The AICC Emerging Leaders (ELs) program continues to offer development opportunities through virtual and in-person events. Even with a hectic Covid-ridden year, the ELs have found creative ways to grow engagement and connect with each other. 

After the restructured program was announced in Spring 2020, the EL delegates faced the challenge of navigating the murky waters of increasing participation and engagement of members while in a pandemic. This restructured program focused on ELs taking initiative and helping to create the program that they were seeking. Opportunities like writing articles for industry publications, speaking at industry meetings, or contributing to the program in other ways, was highly encouraged by delegates and program coordinators. 

“This is their opportunity to flex those creative muscles and get involved in an industry association and network with others who are like minded and are learning the industry,” said Daniel Brettschneider, Emerging Leaders Senior Delegate.

Socially Distanced Networking 

Delegates gathered input from the EL Committee to create a plan moving forward, starting with networking and keeping ELs engaged with their group. The delegates planned several virtual trainings and networking events via Zoom. That first event planned was a virtual “field trip” that included a wine tasting led by Uncorked Winery. That event was very successful and was followed up by a virtual happy hour with members. Companies like Wasatch Container, Bay Cities, Carlisle Container and Southern Carton Company contributed in different ways to create and mail “happy hour kits” to ELs, that included a snack, a beer, a bottle sanitizer and an invitation to join the ELs for a night of networking and catching up with each other. The kits served as a clever way to engage the group during state lockdowns. The networking events were well attended and many ELs reported that it was “just nice to see familiar faces and connect, even if it was just virtually.” 

“We’re an industry that has historically based their whole sales premise on relationship building and personal interactions. These relationships could take years to grow and come to fruition. This program gives people a safe place to learn, ask questions and build their network, while growing professionally,” said Cassi Malone, Emerging Leaders Junior Delegate.

Access To Executives

The next piece of the plan to tackle was to provide ELs with direct access to “C-level” executives within and outside of the corrugated industry. Access to executives has been high on the priority list for current EL members and is often reported in EL surveys as one of the most valuable parts of the program. To address this desire of ELs, the programs sponsors: Scott Ellis and Virginia Humphrey; along with the EL delegates, have planned a series of virtual C-Suite webinars to be held quarterly. Each of the C-suite webinars will cover a different topic including: Finance, Operations, Sales and Human Resources, and include a time for questions from the ELs. 

In February, ELs joined virtually to hear from Kevin and Matt Ausburn of SMC Packaging. They learned about leadership challenges, success tips and lessons learned throughout their years of growing their ESOP company. 

This series is hosted free of charge for all ELs. Next quarter’s C-suite webinar will focus on sales and marketing and is scheduled for May 20th at 3:00pm EST. With a sales focus in this webinar, the discussion will be centered around recreating a sales strategy when a client base has been significantly disrupted.

Spring Meeting Training

The AICC Spring Meeting has traditionally been a gathering place of familiar EL faces and this year will be no different. The delegates are excited for the first in-person EL event this year and look forward to the training that will be offered during the Spring Meeting, that will be held in Amelia Island, Florida.  

This year’s Spring Meeting training will be led by program sponsor, Scott Ellis, in advance of publishing his new book, “Uncluttered Life.” The workshop will provide activities to help ELs identify individual goals and aspirations that are important to them, in order to help them create a three-year plan of professional and personal goals. The workshop will also provide resources to continue the work of reducing the clutter of activities, personal history and distractions from work and home. This training will be offered virtually for those that are unable to attend the in-person event. 

Regional Ambassadors

Along with planning networking events and trainings, the ELs have launched a new initiative to reach out to prospective ELs within the AICC association and grow membership. The Regional Ambassadors are current ELs who have volunteered to recruit new members and plan regional events as Covid restrictions are lifted. They will be identifying prospective ELs and reaching out to AICC member companies to spread the word and share the benefits of participating in the program. 

“We’ve had several ELs who were getting a lot out of the program and wanted to find a way to get involved. From those conversations, the Regional Ambassador positions were created. We see this as an excellent opportunity to help our ELs network with industry professionals in their geographical region and to grow the program by seeking out more of the industry’s motivated young professionals,” said Cassi.

Freshman Delegate Position

As the program has evolved, so has the structure of the leadership. In October, Lauren Frisch of Wasatch Container, was elected as Freshman Delegate of the Emerging Leaders. The Freshman Delegate position was created to give the incoming delegate enough time to familiarize themselves with their role on the AICC Board of Directors, understand the current vision and initiatives, and learn from the Junior and Senior Delegates so they feel prepared to carry out the overall AICC Emerging Leaders’ mission. Each year a new freshman delegate will be elected and the former person in that role will move into the Junior Delegate position. The Senior Delegate role will serve as a position of guidance and leadership for the other two delegates and will “graduate” from the program after their term is complete.

“We congratulate Lauren on this accomplishment and are excited to have her in this new role as freshman delegate,” says Cassi.

Lauren is the Account Executive at Wasatch Container, a Salt Lake City custom packaging company, and is the daughter of Jerry Frisch, owner of Wasatch Container and a longstanding member of AICC.

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to grow the Emerging Leaders program. My goal is to install confidence and a strong passion for the packaging industry in our upcoming leaders,” says Lauren.

Continuous Improvement

From conception of the EL program, it’s continued to evolve and improve. The EL Delegates and committee members have re-evaluated the program as a whole, in an effort to take the already successful program and add more value to it. 

“We looked at the benefits to the ELs, their companies and the association, along with getting feedback and ideas from all of the stakeholders, and have made some changes that we hope will set this program up for many years of success,” said Brettschneider. “Last year was a challenge for everyone but we used that time to create and plan new programs and opportunities for ELs to  reconnect in-person or virtually.”

“The virtual options will really push the goal of recruiting and engaging more young professionals that can’t attend large, national in-person meetings due to time, money, or other commitments,” said Cassi. “We have created a landscape that can appeal to all young professionals within our industry, as we are creating content and networking opportunities virtually, regionally, and nationally.” 

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