BTU #56 - Steve Reinemund: Marines to CEO of PepsiCo


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“Frankly it was never anticipated, I certainly never expected to be the head of PepsiCo. That was not my aspiration. I say that because I think that it's important for people to take positions and work in places that they really enjoy what they're doing, not that they're doing something in order to just be prepared for the big job somewhere down the road. The problem with that is: first of all you won't enjoy it. And second of all, if you're not happy doing it, likely the people around you won't be happy with your doing it either. And therefore you'll probably never get to that top position." – Steve Reinemund

Steve Reinemund was CEO of PepsiCo from 2001 to 2006, during which time:

  • Revenues grew by $9 billion
  • Net income rose 70%
  • Earnings per share were up 80%
  • PepsiCo’s market cap exceeded $100 billion.

Steve started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served for 5 years as an officer in the Marine Corps. After the military, Steven joined IBM as a Sales Rep, and then earning his MBA at the Darden School of Business. After Business School, Steven joined the Marriott, Roy Rogers division, before moving on to PepsiCo’s Pizza Hut division, where after two years he became President & CEO of Pizza Hut. During his time as CEO, he introduced home-delivery as a distribution method, overtaking market share of rival Domino's Pizza within 2 years. Steve then moved to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division as President & CEO, and then promoted to PepsiCo president and COO before being named to CEO two years later. After his tenure at Pepsi as CEO, Steven served as the Dean of the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy and Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University for six years. Steven has served on multiple boards, including:

  • The Exxon Mobil Corporation
  • Marriott International
  • Walmart
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • American Express Company
  • Chick-fil-A
  • The United States Naval Academy Foundation
  • The Salvation Army.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • How Steve approached his career path to CEO of a Fortune 100 company
  • One of the most career defining and harrowing moments of Steve's career
  • How Steve sought mentorship and feedback when he was CEO of PepsiCo
  • How the General Management landscape has changed and advice for veterans pursuing this career path
  • Advice on maintaining a marriage that will last over 42 years
  • And much, much more…

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Selected Links

  • Steve's "Last Lecture" at Wake Forrest:
    • Minute 34 onwards is particularly worthwhile. It's about finding your "fire" and what you want to do, and determining who you are
  • Bloomberg article on Steve and how he got to be CEO of PepsiCo:
  • BizJournals article on Steve's career:

Show Notes

  • 1:05 - Steve's background
  • 3:00 - Steve's decision to leave the Marine Corps and how he approached this decision
  • 4:00 - Steve's journey to IBM for his first job and how he ended up there
  • 5:40 - Some of the more common career paths for veterans when Steve left the Marine Corps
  • 7:00 - Steve's decision to pursue a career in General Management over a more specific functional expertise
  • 12:00 - Did Steve always know he wanted to be CEO, or was it a gradual progression?
  • 16:38 - One of the most defining moments of Steve's career
  • 27:22 - How Steve's job changed from Pizza Hut to Frito Lay, and then from Frito Lay to PepsiCo, and how Steve adapted to the changing challenges
  • 34:24 - How Steve sought mentorship and feedback when he was CEO of PepsiCo
  • 39:17 - Leadership - the traits Steve tried to maintain in the civilian world, the traits he tried to unlearn, and the traits he learned after the military
  • 44:40 - How the landscape has changed since Steve first set out (and how Steve might approach his career differently today than when he first started out)
  • 47:00 - Advice on maintaining a marriage that will last over 42 years
  • 51:07 - Final words of wisdom