, and I got a lot of feedback about that. 

It was a crucial moment in my career, because it taught me about inspiring joy and growth in others, because if you can do that you’ll get the results you’re after. It was a fundamental change, and I tell people when I mentor that there’s two questions that everyone wants to know when they work for you: the first one is whether they can trust you, and the second one is whether you have their best interests at heart. If you can answer yes to both of those, all of the results will come. 

And that really plays into my second lesson. There’s a customer called Dollar General – it’s a unique channel to the U.S. – and I went there to create a team. The first thing we wanted to do was to create a really diverse team, which really taught me the power of having people from different backgrounds and ages, all the different elements of diversity, both visual and invisible. It was amazing, because those differences of thoughts led to some of the most creative ideas of a team that I’d had the opportunity to work on, and we had a great retail partner to back them up. 

I think my last one is to never be comfortable with the status quo. When I went to Walmart, we had an amazing team, with amazing resources, but we could rapidly see that the world was changing. This was pre-pandemic. We made this bet that the customer was going to shop differently moving forward, and that we needed to have an omnichannel team. We got approval, and created the first dedicated omnichannel team that was truly end-to-end for everything in the Walmart ecosystem. By having that transparency, where you could see all the way through a campaign or an idea, carried by great people, we were able to make a big step-change in performance for them.

IR: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how have you dealt with them?

KF: I think it’s easy as a leader to get really focused on ‘horizon one’, or what’s right in front of you, because it’s usually the most pressing and demanding of your time. 

And I believe that the best leaders have to constantly think about what is needed for the future, and to always be working on ideas for horizon two or three, or what’s coming next, so that when you get there you’ve got amazing plans that are ready to activate.

And I think the other one is making sure as you’re progressing through your career to keep a really good balance. Balance is different amongst everyone, and it’s across your tasks, in what you’re focusing on, and then balance in your personal life. 

I think about times in my life where I’ve gotten out of balance and you’re leaning too far one way or the other, and life has a way of reminding you, sometimes shockingly, how fragile every day is and that you need to enjoy the time. I very much fall in the camp of ‘I work hard at work, and when I’m not at work I enjoy what I’m doing outside of work’. 

That’s a lesson I did not get right early in my career, and now I spent a lot of time focusing on that.

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