B&B Owner Returns to Corporate Career in Operations | Ladders

B&B Owner Returns to Corporate Career in Operations

Steve Hunt and his wife tried running their own bed and breakfast but found they preferred corporate corridors.

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Steve Hunt and his wife were living the dream in sunny Florida after leaving the cold, snowy winters of Connecticut and their high-powered corporate careers to start a bed and breakfast.

But something was missing. For the first year and a half, Hunt said, business was steady, but both Hunt and his wife discovered they missed their corporate jobs and enjoyed that lifestyle more. They put the B&B on the market and began looking for other opportunities, knowing that they’d have their own business to fall back on.

An “odd position”

“It was an odd position to be in, at 53 years old: looking to get back into the corporate world,” Hunt said. The B&B had been on the market for a year and a half, he said, and both he and his wife had been searching for new corporate positions, but nothing had panned out.

Then, when the economy plummeted, tourism, especially in Florida, was hit hard, and Hunt said they decided to redouble their efforts to return to corporate America.

A former high-level operations manager at ACH Foods, which produces edible oils and specialty grocery products for North American consumer, commercial and industrial channels, Hunt decided to leverage that experience and began searching for a similar position.

Hunt tried a number of executive search sites, and over a year and half had about seven or eight interviews that were extremely promising, but nothing stuck, he said.

A long search

Between December 2008 and January 2009, I applied to 35 jobs,” Hunt said. “I would see a job and think, ‘I can do that,’ but I didn’t apply to many of them because I didn’t want to take just anything.”

After signing up for OpsLadder, Hunt said he stumbled upon a job listing with Kellogg Co., the leading U.S. manufacturer of cereal and a major producer of cookies, crackers, toaster pastries, cereal bars, fruit snacks, frozen waffles and vegetarian foods.

Hunt said he wasn’t sure of his qualifications after reading the job description, which was for a position as director of operations for the WKKI research facility in Battle Creek, Mich., in the Research and Development (R&D) division. He applied for the job anyway.

“I saw the job on Ladders.com in January, and I wasn’t sure I was a fit because I hadn’t done much R&D,” Hunt said. “I applied thinking, ‘Well, I’ll never hear from them.’ ”

But as it turned out, Hunt did hear from Kellogg, and the recruiting firm working with the company was pleased with Hunt’s experience and initial interview. After a few days, Hunt said, he heard from a hiring manager within Kellogg, but was discouraged again after a very short phone interview.

“Again, I thought, ‘Well, that’ll never work out,’” he said. “Even after the manager of the R & D division interviewed me, the call was very short, and I was convinced it was because they weren’t interested.”

Filling the right position

But Hunt was wrong. Kellogg was looking for someone who had technical skills and experience in the industry, and also had extensive people skills and management skills, like Hunt’s, to reinforce industry knowledge, he said.

“It was great,” he said. “I never thought this job would pan out, not in a million years,” he laughed. “But it turned out to be just the right fit for me — you just never know.”

Hunt said he had concerns that Kellogg would fall victim to the same economic pressures as many other corporations in a troubled economy, but when he interviewed in person with the company, those fears were quickly laid to rest.

“I had my questions all prepared, and one of them was, ‘How committed is Kellogg to R&D and growth?’ ” he said. “But when I walked in, they showed me to this 250, 000- square-foot R & D facility and told me that they were planning to invest $40 million to double its size and capacity! That answered that question,” he laughed.

Kellogg offered Hunt relocation assistance and a comparable salary and benefits to what he was making before he left the corporate world, he said. And while his wife is still in Florida keeping the B&B afloat, he’s confident a sale will be made soon and she can join him in Michigan.

“I have been here for three weeks, and if I was able to get back into the industry at the same level or even a hair higher than where I was before, I know it’ll happen (for her),” he said.

Sharon Linsenbach

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach covers executive recruiters for Ladders.

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