Sabra Dipping Company, LLC

Leadership Team Alignment

How Sabra Spreads High-Performance

You will be resigning from your position, which you have held since 2007. Why?

I want to return to Israel to rejoin the rest of my family. I’ve been away a long time!

What’s the obligation of a departing CEO to his or her organization?

It depends on the company situation. At Sabra, we have been growing between 20 and 30 percent a year. In seven years, we went from $50 million in revenue to a half-billion dollars in 2014. My responsibility is to ensure that there is a clear path for maintaining the growth momentum well into the future—and that we have the right capabilities in place to continue along that path. But, more important than the bottom line, is that I leave behind the right values and culture. These are what make us who we are—and articulating and embedding those values is the unique responsibility of a CEO.

What are Sabra’s unique values?

Trust, openness, and a focus on high-performance are our cornerstone values, which, by the way, we’ve translated into specific behaviors.

What are the most important actions you’ve taken to ensure that your legacy will remain in place after you’ve departed?

We have in place a 10-year strategy to guide the next generation of decision makers. Regarding values, during the past six months I have spent a major amount of time visiting every Sabra site to meet with each employee to explain the “why” behind our values and behaviors and to ensure that everyone understands their importance. Strategy will change. Values will not.

Succession planning:

What have you done to green your successor?

10 months ago, we decided who was going to replace me. We brought on board a talented Israeli executive, Shalit Shoval, and named her chief marketing officer. We wanted to make sure that she had a deep understanding of our customer base, both in the U.S. and internationally. I’ve worked very closely with her to ensure that she has a thorough grasp of the entire business and, most importantly, the values that guide it.

Is creating a high-performance organization part of your exit strategy?

Yes. As part of the transition, we’ve held several alignment sessions with my successor and the senior team. The high-performance approach, which reflects our values, is a crucial factor in our growth and success, and will continue to be after I leave.

When did you first begin the journey to the high-performance model?

We began in either 2008 or 2009. In order to make high-performance part of the organization’s DNA, you need to make sure that you drill down the approach, step-by-step, throughout the organization. We started with the leadership team and branched out from there. Sometimes you have to make the tough decision to change players. Some executives are just not comfortable with the requirements of a high-performance culture and are not coachable.

Did you go beyond the top team in building a high-performance culture?

We involved every manager in the company in alignment sessions and developing the capabilities to lead effectively in the new environment.

Did having a high-performance culture in place help increase your confidence that you are leaving Sabra in good hands?

The high-performance approach enables everyone to work faster, to have an opportunity to have greater input into decisions, and to play a bigger role. People understand that success isn’t dependent on whether or not I leave the company. It’s dependent on leveraging—and putting into action—the brainpower of everyone in the organization. That’s what the high-performance model is all about. And it’s why I’m confident that Sabra is in good hands.

What have you done to ensure that the high-performance culture and values “stick?”

I have to make sure that it’s not all about me. You have to get managers at every level committed and believing that, “Yes, this is the way we want to play the game and live our life in our company.” To do this, you have to go beyond the small team at the top to engage the broader organization.

How did you take a substance like hummus, which was alien to the American palette, and make it a household spread?

You start with the need. The world needed a much healthier alternative to dips and spreads. Hummus was around for a long time, but it wasn’t very tasty. The challenge was to go to market with a quality, uniquely tasty product to satisfy the need. Then you had to change perception. Hummus had a reputation for looking ugly and lacking taste. “What the heck are chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, anyway? I don’t want to try that!” The trick was to get people to try the product.

How? Did you just give away hummus?

During the early years, we spent a lot of time, effort, and money on a nationwide campaign to give away millions of samples of hummus. We went to high-traffic areas and just gave the product away. The typical reaction was, “Wow! That’s pretty good.” We didn’t necessarily make an immediate sale, but we began to change mind-sets.

Designed & developed by Greenfield/Belser Ltd.