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Renee Pearson appreciates the value of a strategic road map. However, she admits that—in the early days—she didn’t always have one for her career.
“A lot of people try to plan or chart their course. My journey has been a little bit different in that, oftentimes, I took jobs that were brand-new and had never been defined before,” Pearson says.
Pearson’s willingness to blaze new trails has brought her to Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), a wine and spirits distributor where she serves as senior vice president of digital transformation and business engagement. With her technology expertise and innovative mindset, she is driving the company’s growth in the present––while keeping one eye fixed firmly on the future.
Before landing at RNDC in August 2020, Pearson spent nearly twenty years at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a global provider of consumer products where she led teams in business intelligence, information technology (IT) strategy, and innovation. During her tenure, she facilitated international business teams in the divestiture of Kimberly-Clark’s healthcare operation, an experience that offered her a new perspective on how international companies operate.
As Pearson honed her understanding of data and technology, she began to realize the possibilities at her fingertips. “I saw a need and an opportunity for us to elevate what our business could do with technology,” she says. “So, out of passion, I developed an informal innovation team on the side.”
With the support of Kimberly-Clark’s leadership, Pearson’s new team went global and even commercialized an Internet of Things product in the US. For Pearson, though, it was time to look outside the organization for her next challenge. She moved to a competitor, Georgia-Pacific, for about two years, during which time she oversaw business integration and change in an end-to-end digital transformation program for the consumer division.
When RNDC came calling, Pearson knew the distributor would be a great fit for her skill set. She also knew she could continue breaking new professional ground as a leader at RNDC, which encourages higher-ups to dive in alongside their teams.
“My current leadership style is more situational,” she says, explaining that she once believed leadership to be one-size-fits-all. “I try to tailor my leadership and how I work with people to the experience of each team member and to the situation at hand.”
Beyond adapting to the situation, Pearson strives to keep her team on the same page when it comes to RNDC’s long-term goals. “One of the most important aspects of leadership—along with trust and communication—is establishing a vision. If your team doesn’t understand the overall vision and their role in that vision, they aren’t going to function well as a team or reach their full potential,” she says.
As for the vision itself, Pearson is building a strategy around data, process, and technology—all of which she sees as enablers for achieving business outcomes. She’s streamlining what RNDC has gained through recent mergers and acquisitions to accelerate future business growth and speed of integration.
“As we mature business processes, there are opportunities to look at automation,” she says. “Once you’ve got a standardized and optimized process that can be automated, technology is great at increasing speed, delivery, and consistency.”
Furthermore, Pearson has established a technology innovation council to help RNDC capitalize on promising ideas. “It’s about understanding the potential of those ideas, presenting them to the business, and incubating them while we figure out which ones are right to move through the pipeline,” she elaborates. “We’re only at the beginning stages, but it’s something I’m continuing to drive internally to make sure that we have places for ideas to go and we’re identifying opportunities to accelerate business growth.”
“Renee is a forward-thinking senior executive who fully recognizes the power of data to drive insights that enable business growth,” says Andrew Wells, CEO and founding partner of Aspirent Consulting. “We’re proud to partner with her on RNDC’s digital and analytics journey.”
As she steers RNDC’s growth, Pearson makes a point of giving back to the Atlanta metropolitan area where she lives and works. She empowers other women in IT through membership in organizations such as Women in Technology and Women Business Collaborative, and she leverages her role as a board member for local nonprofit Inspiredu.
“The mission of Inspiredu is to close the digital divide—very simply, to make sure every child has the digital capabilities to learn in today’s environment,” she says. “Being in a technology field, I have opportunities to connect corporate sponsors with Inspiredu to help schools provide digital literacy to students and families. RNDC, for example, was able to donate older tablets and laptops to Inspiredu, who then partnered with schools in the community to provide hardware and digital learning tools to students.”
Pearson is proud of the ways she’s using technology to enable RNDC and its future. “The best part about working in technology is that it’s always changing. There’s always new technology capabilities to learn and [always a need to] figure out how they apply to your business and your industry,” she says.
And as new ideas and technologies change the business landscape for RNDC and its enterprises, you can be sure that Pearson will be in the driver seat, ready to change course and blaze fresh trails.
Thoughts from Guest Editor Christine Vanderpool
“Renee Pearson’s adaptive style and approach in working with others accompanied by having a clear strategic plan forward has been key to her success. She is making waves not only at RNDC but in her community by giving back.”