MISSION, RGV – Mark Peterson, a retired leader of Global Business Development, Sales and Innovation for Procter & Gamble, is Mission EDC’s new Expert-in-Residence.
Peterson spent 40 years at Procter & Gamble (P&G) in various areas such as sales, corporate finance, licensing trademarks, technology and joint ventures. His goals for the next three months will be to support and advise the startups throughout the Rio Grande Valley. An expert-in-residence at Mission EDC’s Center for Education & Economic Development usually stays for three months.
Peterson says there is one thing that he admires that sets the region apart from the business culture of the midwest.
“What we have here [in the Rio Grande Valley] and it’s very obvious is that people are willing to take risks versus Ohio where folks were very loathe to give up their steady paycheck of a day job. I’m encouraged by the culture here and that’s the willingness to take the risk and leap into a new business,” Peterson said.
Peterson says every startup has different problems and different challenges that may require different guidance. Each startup is unique and requires a deep understanding of their business needs, he explained. However, one common factor for all startups is the combination of operating excellence and how to grow demand.
“My early insights are a combination of how do they get introduced into the right places to create more demand for their product, but equally how do they also make sure that they have an operating plan where they can grow their production capacity in line with our growing demand,” Peterson said.
“I’m going to help them [learn] how to structure some agreements that might let them narrow their focus while not leaving money on the table, get fairly compensated for the businesses that they built and that can be hard to do with small businesses.”
One common goal regional startups have is venturing outside the Rio Grande Valley. Peterson believes his networking and connections outside of the Valley will help startups grow to the next level. Other strategies Peterson has to offer to other startups is executive coaching and portfolio management because many times startups may have two or three businesses to manage.
“An interesting conversation I had with entrepreneurs who have busy portfolios is the art and science of delegating things so that you don’t have to do everything because otherwise your time, effort and energy becomes a rate limiter to your growth and that’s a real problem for a lot of entrepreneurs,” Peterson said.
“So we can talk about how they prioritize their efforts there or if they have [a business] that’s generating some cash and they have to keep putting time [into] it. How do they find a way to exit that business and create a profit stream or generate capital to invest in the new business they really want to spend full-time on.”
When Peterson retired from P&G in 2016, he turned to consulting startup businesses for further growth and development. He says he is really passionate about helping startups and will do everything to make things happen.
“I love the vision of economic development corporations not betting on just finding the next plant to attract which is important to do because it attracts jobs, but adapting to the startup community, the entrepreneurial spirit and the talent in the Valley to create successful startups,” Peterson said. “I’m here to serve the community and would really love to find a way to help some of these companies become stars throughout Texas and maybe beyond Texas.”
Peterson graduated from the University of Notre Dame with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. As he went through the multiple rounds of interviews, one of the questions he was asked was to tell the panel about a time when he had to persuade someone about something he felt was important to him. At the time, Peterson was the first varsity head coach for tennis at St. Mary’s University and used getting that position as an example.
“I wasn’t sure if could sell. I hadn’t been in sales and they were interviewing for a sales position,” Peterson said. “I told the story about getting the athletic director, a nun, to agree to let me be the varsity head coach unchaperoned at 19- or 20-years-old, driving a bus load of college women tennis players around the midwest to tennis matches.”
Peterson began his 40-year career with P&G in Chicago in sales in the restaurant industry, the institutional industry and later retail. He then moved to Canada to run the laundry and food businesses, introduced a few products to the country and later ran the P&G business in Canada which had about $2.5 billion in sales and 800 employees.
“I made a career change coming back to the U.S. and went into corporate finance and into P&G’s licensing team that did in-and-out licensing of trademarks, technologies, minority equity investments and joint ventures,” Peterson said.
“Then I ended up leading for the last eight years or so of my career the global transactions team. I had a team of folks who were negotiating with inevitably what was always smaller companies because of P&G’s size to bring their technology in [and] to take our technology out, for them to license our trademarks and for us to license their trademarks and all the different various options. I learned a lot about working with smaller companies and their needs.”
From 2010 to 2016, Peterson served as a part of the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Advisory Board which was created to find new sources of revenue throughout the state.
“We were funding startup communities around the State of Ohio to rebuild the economy,” Peterson said. “We [invested] about 100 to 175 million a year to work in the centers around the State of Ohio to try to reinvent Ohio’s economy.”
Mark Peterson, expert in residence at Mission EDC’s Center for Education & Economic Development, discusses his work.
Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Friday, March 16, 2018