Paul Smucker Wagstaff spreads his wings with Eagle Foods

Curious entrepreneurs wanted

As Wagstaff adds brands to the business, he’s also building the team.

“To me, it always comes down to people,” Wagstaff says. “I love people. I love building teams. I love bringing people together. And that totally excites me because I know and I’ve seen in the past that once you get a good team and you get them all together and you get them working together, you can accomplish incredible things.”

Among the traits Wagstaff looks for in his hires is entrepreneurial spirit, people who can take ownership of their responsibilities, some of which they’ve likely never had before, in an environment that is evolving daily. They need to be curious, able to manage the chaos inherent in a small, but growing organization, and trustworthy.

During interviews, Wagstaff says candidates are asked how they deal with the unexpected. And as much as he’s listening to their responses, he’s also watching their body language and facial expressions to see whether their eyes light up and they smile, or shy away and retreat. A telling micro-expression could eliminate a candidate from the running.

Wagstaff also wants people who can make tough decisions. When faced with the pressure of being the one to make the call, some people feel empowered while others shrink.

“You’ve got to be fearless. You’ve got to be bold. You’ve got to be resourceful.” – Jeff Boyle, Chief Administrative Officer, Eagle Foods.

“You’ve got to be fearless,” Boyle says. “You’ve got to be bold. You’ve got to be resourceful.”

Boyle adds that having experience at a big CPG company is good, but it’s a plus for someone to have had a period of time with a small company or have started their own business. To Boyle and Wagstaff, it means the candidate understands how to work within the ever-evolving environment of a burgeoning company.

In the driver’s seat

Now fully on his own with a growing portfolio of brands and dedicated staff, Wagstaff reflects on what it felt like to finally be wholly responsible for every company decision, to operate independent of an established infrastructure and set out into the marketplace on his own volition.

“I loved it, frankly. It was very exciting. It was very fulfilling,” Wagstaff says. “I enjoy the difficulties as much as the rewards. One thing Jeff and I talk about often is when you buy a business, everyone thinks who hasn’t been involved in the whole cross-buying business that it’s a big celebration and that everything’s wonderful. You feel this elation afterwards … And that really doesn’t happen.

“Because of the hard work that goes into an acquisition, it is tough. You have to really enjoy working hard and understand that just when you think that you’ve got all the roadblocks knocked out of your way, there’s going to be six more that pop up, and not get discouraged with that. You have to be able to weather that type of difficulty and be OK with it, and feel energized and empowered and say ‘we’re going to find solutions; we’re going to cut through that.’”