Editor's Note: The article that follows is part of the 13th edition of The Packer 25 Profiles in Leadership. These reports offer some insight into what drives successful people in produce. Please congratulate these industry members when you see them and tell them to keep up the good work.


Ready Pac Foods CEO Tony Sarsam invests in people.

He did so literally when he first arrived at the Irwindale, Calif.-based company a few years ago, increasing pay across the company.

That commitment continues, with employees now able to expect regular conversations about their compensation and how it compares to the rest of the industry, but Sarsam also invests in other ways.

He is direct when something is not going well, but he also takes time to celebrate successes.

Thank-you notes are a favorite of his.

“I always want to make sure my gratitude for the great work that people do is visible and improving every year,” Sarsam said. “There’s always good things to recognize, so I really enjoy doing that.”

Sarsam aims to follow the Golden Rule — the inspiration for his people-first philosophy — in how he treats employees, and he wants them to do the same by the way they approach their jobs.

“I’m pretty insistent that the more senior you are in the organization, the more you owe the front line, earning your status and your role every day,” Sarsam said. “I’m a little tougher on my direct reports than I am on the next level, and I’m a little tougher on them than I am on the next level down, and I just have very high expectations for where we give back in service to our employees on the front lines.

“I’ve been blessed — I have a team that actually responds quite well to that, and they really enjoy doing that and really embrace that idea of servant leadership,” Sarsam said.

Galit Feinreich, chief marketing officer for Ready Pac, describes Sarsam as an incredibly smart person who is also very humble and genuinely interested in the people around him.

She also praised his ability to assess ideas thoroughly and still make a call on them quickly.

“Tony is a leader who uses a really good combination of being very data- and fact-oriented — he’s known to do a lot of math in his head, at remarkable speeds — but he also has a really good gut,” Feinreich said. “It’s hard to find a leader who doesn’t either get paralyzed in decision-making because they need to have so much data or who’s very, very impulsive and only goes with their gut and flies counter to what all sort of research and data is saying.

“Tony has a really nice balance of seeking out a pragmatic amount of information, grounding himself in facts and data, but also in being able to recognize a great, exciting idea and just running with it,” Feinreich said.

 
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