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Steve Presley, Head of Nestlé USA and USF alumnus, to be the Next Guest at the Conversation with a CEO

By Keith Morelli

Steve Presley

TAMPA (June 5, 2019) -- Just over a year ago, Steve Presley, a University of South Florida alumnus, landed one sweet gig. He was appointed CEO of Nestlé USA, a company that boasts close to $10 billion in annual sales with brands that go well beyond Nestlé Toll House cookies.

The company also produces such brands as Lean Cuisine, DiGiorno pizza, Stouffer’s, Nescafé and even Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Presley will return to Tampa to visit his alma mater and be a guest of the Muma College of Business’ Conversation with a CEO scheduled for Sept. 19 from 8:30-10 a.m. in the Center for Advanced Medical Learning Simulation, 124 Franklin St., in downtown Tampa. To register for the event, click here.

Presley, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, began his career with Nestlé more than 20 years ago as a controller for one of the company’s beverage factories in Virginia. He held various roles within the beverage division, including vice president of finance and vice president/general manager of premium ready-to-drink beverages.

Named CEO in April 2018, Presley said he’s ready to tackle the challenges of a corporation whose success depends on the fickle tastes of its consumers. His main goal: implement change while maintaining a culture of success.

“I think any change of leadership at the top inevitably means a shifting culture but, for us, the culture we create – and making talent a priority – is going to be fundamental to our success as a business,” he said. “Many things impact culture. Strategic acquisitions can impact culture, and we’ve made a few of those in the last year. We moved our U.S. headquarters from Glendale, California, to Arlington, Virginia, which definitely means changes to the culture.

 “And we’re really ramping up our future-forward capabilities, from e-commerce to flex manufacturing to the use of analytics and data to drive and inform our decision-making,” he said. “Changing the way you’ve done things in the past requires a change of culture. I think consumers will ultimately be the best judges of Nestlé USA’s culture.”

 The real challenge of a large corporation is keeping in touch with its customers, Presley said, and the food and beverage industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of change.

“Consumer tastes are rapidly evolving and even the way people purchase products is changing by the day,” he said. “But rather than seeing this as pressure, we’re excited by the opportunities to serve our consumers and customers in new ways. You can either wait to be disrupted by this type of sea change, or you disrupt yourself. We’re very much embracing the idea of self-disruption.

“Nestlé USA is a success story and the global brand has a 150-year-plus track record to prove it,” Presley said. “But the status quo will not satisfy today’s consumer. We know that and have been aggressively leading a strategic transformation to meet and exceed this highly disruptive period in our industry. But I’m an intensely competitive guy, so this is where I thrive.” 

Nestlé has been included on the “World’s Most Admired Food Companies” list in Fortune magazine for 20 consecutive years. Nestlé USA is part of the Switzerland-based Nestlé, which is the world’s largest food and beverage company. Employees rate the company well, with a 3.5 out of a 5 rating on Glassdoor and Presley prides himself on the company’s relationships with its employees.

“When I became CEO, I said I would put all of my energy into creating a workplace where collaboration is essential, courage is rewarded, speed is expected and agility is the norm,” Presley said “This is the culture Nestlé USA is embracing, and it’s the culture we need to transform our business to succeed.”

If you make a great company, he said, people won’t want to leave.

“An environment where people are empowered, engaged and passionate is a winning environment,” he said. “Who doesn’t want to be a part of that? It is intense — because I do believe a certain level of drive and intensity is needed to do anything at a high level — but it’s also a good place to be because, face it, winning is fun.”

Intensity breeds thinking beyond the border, a key in maintaining success, he said.

“I believe it takes every single one of our employees to think and act differently if we’re to be the best,” he said. “That’s how you accelerate innovation and that’s how you stay ahead in the marketplace.”

Of his own experience, Presley said his past is part of his future.

“What I can say is that every step in my career — and every job I had — provided me with something that I bring to the office today,” he said. “I never stopped learning. That was true on USF’s campus, and it’s still the case.”