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CLAIRE BARA

LEADERS ON LEADERSHIP
President, A. Lassonde Inc.
CLAIRE BARA

How did you get involved in the CPG industry?

I have always been fascinated by this fast-paced industry and I knew very early on that I wanted to work in it. When I was attending university, my final memoire was on the subject of “new product launches in the food industry.” In the course of my career, I worked for almost 10 years at Molson Coors, and now at A. Lassonde, so I have been in the CPG world for quite some time now. I enjoy the challenges and opportunities of this industry.

How would you describe your leadership style?

It starts with focusing on people first, which leads to performance, and means no limit to what we can achieve as a team. I spend a lot of time with my team communicating and interacting with our employees. Sharing our ambitions and building up confidence to achieve our vision is critical to get employees’ alignment and engagement. Being accessible and transparent defines my leadership style. I value spending time in the field, in our plants, with our customers and suppliers, as this is a key source of learning and inspiration.

What qualities do you look for in new hires?

Sharing similar values, but a way of thinking different from mine, challenging the status quo, constantly raising the bar while taking great care of people, working in collaboration, and having fun at the same time! Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, used to say to his new hires a line that I particularly like: “I have hired you because you are smarter than I am, now go and prove it.” It is also critical to have diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and profiles. Today, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a leadership team that fits all those qualities.

How do you define success?

Success, both personal and professional, is achieving your dreams, following your passions, while enjoying the ride to get there. What you achieve is as important as how you achieve it. Most of all, success is a team accomplishment.

Do you have a mentor who has had a strong influence on you?

I am thankful I had many great mentors in my career who inspired and supported me. But I am also thankful for those who were not mentors, because they gave me the opportunity to learn what not to do, which is equally important. My inspiration is my dad, who had minimum education, started working in a sugar plant factory in a rural village in France at 14 years old. He had an amazing career, finishing as an executive at the company’s head office in Paris 40 years later. I like to think I was inspired by his path, as one of my first jobs ever in Canada was picking apples in an orchard, and today I am so fortunate to lead A. Lassonde’s Canadian beverage division, making great quality juices, including apple juice in Canada. From the orchard to the head office has been quite a journey across multiple companies and functions.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to build a career in this industry?

The CPG world is a great playing field for anyone who is looking for an exciting career. I have three pieces of simple advice. First, dream big, don’t let anyone tell you it is impossible, but work hard to achieve your dream. Secondly, challenge the status quo and constantly raise the bar in whatever you do. Most importantly, focus on people – your employees, colleagues, customers, as in this industry, collaboration is critical.

How do you manage stress and pressure?

I believe in working hard and having fun at the same time. Laughing every day is a must for me and a good sense of humor is an effective stress relief. My other stress management strategy is my passion for running. I have been a runner for over 35 years, and have completed many races, including four marathons. Not only does it help to stay physically fit, but it also helps to keep a balanced and healthy mind.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

As a proud mother, I have to mention my two children. However, my biggest accomplishment has been to take the decision to immigrate to Canada 30 years ago, with my backpack, not much money and not knowing anyone on this continent. This has been the best decision of my life and one I never regretted. After 30 years, I am still thankful for the opportunity and so proud to be Canadian.

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