Truck Driver Turned CEO, Dr Pepper's Larry Young Lends Career Advice to Students
Larry Young's 30-year career in the beverage industry began with him driving a truck for Pepsi Co. Now, as the CEO and president of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, he's proof of his father's belief that if you work hard enough, one day you might run the company.
Young, who was appointed chairman of the American Beverage Association in 2008, spoke on campus Nov. 14 as part of the Undergraduate Business Council’s VIP Speaker Series.
Young was named president and CEO in October 2007, leading the spinoff of Dr Pepper Snapple Group from Cadbury Schweppes in May 2008.
Born and raised on a farm, Young told the audience that he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t work. Young’s father instilled a strong sense of work ethic and discipline in him, which still influences his approach as CEO. “I can remember my dad telling me, ‘If you’re a street cleaner, be the best street cleaner out there,’” Young said.
Young emphasized that sense of work ethic, but also advised the students in the audience to find jobs they love, as well as a sense of balance.
“It is great to be successful in your career, but you have to balance that career, you have to balance family, you have to balance spirituality,” he said. “If not, a lot of people in this [CEO] career will burn out.”
The motto of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Young explained, is to be the best. He said that his company has acknowledged they might not be the biggest drink production company, but they can still be the best. Being the best, he explained, is achieved when your competitor’s employees want to go work for you.
“We believe in our slogan, we stay with it, and our shareholders really enjoy it,” Young said. “We aren’t the biggest, but we tell people what we are going to do and we do it. We generate a lot of cash and give it back to shareholders.”
Dr Pepper Snapple pursues being the best drink manufacturing company using both product innovation and corporate social responsibility, Young said.
"We not only do CSR as a large corporation, we also make sure that each one of our 168 locations and our 24 manufacturing facilities are a part of their community, are a part of their society, and are doing the right thing so we can become the best beverage company in the Americas."
Young talked in depth about the challenges Dr Pepper Snapple faces in marketing specific products to different regions or demographics. The company is currently marketing low-calorie Dr Pepper and is in the process of developing other similar products.
His biggest mistake as CEO, he said, was overlooking Red Bull as a potentially successful product.
“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake,” Young advised the crowd. “Learn from them, and just don’t make the same mistake twice.”