Merle Axelrod’s business role models are executives who stay flexible and adapt to industry change.
“Business is about change,” said Axelrod, president of Mahwah, N.J.-based fresh-cut processor and distributor Supreme Cuts LLC.
Axelrod earned a degree in business and management information systems at the University of Buffalo and worked for more than 20 years in the corporate world.
She changed careers from the software industry in 2008, becoming president of Supreme Cuts and its new logistics company, Supreme Food Express.
Through her relationship with husband David Axelrod, Supreme Cuts founder, she’s participated in the produce industry directly and indirectly for the past two decades. That plus her corporate experience provide a different and valuable perspective, David Axelrod said.
Customer and colleague Norman Saville, chief executive officer and partner, Produce Source Partners, Ashland, Va., said it’s been good for Supreme Cuts to have her big-business perspective.
“She has good organizing skills and has done a nice job of implementing changes in Supreme Cuts,” he said. “The sales team is on top of their game.”
Axelrod says business is business no matter what industry it’s in, but said her career change presented an interesting challenge.
“Going from an industry … where I could control aspects of the variables in the sales process versus the produce industry, which is a lot more unpredictable,” Axelrod said, “it’s a lot more out of my control.”
David Axelrod said Merle Axelrod is a hands-on leader who’s involved at many levels, but willing to let people make mistakes.
“Plus she has great desire,” he said.
“If you have great desire and great experience and you can be forward thinking, you can do an incredible job in any industry, not just the produce industry.”
To succeed, Axelrod said women or men entering the industry should be themselves, remain focused on tasks and be committed to the work. They should build positive relationships and strong networks.
Her management style involves regularly seeking feedback to better understand the market and the industry and to evaluate business decisions. Maintaining communications with customers is key.
Saville said Axelrod is a straight shooter in conversations and he appreciates that she keeps him well-informed.
“You know before the orders ship if there’s any problem with quality or availability of product,” he said.
Axelrod said she and David Axelrod intend to keep Supreme Cuts on the cutting edge.
“The produce industry is growing considerably,” Axelrod said. “Everyone’s looking for that new idea … there’s a huge amount of opportunity to branch out with innovative ideas or to test new markets.”