5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became Global President of Mars Wrigley Confectionery

“Management is about doing things right, but leadership is about doing the right thing. My job is to ensure that we’re doing the right things for today and for years to come.”
I had the pleasure to interview Martin Radvan. Martin is the global president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery the world’s largest confectionery known for its brands like Snickers, Skittles, Starbursts and Doublemint. Based between the UK & US and a Brit by nationality, Martin has a successful track record of leading businesses, integrating major acquisitions and driving business turnarounds, working across multiple categories and demonstrating success in emerging and established markets. He has lived and worked in Europe (UK & France), the Middle East and the US and has significant experience of operating in India, China and Africa.

What is your “backstory”?

I consider myself a fortunate guy. I grew up in the UK, in a county called Buckinghamshire — a little northwest of London — and later attended Leicester University to earn my Bachelor of Science degree in engineering science.

I started my career at Mars over 30 years ago, getting my first taste in an entry-level product manufacturing position in the UK. Genuinely, I had no idea what my journey of the next three decades would be like — how much I would learn and how fortunate I’d be to work across the world, from the Middle East to the U.S. and France.

Although I’m an engineer by trade, early on in my career I was keen to expand beyond engineering. My curiosity and love for learning new things landed me in roles from customer service to logistics, sales to information technology. In my current position as president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery, I oversee the company behind brands like Snickers®, Skittles®, M&Ms®, Extra® and Orbit®, which we sell in 180 countries around the world. I also serve as the president of the Wrigley Company Foundation, helping to guide the Foundation’s charitable initiatives.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Oh, I’ve had many. Mars has done an incredible job expanding my horizons and giving me experiences which foster reflection and growth.

I remember the first time I really grasped the impact our company had — and could have — on people directly and indirectly engaged in our business. It was after visiting our factory in Bokros, Hungary. What had started as basically a shed in a field ten-years prior, had grown into a small town — with shops, schools and many services. Reflecting on the impact Mars was making in this small town by simply introducing manufacturing was tremendous. I got energy — and still do — from thinking about the impact we can make not just on the 30,000 associates we employ, but on their families and communities.

This experience, along with many others like it, led me to recognize a cornerstone of my leadership style: Mutuality. Mutuality is one of the Mars Five Principles and is based on the simple concept that for a benefit to endure, it must be shared. Over the course of my career, I’ve often asked myself, what is the benefit in this business decision — does it extend beyond Mars and is it shared by others? Does it impact our consumers, customers, suppliers and Associates in mutual ways? If it does — it’s the right decision to make.

So, what exactly does your company do?

Mars Wrigley Confectionery is the world’s leading manufacturer of world-famous chocolates, chewing gums, mints and fruity confections — brands like M&M’s®, Snickers®, Twix®, Skittles®, Starburst®, Altoids®, Extra® and Orbit®.

While we’re known for these brands, Mars is quite a diverse company. We have a significant Petcare business with veterinary services such as Banfield Pet Hospital® and VCA Inc., and brands such as PEDIGREE® dog food, and a growing food business that’s home to Uncle Ben’s® Rice and Seeds of Change®.

Once our planned global integration of Mars Chocolate and Wrigley is complete, Mars Wrigley Confectionery will employ roughly 30,000 Associates globally, have operations in approximately 70 countries and sell products in 180 countries.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our brands certainly capture people’s attention — but what I think is truly unique is the way we go about manufacturing and bringing these products to consumers around the world. I commented earlier about Mutuality and how important it is to me as a business leader. Yet, Mutuality isn’t just something that I’m passionate about — it’s part of our company’s DNA and has led us to make some of our most important decisions.

For example, our Sustainable in a Generation Plan is a set of commitments centered on protecting the planet and people who make our business possible. As part of the plan, we are committing to cutting our environmental footprint in line with what science says is necessary to keep the planet healthy, while at the same time improving the working lives of one million people in our value chain to help them thrive.

This is a bold commitment that’s about doing the right thing. It’s about a company with a sizeable impact stepping up and investing in the future so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive — both in business and society.

When I talk about this commitment with my family and what it means for the products we sell, I’m genuinely proud. To take a brand like M&Ms® that is known and loved, and to be able to manufacture it with 100 percent renewable electricity in the U.S. is exceptional. After a meal together, I might share an Altoids® or LifeSaver® with friends and I know it has natural mint grown by Indian farmers who we’re supporting with skills training and education.

These commitments were made because they are the right thing to do. And they live in our brands, which makes the sweet treats we all know and love even sweeter.

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?

My wife, Jane. I attribute a large portion of my success to her. Her unwavering support throughout my career has propelled me to where I am today — from being open to moving across the ocean so I could accept new positions, to always challenging me to be better and reach for every opportunity. In fact, she’s a former Olympic swimmer, so her strength and drive are second to none!

Growing up, my family was always very supportive of my passions, and today, my wife and three children are my backbone who’ve embraced adventure as we live and work across various parts of the world. People often forget the massive impact a web of caring, supportive people can have on your life.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I feel pretty strongly that our company as a whole is striving to bring goodness to the world — whether that’s through a special moment shared between families over a handful of Skittles® or the role we’re playing to advocate for progress against climate change. From the small moments, to the big ones — we’re thinking about and driving toward better experiences for our consumers and communities.

On a personal level, I advocate for education whenever I get the chance. Through my seat on the Wrigley Company Foundation, I’ve seen the impact education can have on changing a young person’s life. We’ve supported an organization called Pratham for many years in India — an organization that brings learning camps to rural villages and communities. Many don’t realize how common it is for children in these villages to complete primary school and still be unable to read or do basic math. Through the Foundation’s support, more than 100,000 girls and boys have received basic educational programming right in their village, and we estimate that 78 percent of these children — children who previously had limited-to-no reading skills — have now achieved the basic literacy rate.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

1. Listen, learn and get moving. Start fast, as time waits for nobody. You have to learn, listen and hit the road running. The world isn’t going to sit around while you figure out what to do. You’ve got to get in, get swimming and get moving fast.

2. Leadership is about doing the right thing. Management is about doing things right, but leadership is about doing the right thing. My job is to ensure that we’re doing the right things for today and for years to come.

3. You learn more by falling off your bike. Like anybody else, I don’t aspire to failure. But I do believe you learn a lot more falling off the bike than you do riding along on a sunny day. I also encourage my team not to spend a lot of time blaming the past, but to learn from it, because success is quite often built on learning from those failures.

4. Shared benefits endure. At Mars, we have Five Principles which govern and guide us in everything we do. One of those principles, Mutuality, encapsulates the importance of making a difference. Simply stated, Mutuality says that for a benefit to endure, it must be shared. Consider our customers, consumers, suppliers and the community in which we live; if we share a benefit with them, they will want to work with us today, tomorrow and for many years into the future.

5. Bring fun into the workplace. If you think about what our business is about, it’s fun. If you told me as a four-year-old I could be running one of the world’s largest sweetie companies, how cool would that be? I think our job in terms of creativity, is to bring that fun into the workplace and make it a great place to work. That will drive creativity.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

As a student and early in my career as an engineer, I used to build and repair cars. So, I’d be fascinated to meet Elon Musk. I admire his curiosity for re-thinking how the world could be. I’m also inspired by his interplanetary ambitions. You could say we’re kindred spirits in a way — we’re both self-proclaimed “Martians!”

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