How does one climb from intern to the primary feminine CEO of one of many largest pet-care corporations on the earth? For Nina Leigh Krueger, MBA ’94, it took creativity, lots of exhausting work and light-weight kitty litter.
In Olin Enterprise Faculty’s “On Precept” podcast, Krueger says she by no means got down to turn out to be CEO of Nestlé Purina PetCare for the Americas. “[My ambition] was actually to beat the job I had been employed to do, and to be a model supervisor.”
In 1993, Krueger was engaged on an MBA at WashU when Ralston Purina (now Nestlé Purina) supplied her a model administration internship — and he or she by no means left. “Purina’s values, tradition and folks have felt like house to me since my early days as an intern,” Krueger says.
Krueger’s expertise finding out at WashU was foundational to her profession. “Olin taught me the best way to ask good questions,” she says. “I found that management is not only figuring out the solutions. Usually it’s about figuring out the best inquiries to ask of your subject-matter specialists.”
These classes carried Krueger via her first years working in advertising at Purina, however they proved particularly salient when she was unexpectedly thrust into the corporate’s struggling cat-litter division.
This was not the profession shift she was on the lookout for. “I felt like, in some methods, I used to be being put right into a penalty field,” she says. “In our careers, all of us really feel that we should always preserve shifting up and up and up; however this was a lateral roll.”
On the time, the cat-litter division was in dire straits. “The enterprise was in a very difficult place and was considerably separate from the remainder of Purina. The message that I bought was basically: ‘Revive it, get a stronger pulse, or we might must exit the enterprise.’”
Krueger entered the division in a advertising position, however her tasks shortly expanded. “I needed to develop a group and construct belief,” she says. “I had to make use of my advertising expertise to reveal to them that I knew what I used to be doing, however I additionally wanted to grasp their experience in order that we may construct on this collectively.”
She additionally determined to gentle a hearth beneath the group with the bold objective to turn out to be a billion-dollar division by 2020. “In case you don’t push the boundaries and break paradigms and suppose in a different way,” she informed them, “then we’re not going to get to the place we should be.”
Enterprise a “segmentation research” on shopper impulse, the division discovered a sore spot. “What we discovered was that customers didn’t like lugging litters. They actually wished a light-weight litter.” After a sequence of challenges and successes, the newly developed product was efficiently launched. The litter division has since achieved her billion-dollar objective.
Krueger went on to different outstanding roles at Purina, together with main the merger of the Purina and Nestlé advertising departments. She was appointed chief advertising officer in 2015 and have become the corporate’s first feminine president in 2016.
In 2021, Krueger turned the CEO of Nestlé -Purina. “It was an unbelievable and humbling 12 months,” she says. “I’ve been reminded at each flip what a beautiful group now we have.”
From her first days as an intern, Krueger has lived by a mantra: Pay attention. Be taught. Lead. “It’s essential that leaders have a imaginative and prescient,” she says, “however it’s equally essential that they be open to enter from their groups. Enterprise success is about getting outcomes, not credit score.”