CEO Lecture Series speaker Brian O'Malley gives crowd a taste of what it's like inside the sugar industry

Monday, October 26, 2015

Brian O’Malley, the chief executive of Domino Foods and a Rutgers MBA alumnus, shared an insider’s view of the sugar industry and a list of his favorite books on leadership with an audience that packed Bove Auditorium for the CEO Lecture Series on Oct. 22.

In his talk, O’Malley described the global sugar market, leadership qualities and the challenges of protecting the reputation of sugar at a time when obesity is considered a national epidemic.

"Sugar," he said, "is not something government policy makers think very highly of at the moment.”

Brian O'Malley, president and CEO of Domino Foods, received his Rutgers MBA in 1991.

O’Malley, who has spent his entire career in the sugar business, told the audience that when he combined his finance experience with a Rutgers MBA (Class of 1991), he moved into sales and marketing. "The combination of finance and marketing is a powerful one," he said.

Video: Hear what O'Malley has to say about leadership and the benefit of having a Rutgers MBA.

As the Domino sugar business changed ownership during an era of consolidation and leveraged buy-outs, O’Malley stuck it out. In 1998, he was hired by Refined Sugars Inc. and put in charge of a major sugar refining plant in Yonkers, N.Y. where he had a hand in developing strategy for the company’s growth in the U.S.

The next move put him into the corner office at Domino.

As O’Malley discussed a handful of authors whose books he found insightful, he mentioned memorable lines and nuggets of advice, including this one from Malcolm Gladwell, "You can’t rely on luck, you have to do the work."

Dean Lei Lei with O'Malley before the start of the CEO Lecture Series on Oct. 22.

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei welcomed O’Malley and the overflow crowd of students, faculty and staff that came to listen to him. The CEO Lecture Series, she said, was started with the intent of “enhancing the classroom learning experience.”

O’Malley joins a list of Rutgers-educated top executives, including Sheri McCoy, CEO of Avon, Olena Paslawsky, CFO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Michael O’Neill, CEO of BMI, who have participated in the CEO Lecture Series.

In a short question-and-answer session before his talk, O’Malley described the challenge of being at the top, what he looks for in new employees and how he spends Saturdays.

Q. What’s the hardest thing about being the boss?

A. "A lot of times, being the boss is a little bit lonely. There’s a small group of people you can go to with certain types of issues so I tend to look outside the company for people who I can talk to and explore ideas. I have a good friend who was the CEO of the appliance-maker General Electric. He’s retired, but I can sit around and have lunch with him, talk about things and get his perspectives."

Q. What’s the one trait you look for when you’re hiring new managers or employees?

A. "More than anything else it’s integrity."

Q. What’s the best book you’ve read on leadership?

A. "The one that meant an awful lot to me was “What Really Matters” by John Pepper. He was the CEO of Proctor & Gamble for 39 years. He really showed me that leadership is about doing things other than blocking and tackling in a company, it’s about establishing a culture, establishing accountability in a way that people can rally around."

Q: What was the biggest benefit of going to Rutgers for your MBA?

A: “Without having gotten my MBA from Rutgers, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be in the role that I am today. Having that MBA was an expectation, but it helped me develop skills that I was able to take into the business world. What an MBA does is establishes an ability to set a goal and achieve that goal.”

Q: What do you do on Saturdays?

A: "It’s time to spend with family and to play golf."

Q: What advice would you offer young people who aspire to be among the next generation of business leaders?

A: "More than anything, you have to be willing to work harder than the people around you. Especially in the early days of moving up in an organization, you have to be willing to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to be a contributor to the company."

-Susan Todd

TAGS: Alumni CEO Lecture Series Finance Leadership Marketing Thought Leadership