Print Posted 04/25/2016 in Category 1

Happy people that are having fun are a key asset in today’s business climate

Happy people that are having fun are a key asset in today’s business climate

Anthony Zolezzi is a serial entrepreneur who plays a leading role in advising corporations on ways to innovate with their existing strengths given the expectations of today’s socially conscious culture, while increasing profitability and uncovering new innovations.  His work has resulted in numerous entrepreneurial companies and product developments focused on sustainability and health.

Some of Zolezzi’s most recent business ventures include creating the partnership between Wild Oats and Walmart to make organic products both affordable and accessible, which has become one of the most successful product launches in Walmart’s history with sales of $2 million per week during the first nine months. He also co-founded Code Blue Recycling, which filed 19 patents on unique recycling technologies. When he sold Code Blue Recycling to Waste Management it become Greenopolis (short for “Greening the Metropolis”), a community-based recycling rewards program that resulted in products such as the Pepsi Dream Machine. Zolezzi also co-founded and launched Pet Promise natural pet food that quickly became the leader in the natural pet food industry resulting in a multi-million dollar sale to Nestlé Purina and paved the way for the current multi-billion dollar natural pet-food industry. He also wrote a book based on the Pet Promise project called, "How Dog Food Saved the Earth" (2005) that sold 80,000 copies with all proceeds donated to the Organic Farming Research Foundation. Zolezzi’s other major projects include The Prince of Wales’ documentary and book, “Harmony” that highlighted the Prince’s personal sustainability initiatives; Bumble Bee Seafood, moving tuna fish out of the can and into airtight packaging; Horizon Organic Dairy children’s milk products introduced into Starbucks; Fresh Connection’s disintermediation of imported seafood; Eco Terra branding with families of transitional growers on the package; Jack In The Box color coordinated tomatoes to the proper market for slicing; Nestlé Waters new methods of PET recycling; New Chapter’s launch of children’s supplements; and The Human Society of The United States repositioning campaign to “Celebrate Animals Confronting Cruelty” and re-branding with new logo.

Zolezzi is also noted for taking social trends and turning them into food trends such as his creation of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. packaged retail shrimp and restaurants based on the award-winning film "Forrest Gump" starring Tom Hanks. He licensed the name from Paramount Pictures/Viacom first to Meridian Products for frozen shrimp and then to Paragon Restaurants (Rusty Pelican) for the restaurant chain itself, which today produces upward of $400 million in revenue. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was later sold to ConAgra Foods as part of his turn around for Meridian. He also developed Café Nervosa Coffee based off NBC’s hit sitcom, "Frasier." Zolezzi also served as CEO of The New Organics Co., which was one of the first to market organic pre-packaged foods to mainstream consumers, and the first to ship organic products to Walmart. The product line included 180 SKUs, 16 of which were products marketed for children under the popular American author and illustrator Richard Scarry’s name and his Busytown characters.

Currently Zolezzi is in the process of re-launching S&H Green Stamps around a sustainability and health rewards platform, while re-examining the waste industry as an overall concept from water waste, food waste to municipal waste. Presently he is looking into multiple new biotech solutions for personal health and the environment. He is an operating partner at Pegasus Capital Advisors with a focus on launching sustainability and health products and companies. The firm is a private equity fund manager that currently manages $2.7 billion in assets. He is also an adviser and judge for the Katerva Global Sustainability Awards, and member of the board of directors for Recommunity Recycling and Wild Oats Organic Marketplace. Zolezzi is a co-founder and former board chairman of The Organic Center for Education and Promotion and former board member of Vitamin Angels, helping both nonprofit organizations raise record amounts of millions of dollars during his board terms. He has written six books including, “Uncharted Waters,” (2010), “Do Something: Leave Your Mark on the World” (2008), "The Detachment Paradox" (2004) and "Chemical-Free Kids: How to Safeguard Your Child’s Diet and Environment" (2003).  Follow Anthony on Twitter @AnthonyZolezzi, Linked In:  or view his work at:  What are some of the biggest issues that your clients are typically dealing with that cause them to seek an Executive Coach?

Anthony Zolezzi:  Typically, I find three major issues when clients seek out the advice of an executive coach. One issue is that they are concerned that they are not looking at the changing business environment clearly, and need an outside perspective. Today’s industry sectors are becoming digitized, and as a result, are going through a sea of changes. CEO’s are concerned that they are not addressing these changes in the right way, or that they have the right tools for this tech evolution, and what appears as disruption to the status quo. Second, their senior leadership seems out of touch because they too are not equipped for the significant change in the value proposition of their industry. In effect, they have stopped leading and are just going through the motions, day after day, doing the same things they’ve done for years.

A third issue is that these company’s young talent will recognize this lack of senior leadership, and leave or choose not join the company altogether.  However, this young talent is the key to making the difference. Most of the time, that is the first thing I recommend they address, and that is to get what I call a "fast track" team of some of the brightest and best, and put them on a fast track to senior leadership.  What is the process you use with your client in a coaching engagement? 

Anthony Zolezzi:  The only process is how the client wants to engage. I have some that keep me completely anonymous to their senior leadership team, only talking in confidence with the CEO. Others want total integration with their team. My only process key is to make sure the CEO or C suite is comfortable with how we are engaging and that nothing is personal.  What are some of the primary results you help your clients achieve?

Anthony Zolezzi:  Some of the most satisfying results are seeing the results of my efforts, even 10 years later. I have been coaching the CEO of a $450 million dollar company for 15 years. During the first five years, he hired two executives to replace him. Neither hire worked out due the way the former CEO ran the company; we needed to change the way the company operated. The decision was made to hire eight young, top notch graduates of some of the best schools and pedigree we could find, and divide them throughout the company, closely monitoring their progress. Today, four of those eight are running their own divisions, significantly shifting the focus of the business and making the company much quicker and nimble. Today, this business in a declining product market, continues to increase its share. The CEO told me that everyone else in the industry wants to put him out of business and he just smiled wide.  What are some common misconceptions about being coached?

Anthony Zolezzi:  The most common misconception is that it is a sign of weakness for CEOs to ask for personal coaching help. Yet, I find it interesting that no one would say that when it came to seeking out legal support or a public relations agency. To me, it is absolutely a sign of strength. It takes a really strong person to recognize and ask for help. In a tumultuous business environment like we have today, it is fraught with learning new skills all while using new tools.  Just think about this --with legacy assets being leap frogged by new technologies, now is the time we should all be asking for help. We live and work in an ever-increasing multi-generational, multi-cultural and multi-disciplined environment. I’ve event engaged a professional rapper on my personal team!  What does an executive need to bring to the table to receive the most benefit from coaching?

Anthony Zolezzi:  The ability to listen and process in a different way than he does his current job. It is not about jumping on the magic three things they can do tomorrow. They have to understand that this is more than a silver bullet; in a perfect world, it is developing a zeitgeist for the entire organization that they will live on through the next tumultuous time.  What experiences lead you to the profession of coaching?

Anthony Zolezzi:  I have earned a celebrated career in both corporate and entrepreneurial business.  With that said, I’ve had many arrows in my back from different businesses and a few personal setbacks along the way. The setbacks are what provided me the inspiration to use what I’ve learned, as best I can, to help others. At this stage of my career, I am in the legacy mode of giving back. I am very concerned that the workplace today is not as happy as it should be, so I want to make the corporate and start-up environment fun and engaging. With as much time as we spend at the office, it should be fun.  What are your primary areas of expertise?  What makes you unique as a coach?

Anthony Zolezzi:  My primary area of expertise are corporate operations and entrepreneurism. I am unique as a coach due to my career experience. I spent 10 years on the fast track to a divisional CEO position right out of college with multi-conglomerate Ralston Purina.  Thereafter, I continued to build my career by starting my own companies, ranging in industry from trucking/distribution to restaurants to high tech to industrial recycling. I also worked to establish consumer product goods, private equity and new innovative concepts for large and mid-size companies.  What advice would you give to someone looking to hire an Executive Coach?

Anthony Zolezzi:  Make sure you have a personal connection with the coach---- that you enjoy being together, and that it’s not just about the specific scope of work or deliverables. This process is not one that is measured like your typical business. When I am asked how they will know if I am contributing, I make one promise: I will do my best to give you, the client, at a minimum, one thing you haven't thought about or one thing that will make you look at your organization differently each time that we meet. If I don't contribute in that way, then I will move on.  What book would you recommend to clients and why?

Anthony Zolezzi:  There isn't just one book I could choose. I would recommend a series of books. I recently started coaching a new client and I bundled three books to start them off. The books I recommended were “Zero to One,” by Peter Theil; “The Top Ten Things Dead People Want You to Know," by Mike Dooley, and “The Trust Edge,” by David Horsager. To follow-up, I will give a unique series when he/she is ready – which will include business as improv and a study of my own e-book, “Chop Wood and Carry Water.”  Is the corporate structure that most of the coaching clients are living in at risk of not serving them?

Anthony Zolezzi:  Yes, very much so. The “Command and Control” basis of the corporation in which one person has the vision and controls all aspects of the corporation does not work effectively in today’s business environment. The cultural aspects of this one large change in the corporate structure is bending, and in some cases, breaking it at its core. In older, more established companies, the culture wants to maintain this antiquated structure, but around every corner is an opportunity. You may get blown out of the water by a small startup that you didn't pay any attention to before, because in today’s world, all aspects of the business are changing and changing fast, making it impossible for one person at the top to have a firm grip on everything going on in the industry.

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