“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, retired Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo
At Gordon’s Business Leaders Breakfast in late September, President D. Michael Lindsay hosted Craig Weatherup, founding chairman and CEO of the Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG), in a candid conversation about his journey to the top of one of America’s most well-known companies.
To a crowd of several hundred invited guests, the seasoned businessman described his first job for PepsiCo 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, where at age 28 he began his work as PepsiCo’s marketing director for the Far East.
Despite the rigorous travel schedule throughout his corporate career—he often went around the world in a week—Weatherup shared how he remained devoted to balancing his work with commitments to his family and faith.
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 ’90s 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. “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.”