We ask industry leaders five questions about their working life. As he prepares to leave the company, Lion CEO Stuart Irvine reflects on his career. This article first appeared in the June edition of Food & Drink Business.
1. Tell us about your current role
I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Lion in January 2013. Lion is a leading beverages company in Australasia with fast-growing operations in the US and UK.
We produce, market, sell and distribute alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and operate microbreweries worldwide. We employ about 4500 people across Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK.
We’re motivated by a mission to bring people together to be sociable and live well: exceptional drops, trusted brands, vibrant venues and innovative new products, with our products right at the centre of life’s sociable moments.
We do this while striving to be a force for good for people and the planet.
2. What is your greatest career achievement to date?
The last three to four years at Lion have been an incredible journey of transformation.
We have introduced new consumer focused frameworks for growth; built a new data and technology capability; invested in new businesses in the USA and UK in craft beer and craft spirits in Australia; and become a focused integrated adult beverage business with the sale of Lion Dairy and Drinks.
Meanwhile, we took great steps in building strong foundations for making Lion a more inclusive organisation to work in, setting gender diversity targets, closing the gender pay gap and embedding our Reconciliation Action Plan.
We also had a major focus on sustainability in going carbon neutral, setting aggressive future carbon reduction targets and committing to a circular economy and recycling.
We achieved all of this and navigated COVID-19 and cyberattacks. So I would say having the privilege to lead the teams of people who did all of this has been the biggest achievement.
3. What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn?
In general, I think my biggest mistakes came when I hadn’t appreciated the total system that was in play, fast enough or well enough.
There are nearly always more things in play than you think when you are dealing with complex decisions.
So my learning has been to create an environment where all input can be heard across, through and outside the organisation (often the great ideas/insights are at the edge) and then make sure that I have the quiet space to create a plan for myself and with my team, that can help move us forward in simple steps.
4. What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Study the philosophy of how to lead a good life and start living it. Time is shorter than you think.
5. What is one goal you still want to achieve?
At Lion you really see the power of sociability in making people’s lives better, but the more that you look at it you realise that to make the world a better place, that sociability has to include all humans, not just your tribe.
That would be a goal I want to achieve, not just with Lion but for the drinks industry and in fact the world in general.