The country’s third-largest Coca-Cola bottler, Swire Coca-Cola, has been operating in Utah since 1978. Standing at the helm of this 1,800-employee force is CEO Jack Pelo.
Pelo was appointed CEO in 1996 and has overseen a period of growth and expansion. Recently, Swire Coca-Cola was granted the territory of eastern Colorado, a territory it has never before controlled. This will, in effect, increase its business operations by 70 percent.
And in May, Pelo was tapped to serve on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council. He also serves as director of the American Beverage Association and the Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Association.
Throughout his accomplished career, Pelo has been guided by the philosophy that every team member has a critical role to play and that communication between people and departments is vital if the company is to achieve its objectives.
“Of all the attributes of an organization, teamwork is No. 1,” he says. “Being successful depends on having the best possible team.”
Specifically, Pelo believes everyone must have a clear understanding of individual, team and company goals. There must be an unmistakable realization of whether success is or is not being attained.
“It’s important to let people know what’s going on,” he says. “Communication goes two ways. The challenge is to give and receive good feedback. My priority and my goals are that the team needs to know what winning is. Nothing is worse than thinking you’re winning but you’re really not.”
At Swire Coca-Cola, Pelo instituted a core of 15 values: teamwork, communicate, progress, quality, courage, productivity, fearlessness, execution, initiative, honesty, understanding, creativity, focus and leadership. These philosophical guidelines are important because top performance is essential in this highly competitive industry.
Pelo is driven to succeed and to always be at his best. And he expects the same from his employees. “I’ve always been competitive and have wanted to win,” he says.
Still, he cautions that people in any industry and at any level in an organization must maintain proper balance. In his experience, Pelo has seen all too often people who have anxiety about coming to work, who are distracted by their personal life. Conversely, he is troubled by those who neglect away-from-work responsibilities and pursuits. In both cases, employees can suffer from burnout, frustration and lack of productivity.
“Life balance is critical,” he says. “You’ve got to come to work every day with a good attitude. But you also have to take time to enjoy your family and the things you like to do.”
No company successes, however, bring more gratitude and pleasure to Pelo than to see individual victories from people with whom he works. Whether large or small, the accomplishments of individuals are what make his job so rewarding.
“When I see someone succeed, I feel good,” he says. “When I see a plan come together, it brings a great sense of joy.”
Beyond his own company and team, Pelo has advice for new and aspiring leaders that he follows himself. “Always challenge yourself,” he says. “You have to take calculated risks—not reckless ones—and you’ve got to take some chances.”