O’Connor recently left a position as chief executive officer at the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board — a job for which he was recruited 14 years ago — to head up a new marketing venture, Avocados From Mexico.
Avocados From Mexico combines the U.S.-focused marketing efforts of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA) and Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán (APEAM).
O’Connor officially took up his new duties in April and spent the months between then and the July 1 launch putting together a staff of eight executives and one consultant.
Recruiters approached O’Connor about the job, and they likely couldn’t have found anyone better, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.
“He has put together a very strong team of highly qualified marketers, has a tremendous budget, and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job,” Escobedo said.
Leading the U.S. Potato Board was O’Connor’s first foray into the produce business, though he brought a 13-year background in food marketing to the board.
O’Connor, 60, said he wasn’t looking to leave the potato board at the time he was approached about heading up Mexico’s avocado initiative.
“It was just that offer you couldn’t refuse,” he said.
The opportunity to start a new marketing agency with the budgeting he deemed necessary, as well as Mexico’s tradition in the U.S. avocado market, was too good to pass up, O’Connor said.
“The all-in-one theme and combining the resources in one go-to-market strategy was the next big career step that, when the recruiter began to describe it to me, caught my interest and caused me to say, ‘Wow, what an exciting ride that would be,’” O’Connor said.
O’Connor found himself in a similar scenario when he was approached to lead the potato board.
“I was doing marketing work for the beef industry, and a recruiter called to say they were looking at a turnaround and were looking for a CEO to lead that,” he said.
O’Connor a Chicago native, earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture at Western Illinois University in 1975 and went on to earn a master’s in business administration at the University of Illinois in 1996. In 1999, he completed a graduate program at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Harvard Business School.