2020 Star Women in Grocery winner Nathalie Cusson (Q&A)
Senior level star
VP, Dairy Fluid
How did you get into the CPG business?
At the age of 15, my very first job was in a grocery store working as a cashier. After university, I decided to get back into the food industry. It’s a dynamic industry that fits well with my personality. I joined Parmalat Canada (now Lactalis Canada) 20 years ago as a sales representative. Since then, I have progressed through a variety of roles in sales, culminating in my current role as vice-president, dairy fluid, leading the sales function of the Lactalis Canada fluid division—a business of over $700 million in turnover, with nationally renowned brands like Lactantia and Beatrice.
A defining moment in my career came immediately after I was promoted to my current role. I was responsible for leading several business negotiations that could have had a significant impact on the success of our business. It was my first mandate as the head of our commercial division, and it came at a very challenging and competitive time in our industry. I was extremely proud to finalize all of these negotiations with positive outcomes for the company and even stronger partnerships with our customers. I would also like to add a much more recent accomplishment that I am also very proud of. When the current COVID-19 pandemic first began to impact the grocery channel in Canada, I can proudly say that I led an amazing and dedicated cross-functional team that managed to continue to service all of our customers with a nearly perfect service level, despite an unprecedented double-digit spike in demand. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank that dedicated and special team that made that accomplishment possible.
What’s your leadership style/philosophy?
Of greatest importance to me is having a positive and motivating environment that enables my team to flourish and grow. Coaching my team is a priority. I always focus on and recognize my team members’ strengths and motivate them to continue to improve by providing regular feedback and setting clear expectations, with challenging projects to promote their growth. I aim to be a better manager every day and extract the best in people, bringing them to higher levels of performance in an open and fun atmosphere.
Best advice ever received?
Have faith in yourself, believe you can do it and, most importantly, you deserve it! I strive to reinforce this same philosophy with my daughter, as I notice that this is often something that is lacking in young women. It is important that, first of all, we believe in ourselves. We must trust our instincts, and most of all, be proud of who we are. It seems so basic but the first step to success is self-esteem.
Career highlight/greatest achievements?
Since I have been working exclusively on the fluid business, we have been able to secure all of our existing agreements, while also gaining significant new business, allowing the company to be a preferred supplier and enabling our brands to shine in the market. Through my own personal drive, and working closely with various cross-functional teams, we have been able to grow our business better than the market over the past four years, developing and growing key partnerships with our customers.
What you like most about your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is the opportunity to be part of an amazing team that is building a long-term, sustainable business. I also love to coach my team. It is so fulfilling to see them grow and develop, and it enables me to continue to grow as well. Last, but definitely not least, I truly enjoy the great partnerships and relationships I have been able to build with our customers over the years.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love a challenge! This is what makes me so passionate. It is an honour to be part of this special group, and I feel humbled to accept this award. I am so lucky to be part of a grocery industry that is so dynamic, disruptive, fast-paced, and most of all, challenging. I am also grateful to be part of an organization, Lactalis Canada, that believes in developing its people and providing opportunities for women to excel. This cause is very close to my heart, as I mentor several women in our organization, encouraging them and guiding them to become future leaders.
Click here for the full list of 2020 Star Women in Grocery award winners.