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Big Changes at Seventh Generation

Author: Inspired Protagonist

Chuck ManiscalcoAs most of you know, Seventh Generation recently celebrated its 20th birthday. It was a triumphant moment worth savoring for many reasons; and an occasion that marked both a historic milestone and a landmark turning point for our company.

The history of the day was clear: after many years in which our survival seemed perennially in question, we had overcome the odds to arrive at the place of which we'd so often dreamt, a promised land of sorts, where our viability was no longer in doubt and our future was at last reasonably secure.

Less obvious was what that future really meant. For as we stood on the precipice of our third decade, our company was already moving into a new era in which we could not and should not be the small business we once were, moving with relative ease down well-worn roads and across familiar territory. Instead, we are heading into a new landscape where the competition is bigger and fiercer, and the challenges greater and more numerous than any we have yet faced.

This we must do in order to create the world we want for our children. And we are able to do it because at Seventh Generation we have always chosen growth over other lesser options. Indeed it is our decision to grow -- as individuals and as a responsible company -- that has led to our collective success as a community of people seeking to make a genuine difference, and placed within our grasp the possibility of becoming the change we wish to be in the world.

To achieve this goal, we have set an objective to grow from a company with $150 million in sales to one that generates $1 billion annually. This remarkable growth path will be lined with increasingly complex financial, managerial, strategic, and operational issues, and we're committed to putting in place a management team that will successfully guide us through these obstacles and lead us to the future we envision.

As part of our current transition to that bigger, bolder, and brighter tomorrow, I have made the decision to step aside as CEO of the company and hand the day-to-day operational reins to someone with the experience needed to take Seventh Generation where it needs to go.

It may surprise you to learn that my decision was a relatively easy one to make. For some time, I've been deeply involved both personally and professionally in teaching myself and everyone here at Seventh Generation how to break free of old patterns and adopt a holistic "systems" perspective toward life and work. My passion to transform the way business does business by grounding companies with a new sense of purpose and possibility, teaching the next generation of business leaders about a new way to lead, and helping our customers to become more conscious about their consumption will no doubt keep me very busy.

As I made this journey, I began to find these new possibilities emerging each day, and I felt free to move in different directions and entertain new ideas. Chief among them was the realization that as much as I was the right person to guide our company through infancy and into adolescence, I was not the ideal candidate to take it all the way. While I knew I still had many meaningful contributions to make to Seventh Generation, it became clear to me that what I could not do was supply the managerial wisdom and experience needed to steer the company on the next stage of its voyage. Thus, we began our search for someone who could.

We sought an experienced leader with a proven track record of managing rapid growth, business systems, product development and innovation, brand building and marketing, and financial and operational efficiency as well as someone who knew how to successfully grapple with acquisitions, partnerships, and competitive strategies.

Our year-long search was a time of great discovery and introspection that brought me face to face with the exciting (if frightening!) possibility of creating some very new patterns. It was a long and often arduous process but one for which I'm eternally grateful as it confirmed my belief that this decision is one of the best I have ever made.

In the end, we screened more than 70 potential candidates, and only one of them gave us the sense of possibility and confidence we were seeking. That person is Chuck Maniscalco, and it is with great pleasure and tremendous excitement that I am able to announce that he has agreed to join the Seventh Generation family as our new CEO.

Chuck grew up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio and attended Bowling Green State University, where he earned a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Experimental Psychology. He worked as a Psychology Instructor while pursuing his doctorate but left short of completing a dissertation. Chuck considers himself an "accidental" business executive -- he entered the corporate world through his interest in psychology when he accepted a Consumer Insights Market Research position at the Quaker Oats Company.

Inadvertent though it may be, Chuck has had an exceptionally successful career in the consumer packaged goods industry. He spent almost 21 years at Quaker Oats prior to Pepsi's acquisition of the company in 2001. As President and Chief Executive Officer of the $10 billion Quaker, Tropicana, and Gatorade businesses, he had full responsibility for eight food and beverage product categories. While President of the Gatorade division, Chuck delivered 200% growth over 4 years, and doubled the business to $4 billion in sales. Chuck also launched Propel Fitness Water and grew its revenues to over $500 million. Most recently, he founded Manifest Leadership, a consulting company focused on teaching the art of authentic leadership.

In addition to this extraordinary track record as a business leader, Chuck embodies the values and vision necessary to lead us. He "gets" our company's culture, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit as well as our commitment to corporate responsibility. Throughout his career, Chuck has demonstrated an ability to be a wonderful mentor and coach, and in our conversations it quickly became clear that he is committed to that same process of collaboration, development and individual growth at Seventh Generation.

In short, Chuck has the precise combination of strong strategic planning experience, operational management wisdom, and the philosophical grounding that we require to lead our company and community through an increasingly competitive landscape fraught with economic challenges. With him at the helm, Seventh Generation will have a management team that will rival, if not surpass, those at many of our large traditional competitors.

As for myself, my work here is hardly done. I am still, and will continue to be, very much involved in the ongoing saga of Seventh Generation. I am more committed than ever to helping write the next chapters of that story. Without a doubt, my day-to-day obligations will shift as I immerse myself in further evolving the company's mission, vision, and corporate responsibility strategy, but my presence in the office and in our brand itself will continue for years to come.

The titles I retain -- Co-Founder and Chief Inspired Protagonist -- will be joined by my new title of Executive Chairperson. In these roles, I'll be hitting the road as the spokesperson for our company to share our ideals with the world and build Seventh Generation's brand equity via new books ("In Our Every Deliberation, Seventh Generation's Journey toward Corporate Consciousness," will be published next month and "Good Company," will be published in February 2010 by Josse-Bass), speaking engagements, and media projects. While my role will change, I will continue to welcome new employees and partners, and continue my development work with the Seventh Generation community.

In the end, I am moving on, yet have no intention of going anywhere at all. Indeed my own future echoes Seventh Generation's: There is no road map for what we're building here, and the adventure is really just beginning.

To read a related post from Chuck Maniscalco, click here.