August 26, 2008
News & Opinion: How the Wise Decide: Dermot Dunphy, Part II
: : : : : : :
Formulating a vision is one thing, executing it quite another. The first thing Dermot Dunphy had to decide when he became CEO of Sealed Air was how to build a sales team that could best take advantage of the Bubble Wrap opportunity. He knew dozens of top-notch packaging salesmen, the kind who had Rolodexes bulging with the names of good customers. If he could lure them away from their perches at established companies to join an unknown, unprofitable company they would give Sealed Air an instant foot in the door of the purchasing departments at hundreds of potential customers. Yet he knew they also would bring with them ingrained ways of doing business: discounts, price cuts, deals.
No thanks. Dunphy's vision of what he wanted Sealed Air to become sent him down a different path. "We didn't hire anybody from other packaging companies," he explains. "We started off with the assumption that we wanted our people to be superior. Somebody from the packaging industry would just bring with him the same old mindset. Instead, we only hired people just out of school or people who worked at technical companies like Hewlett Packard or superior sales companies like Procter & Gamble. Then we taught them packaging."[i]
Finding and training a cadre of sales people to sell benefits, not products, was a costly and time consuming solution, but Dunphy believed it was the only way for Sealed Air to succeed. The sales team would bring a fresh approach, selling promises of protection in an industry in which price had prevailed. But was that all it would take?
: : : : :
Next up, the lesson.
[i] Dunphy interview with Harvard Business School, page 8.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.