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DEERFIELD, Ill. — After 27 years in the industry, Laura Asbell has the relatively unique experience of being a longtime veteran of the same organization, yet having worked for a variety of companies.
"I have been with the same brand for 27 years, but it has been five different companies," Asbell said. "I've managed to go through the processes of being bought, being sold, being merged, being split, and then finally to a company that was created as a startup."
Since getting her start as a territory sales representative, Asbell has held roles ranging from district manager to key account manager to national account manager to her current role. She’s also led the Walmart and McLane teams for Mondelēz International’s predecessors.
Today, Asbell is the convenience channel subject matter expert for Mondelēz and leads the distributor and wholesaler teams. Her influence includes budget oversight, customer revenue, geographic sales territory, and leadership through organizational transformation. This means everything from plan development through execution of Mondelēz's strategy for its products in the channel. On a day-to-day basis, this translates to a large number of planning meetings.
"Either managing for future plans or aligning on current plans — a lot of that is done every day in terms of making sure I give the channel's perspective and my customers' perspective to our headquarters," explained Asbell.
To reach her current position, she worked to balance her goal of managing larger customers with being able to raise a family in the Dallas region. As a result, she was able to find both professional and personal satisfaction.
"My goals … are all about continuous improvement and making sure that I'm challenged, adding value and, above all, happy," Asbell said. "I don't need to climb the ladder — I would rather take on positions and responsibilities that continue to keep me growing."
As a result of her efforts, Asbell's accolades include the President’s Award for Cadbury; Vendor of the Year Award, Consumer Insights & Technology, McLane Convenience; Vendor of the Year, Walmart; Living Values Award, Kraft Foods; and Manager's Award, Mondelēz.
Her experience has taught her the importance of both making connections and standing independently. She is active in and has held leadership roles with the Network of Executive Women, Women Unlimited, and the Women's Sales Council for Mondelēz, among others.
"It's important to make sure you develop a network so you have champions in your court," Asbell said. "You have to drive that. You have to be responsible for it. It's about the choices you want to make that are best for you."
While Asbell "puts a lot of energy into" mentoring both male and female colleagues at Mondelēz, she urges her mentees to take ownership of the mentor relationship and decide the best way it can drive their professional goals. As a result, she says, they get much more out of the mentorship, while still making use of the support and time she offers them.
"Take responsibility for your own career and drive it in the direction that best suits you," Asbell advised. "Appreciate the value of networking and having your champion. So much of any industry is about who you know vs. what you know — the who is just as critical."
Asbell is one of five Women of the Year and among 62 female managers, directors and executives working in the convenience store industry who are being honored in the third-annual Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience awards program this year. An awards reception will take place Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Atlanta, coinciding with the 2016 NACS Show.