Monday, February 3, 2020

Schwan's Women Leading Forward

Napolitano shares her passion for pizza and building great teams

Feb. 3, 2020 — Great-tasting pizza has always been a part of Leslie Napolitano’s life.

Before she was born, Leslie’s grandparents came to the U.S. from Italy and opened Pizzeria Napolitano, the first pizzeria in San Jose, California.

Today, she brings her knowledge and passion for pizza to her role in
Schwan’s Food Service, Inc., where she serves as the K12 sales director for the western part of the United States.

Leslie’s love for pizza, paired with a passion for developing and leading great teams, has helped in her career development for the past 21 years with Schwan’s, she said.

“As new senior leaders have joined the company through the years, I have made a purposeful effort to learn and grow through each of their tenures and integrate those lessons in my own leadership,” Leslie said. “Currently, I find myself in a very exciting time at Schwan’s, where great changes are happening. I look forward to the continued professional growth this will provide.”

Based remotely in California, Leslie started with Schwan’s as a regional sales manager, responsible or Northern California and Nevada. Eventually her regional responsibilities grew, adding Utah and Colorado, before transitioning into her current role nearly six years ago.

Leslie recently answered the following questions about her experiences at Schwan’s:

Q: What is a typical day like in your role?

A: I start my day reviewing the previous day’s closed sales data as well as the open orders and shortage reports. On any given day, I have three to six conference calls that require my participation. These calls consist of one-on-one’s with my team members, K-12 leadership team calls and collaborating with my internal business team. In between scheduled calls, I manage active projects and tasks.

Q: What are you passionate about in your job?

A: I am most passionate about leading and coaching my team. I consider leadership an honor and privilege. It is a deep responsibility that I am very passionate about. I am driven to stay highly engaged. This is especially important with the current integration work our organization is going through with CJ CheilJedang.

As a leader, you are asking a person for a great level of trust. Oftentimes, you are encouraging them to follow you down an unknown path. My team deserves nothing less than my passion and dedication in the pursuit of our collective success.

Q: What career advice would you give to your younger self?

A: Find a great mentor who you can trust and rely on. I wish I would have done so early on. I partnered with a mentor later in my career. I learned so much. I now make a point to offer mentoring to those coming up. I currently have several people who are early in their careers that I am actively mentoring. Having a mentor is a gamechanger that provides the professional edge needed when you are younger.

Q: What do our company vision and management philosophy mean to you? How do you demonstrate them in your day-to-day work?

A: I am an inherently positive person. I want my team and those around me to not just like where they work, I want them to love where they work. I strive to coach my team to be best in class. High ethics and integrity in my personal and business life are very important to me. I enjoy working hard and helping others while we grow our business together. I like that we have found a way to do this all in an engaging way where everyone’s efforts matter and provide differentiated performance.

Q: At Schwan’s, we talk a lot about working as one team. What does that mean to you?

A: Working as a team means we are all pulling in the same direction to meet our shared goals. I know that I have a supportive team. We can count on one another if someone needs assistance. I have many examples of when I have needed to engage with extended team members to find a solution to an open issue. The food service team along with our broker partners strive to work in tandem every day.

Q: How would you describe the culture at Schwan’s?

A: Our culture has come a long way in the last several years. We have committed ourselves to a culture of authenticity and transparency. This culture shift has built trust and motivation for all to be highly engaged. Everyone knows that they are a part of a culture of meaningful participation and that they can advocate for themselves, their team and their customers.

Q: What do you like best about the culture?

A: I deeply appreciate the transparency and comfort of knowing I can have an open and trusting conversation with all levels of my team – from senior leadership all the way to my extended broker team.

Q: What are you most proud of in your career with Schwan’s?

A: The team I have recruited, trained and retained. It is an incredible mix of people that I thoroughly enjoy coaching and leading to success.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in our company’s future?

A: I am very excited about our integration with CJ CheilJedang. Our partnership is bringing great opportunities to share our combined cultures and products with the world. I believe that there is no limit to our future success.

Editor’s Note: “Schwan’s Women Leading Forward” is a series of stories about some of the leaders who help make Schwan's Company and its subsidiaries a great place to work.

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