“Servant leadership has allowed me to find personal fulfillment in everything I do, and the ability to treat every person with the human dignity they deserve.” —Craig Weatherup
At the Boston Business Leaders Breakfast on Friday, September 20, Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay welcomed Craig Weatherup, retired Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Held at 60 State Street with the city’s seaport and business district skyline visible from the glass-walled banquette room, it was Gordon’s first BLB of the academic year.
Craig Weatherup is the founding Chairman and CEO of The Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG). He retired in 2003 from PepsiCo and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Starbucks Coffee Company, Macy’s Department Stores, Inc., and The Arizona Nature Conservancy.
To a crowd of 400 invited guests, Weatherup described his first job for Pepsi Co and the networking connections he developed while working in New York City. “When the marketing director asked me what I wanted to do with my career, as any future business person says, I wanted a future in marketing,” he recalled. His response led to a new career abroad. Weatherup and his family boarded a plane for Tokyo, Japan, where at age 28 he began his work as PepsiCo’s Marketing Director for the Far East. “There I was on a plane flying with my family to a city where we knew no one, didn’t speak the language, and were moving sight-unseen to a new country,” said Weatherup.
Despite Pepsi’s rigorous travel schedule throughout his corporate career—he often went around the world in a week—Weatherup shared how he juggled his work with his commitments to his family and faith. Today, he is one of only two members of the Starbucks Board of Directors who bring their family with them during their travels.
When asked about his most spectacular failure, Weatherup had a ready response: “That’s easy… It was Crystal Pepsi.” A $20 million venture released in the early nineties during the Super Bowl, it was Pepsi’s clear-cola beverage . . . and it struggled immediately. “We were able to get a lot of people to try Crystal Pepsi,” Weatherup joked with the executives in attendance, “but after that no one ever wanted to try it again.” He also shared his greatest achievements, saying that he considers the most influential moments in his career to be those in which he was able to mentor someone else’s career. “There is nothing better than getting that call or email, sometimes even years later, where someone thanks me for how I handled something or weathered a storm on a public platform and they admired the way we approached it. Those are the best moments, and the ones I’m most happy to have had as a CEO.”?
Weatherup expressed an optimistic view of the international business world, countering some others' views that there is "a malaise of sorts," as he put it.“ Things are very much alive in places like Asia and Latin America,” he asserted, expressing excitement about the future. Weatherup also shared about the recent meeting in Mexico City during which the Starbucks board made its decision to ban guns from its stores.
President Lindsay, who created the largest research study on American leadership, has interviewed past U.S. presidents, corporate CEOs and other important national leaders. “When he is interviewing someone on stage, it’s great to see how he moves the conversation along in front of a large audience,” said student John Buckley ’15, a Gordon College Presidential Fellow, who attended the event. “The event is for business leaders, but the College always makes sure student can attend and it’s a very unique opportunity for us.”
The Business Leaders Breakfast is a Gordon College speaker series for CEOs and business executives. Each breakfast hosts a distinguished business leader from a variety of corporate industries to share their views on leadership in an interview-style format with Gordon’s president. Speakers share personal stories of successes, failures, and watershed moments of their careers, as a way to bring business executives—as well as Gordon students—together for a time of networking, learning and mentoring.