James D. White: Great leaders build great companies by being active learners

I am privileged to work for and honored to lead an iconic, lifestyle brand that satisfies the growing consumer demand for healthier foods and beverages, a brand that is rapidly growing from a nationally recognized symbol for health and wellness to a global one.

Getting Jamba Juice to such a great place was no easy task — the company had its share of challenges when I came on board. I have always been inspired to do my best work against the biggest challenges and the opportunity to lead Jamba’s turnaround has given me the chance to put into practice lessons I have learned from 30 years of working for and with great leaders, great brands and great companies.

Building great teams

I’ve learned from and been inspired by legendary CEOs like Roberto Goizueta at Coca-Cola, Bill Stiritz at Ralston Purina, Jim Kilts at Gillette and Steve Burd at Safeway Stores. These leaders all shared a common trait: They recognized that by developing others in their organizations into great leaders, they were building teams which could create great brands and great companies. It is a strategy that has served me well in my own career.

The best leaders invest heavily in people, building leaders and creating processes that empower each person to do his or her best work. The varied approaches, styles and personalities of the above named CEOs have allowed me to take the best from the best, which I have distilled into five key principles:

1. Customer first — Adopt a mindset to always be externally focused on the consumer, creating solutions for known and unknown consumer needs.

2. Over invest in people — Strong companies and brands are enabled by skilled teams that are highly engaged in the mission and strategies of the company. Your investment in people has a high ROI.

3. Leadership courage is paramount — You must be willing to stand alone in your beliefs and not be swayed or distracted by those who would take an easier or more popular path. Go out on a limb … that’s where the fruit is.

4. Leaders must be teachers and active learners — Great brands and companies actively learn, adapt and adjust quickly to marketplace opportunities and challenges.

5. Company culture really matters — I’ve learned that the company culture matters more than the strategy. It’s been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
It’s a great honor and responsibility to lead a wonderful brand like Jamba Juice, and I work each day to apply the principles above and try to “squeeze the day!”

James D. White is chairman, president and CEO of Jamba Juice Co. James has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA from Fontbonne University.

Learn more about Jamba Juice Co. at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jambajuice
Twitter @JambaJuice

How to reach: www.jambajuice.com