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Women Who Mean Business

Julie Swift is a Woman Who Means Business

Sales tactics come naturally to Julie Swift. She has led sales teams, revitalized a languishing revenue stream at The French’s Food Co. and now is on a mission to make the food industry more equitable and inclusive.

By Adrienne Donica | Makeup by Emily Edgar using MAC Cosmetics | Shot on location at Glass Hall at Missouri State University

Mar 2019

Julie Swift, Vice President for Waypoint
Photo by Brandon AlmsJulie Swift, Vice President for Waypoint Purchase Photo

Julie Swift likes to say her title should be Sprinkler of Happy Dust. That’s partly because her title has changed several times since Swift joined Waypoint in January 2018. But also because she spends a lot of time investing in people, her clients and her professional relationships. Sprinkling happy dust is her preferred method of connection, her best sales tool and part of who Swift is. Her eyes twinkle from behind large tortoise shell frames and her blond hair spills down to her shoulders in loose curls. She’s quick to laugh and quicker to tell you a story in her Texas twang that has persisted despite living in the Ozarks for almost 30 years.

“I’ve just always loved the food industry,” says Swift, 60, who is a vice president at Waypoint. The Florida-based food service broker acts as a middleman between food manufacturers and food service providers. Swift’s first job in the industry, however, was decidedly less glamorous. She worked in the deli at a national grocery store chain, where she cut mold off cheese and re-wrapped it. When she asked to join the company’s management training program, she was told she didn’t have the right experience. She switched roles and asked again. That’s when the district manager more or less told her the company didn’t choose women for the program because they get pregnant. Within a year, Swift had joined her family’s grocery store before starting at a food broker in Dallas, where she eventually ran a sales team.

“It wasn’t until I started to embrace failure as the path to success that I really started to see like, ‘Dang, there’s something to this.’”
— Julie Swift

In the early 1990s, her husband got a job in Springfield, and the family relocated. At the time, The French’s Food Co. was hiring a marketing manager. Having never graduated college, Swift lacked the position’s education requirements. Her husband convinced her to apply anyway. Confidence regained, she waited in the lobby until she could hand her resume directly to the hiring manager. “I looked her right in the eyes and said, ‘I really think you want to talk to me about this position,’” Swift says. Nine interviews later, she got the job and spent the next decade or so in marketing.

Those years taught her a different side of selling and helped develop her strategic and analytical skills. Then, a position opened in sales at French’s. Swift joined the food service leadership team as director of business development. “We took a channel within food service that we knew was very underdeveloped, and then we developed it out to be the fastest growing channel in the [food service division].” And by we, Swift really means she. Sales for the non-commercial channel grew more than tenfold under Swift’s command. Not every decision she made in her 25-year tenure at French’s was successful, but on the whole, she shined. So much so, that in 2017, when McCormick & Co. bought French’s, Swift was offered a position to stay on. It was a tough decision, but Swift declined. “My little voice over here knew that it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time and that I didn’t feel like I could reach my full potential if I stayed,” she says.

FAST FACTS ABOUT JULIE

HOMETOWN
Fort Worth, Texas

FAMILY
Married with two daughters, one son, four grandchildren and another on the way.

HOBBIES
Food photography, cooking, Sunday supper with her family, weekends at Table Rock Lake and rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.

CAREER BREAKTHROUGH
Landing the job at The French’s Food Co. despite not having a college degree.

RESUMÉ HIGHLIGHTS
10 years at Brown, Moore and Flint; 25 years at French’s; growing sales exponentially in French’s non-commercial food service channel.

HABIT WORTH STEALING
Swift creates mutual commitments with her direct reports. These outline five expectations that each person can have of the other.

FAVORITE FAILURE
Swift convinced French’s to invest $30,000 in Toddle Tots, toys the company would give away to customers that purchased a certain amount of product. It flopped. “The big gain in that was admitting I was wrong once I recognized it.”

Swift didn’t have a plan after quitting. Her choice to bet on herself caught the attention of Chuck Mascari, the now-president of Waypoint, which has more than 40 offices and 1,000-plus employees across the country. Swift could see the growing momentum at the company and its desire to create a more equitable, inclusive workplace. Today, Swift is one of seven people on Waypoint’s Culture Champion Team, which is transforming the mission, vision and values of the business. She is also spearheading its gender diversity initiative, through which she is developing Waypoint’s first intern program to create a diverse talent pipeline. “The trajectory for a woman in the food service business, it’s different, it’s a steeper climb than what some of the male counterparts would have,” says Swift, adding that this scenario won’t be true for everyone. And she knows the discrimination she faced is much less likely to happen now. “In today’s environment, it’s not going to be that blatant,” Swift says. “But if you feel it, you probably need to move… It’s awfully hard for somebody to argue with promoting you when you are jamming the results down their throat.”

Swift is able to deliver results by bringing her authentic self and her passion to the forefront every day. “I know what makes me spring out of bed in the morning,” Swift says. “And it is having that influence and that ability to guide, [to] be a beacon for people.” Especially women. “I think a lot of women are afraid to fail,” she says. “I was one of those. I just tried to be the best of the best of the best… It wasn’t until I started to embrace failure as the path to success that I really started to see like, ‘Dang, there’s something to this.’” It’s just like her father used to tell her: “If you’re not failing, then you’re just not trying hard enough.”

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