José Luis Prado: The Growth Coach

José Luis Prado has shifted from running a major food conglomerate to leading a smaller enterprise—and he’s enjoying every step of the way.

The food industry veteran took the reins in April 2016 as the CEO of Evans Food Group, a company known for its pork rind snack products. In fact, Evans is the world’s leader in pork rinds.

Previously, Prado had been with PepsiCo for thirty years, leaving as president and CEO of Quaker Foods North America in 2014. He began working as a consultant, having realized that he could contribute his vast array of experiences to smaller companies, especially in his hometown of Chicago.

Prado started with Wind Point Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. He really liked what he saw—the people, the company’s values, and the success of their business model. He saw a great opportunity to connect Wind Point Partners with another Chicago-based enterprise and jumped on it.

Prado knew the owner of Evans Food Group, Alejandro Silva. He approached Silva, who had interest in exploring the sale of his company, and acted as a matchmaker between Silva and Wind Point Partners. Prado was brought on board as CEO of Evans Food Group soon after.   

One of the main things that excites Prado about Evans Food Group is the company’s products. Prado sees pork rinds, also known as chicharrónes, as a bit of an underdog in the snack world, one that is often relegated to a humble position on lower shelves at supermarkets.

But that won’t be for much longer if Prado can help it. He notes a trend of  high-end restaurants incorporating pork rinds into their dishes. Prado thinks the potential is huge for Evans and his goal is to expand the company’s presence, especially in the Hispanic food territory.

“We want to invest in every key area of the business to drive growth,” he says. “We want to focus first on the core of the business by improving distribution, improving our understanding of consumer insights, and by developing innovation.”

Transitioning from PepsiCo to Evans Food Group has been a delightful change for the seasoned food industry CEO.

“I marvel at how much you can do with a small company, how quickly you can create new products, and how making decisions is a much more nimble process,” he says.

When it comes to Prado’s leadership style, he sees himself as both a coach and a part of the team. To Prado, celebrating team accomplishments is a crucial element to achieving success. His focus on celebration goes back to Prado’s childhood, where he said his every achievement was celebrated as if he’d won an Olympic medal.

“Emphasizing the enjoyment of achieving something I think is a very neglected piece of leadership for many executives. Finding ways to combine corporate goals with what each member of  the team is contributing, can be a very powerful combination,” he says.

Prado’s engineering degree and training have played a large part in helping him develop into the leader he is today. “I like taking action toward solutions as quickly as possible. To me, it’s a waste of time to just talk about problems without acting on solutions,” he says.

Prado has a vast wealth of professional and personal experiences that he can leverage to benefit others, and he plans to keep adding to them. One of his main focuses in this new phase of his career, in addition to helping Evans Food Group grow, is to contribute as much as possible as a board director. Among other nonprofit organizations, Prado serves on the boards of the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Latino Corporate Directors Association, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. On the corporate side, Prado sits on the boards of  Northern Trust and Brinker International.

As someone who has worked around the globe, including his native Mexico, he is excited about being  part of the “Hispanic transformation” in this country and wants to build bridges in every direction.

“I think there is a huge agenda  ahead for all of us in this country that has to do with learning to make diversity a competitive advantage. We all know that Hispanics will play a major role in that mosaic,” he says. “Leveraging the talents of our community is going to be very fundamental for the future of America.”

JOSÉ LUIS PRADO’S HABITS FOR SUCCESS

MAKE A CHECKLIST
To find a balance between living in the moment and focusing on his goals: “I always prepare and structure a checklist of what I need to work on in the next three to six months.”

REFLECT ON THE WINS
Prado takes time to look back every year and reflect on his achievements. He finds that reflection helps remind him of  where he wants to go: “That’s very important.”

PLAY HARD, TOO
“I try to work hard from Monday to Friday, and I try to play hard from Saturday to Sunday. Taking the time for a fun set of interests gives me the mental space to unwind.”

CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMMUNITY
Prado finds happiness by helping others succeed: “Contribution is key.”