As contemporary leaders highlight the need for better collaboration and diversity to bring out the best in their people, it has increasingly become a matter of who’s on the team and how the collective can work together on achieving a common goal. This has been a way of life for Andrew Loader.

As the newly minted General Manager of Mars Wrigley Confectionery (MWC) in Australia, the man born and raised in country Victoria is full of energy about what his team can deliver in a new era for the confectionery business, which combines the Mars Chocolate and Wrigley businesses into one.

Launched on 1 January 2018, MWC Australia is part of Mars, Incorporated – a consumer goods powerhouse that generates almost US$35 billion in sales from its global business interests in food, confectionery and pet food.

That the business is privately owned by the Mars family, holds special significance for Andrew, who lives in Melbourne with his wife, Kim, and three children. Family to him means ‘team’, in work and in life. As one of six children, growing up on a farm, he quickly learned that both family and team needs will, by necessity, trump individual needs virtually every time.

A tight-knit community is key

“You learn very early on that one person cannot do everything, nor can one person expect everything to be done for them,” he says. “On a farm, it’s a tight-knit community where everyone has to contribute. You are there for each other, but you have a higher purpose because the farm has to succeed to keep you alive.

“That has helped me through life. The more senior a leader you become, the less the day is about you and the more it is about the team. As the leader, I have to manage the complexity and keep the whole program as simple as possible for our Associates – knowing that under the surface of the water everyone is paddling as fast as they can.”

Andrew Loader General Manager of Mars Wrigley Confectionery
Andrew Loader, General Manager of Mars Wrigley Confectionery

This year, it is all about setting the foundations for the business. “Even though our local operations began in Australia more than 100 years ago, Mars Wrigley Confectionery is a new business and all our Associates get to take real ownership for its success,” he says. He considers this his biggest challenge as the team focuses on building the business for the next 50 years.

“It is massively exciting as we embark on the MWC journey, and it’s also a huge responsibility.” A key to a smooth merger of both units is the people: “They are the most important thing to me – in combining as one team we’re consolidating some incredible and diverse talent with deep expertise in the confectionery space,” says Andrew, referring to his almost 800-strong workforce.

“Our corporate values help us get through some of our tougher times as a team. They give us a consistent foundation to work from and a window where anyone can ask – does this meet our Five Principles around Quality, Mutuality, Responsibility, Efficiency or Freedom?”

As with all businesses, Andrew is very aware that more than ever, the organisation needs to be agile and evolve with the marketplace. “Digital transformation is a focus area for us,” he says. “Capability in the digital space will better connect us with our consumers, it will give vital insights into how consumers connect with our brands – it will even tell us how they shop.”

Producing products that make people smile

A marker of pride for Andrew and his team came in 2017 when Mars Australia was named the best large company to work for in Australia in the Great Place to Work® Institute 2017 rankings. “Winning awards is a good thing, but there are always things that can be improved,” says Andrew. “We are just at the start, nowhere near the finished product. There will be a lot of mistakes and lessons to come and I’ll be the first to face up to them. Progress over perfection is our mantra.”

With its new operating model, MWC is spread across Australian urban, suburban and regional centres. The new MWC entity is headquartered in Melbourne – with a factory in Sydney’s northern suburbs, and a technical hub and factory in Ballarat, which houses the R&D, engineering, commercial and supply functions.

“Put simply, we produce products that make people smile,” he says. “Yes, we can talk about our global business and scale, but when all is said and done what we do is very simple. We want to make people smile, take a break and enjoy a moment for a treat.”

A moment of pride, shared by the man who knows that the game is bigger than the individual.