Monumental shifts in alternative proteins sector require differential leaders, precise timing

Last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave final approval for two companies – Upside Foods and Good Meat – to produce and sell cultivated meat commercially within the United States.

Upside Foods’ Chief Operations Officer Amy Chen called the regulatory approvals a “watershed moment” for the food industry as a whole while addressing the attendees at the recent Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins conference in New York. Further remarks from Chen outlined the history of cultivated meat and alternative proteins and what’s yet to come.

This niche sector has a massive undertaking on the horizon: scaling. The needs of this segment are robust and unique, requiring differential leaders at the helm. Managing Directors Lisa Johnson and Paul Izenstark weighed in on the trait and timing needs of this sector:

Traits: Collaborative Pioneers Wanted

Leading in a space as ever-changing as alternative proteins isn’t an easy feat. Ground-breaking innovation requires leaders who are eager to disrupt the status quo and take strategic, calculated risks.

Paul: This sector and its groundbreaking  advances are a direct result of pioneering leaders who possess the vision and insight to push boundaries and  build new frontiers. That’s the mark of a great disruptive leader. Having leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ) is especially important to create mission-focused cultures as organizations in this sector scale. The transitions will be frequent, and turbulence is inevitable in this phase, meaning leaders have to lean on more than their hard technical skills to successfully adapt and manage the unsteadiness of scaling.

Lisa: The level of collaboration required to compete in this space is unprecedented. Not only are we talking about internal collaboration across departments and functions, but we’re also seeing an astounding level of collaboration between organizations within the sector as well as with those outside of it. Stakeholders from all walks of life, including those from the conventional meat industry, see the potential here, so in addition to being collaborative, leaders in this space also need to be able to communicate effectively across a wide range of audiences.

But it’s not enough to identify what traits would make a leader a great fit in this space. Knowing when to hire them is crucial to the success of a scaling organization.

Timing: Being Proactive is Key

A sustainable, scaled-up business will likely look very different from the original startup organization, and it’s all driven by growth. The strategy behind when to hire what functions is a key component of success when scaling.

Lisa: To ensure continued momentum during scaling, organizations should identify the critical roles within that need to be filled. Businesses that are proactive in hiring – both in starting the process of recruiting as well as prioritizing it in the budget – avoid losing top talent. The process for recruiting a leader can be upwards of six to nine months from identification of a candidate to onboarding with the new organization, so taking steps early on really makes a difference.

Paul: The pace of change in scaling organizations is so different from that of an established business. Indecisiveness undermines any planning and prioritizing done ahead of time, so organizations need to act quickly once the decision to hire is made. Utilizing a third party can mitigate the risk associated with the recruiting process. Not only does it provide a faster, more comprehensive search, the neutral credibility of a third party ensures a strong start for the new leader.   

If you’re interested in connecting with Lisa or Paul on your leadership needs, contact them here.