A flexible, long-term strategy, underpinned by longstanding principles, is guiding Mars, Incorporated, as the company adapts to a changing business world, Chairman Victoria Mars YC ’78 told students at the Yale School of Management on January 25.
“One of the big advantages of being a family business is that we can think long term and make big decisions and hang in there,” Mars said. “What are the decisions we need to be making today so that 25 years, 50 years from now, we’ll have a sustainable business?”
Mars spoke at Yale SOM as part of the Gordon Grand Fellowship Series. Named for Grand YC ’38, the former president and CEO of Olin Corporation, the series promotes the exchange of ideas between business and academia by inviting business leaders to visit Yale for discussions with students and faculty. Ravi Dhar, the George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing and director of the Center for Customer Insights, moderated the discussion.
Founded by Victoria Mars’ great-grandfather Frank C. Mars in 1911, Mars is now one of the world’s largest family businesses, with almost $35 billion in net sales and 85,000 associates across 80 countries. The company is a global leader in chocolate, gum, and pet care. Victoria Mars has worked for the company for more than 37 years.
One of the secrets of Mars’ success is its open, collaborative spirit, Mars said. Each facility has an open-office floor plan, so there are no individual offices. This minimizes the hierarchal structure and makes leaders accessible to all employees. Mars, herself, set up an ombudsman program nearly 16 years ago, which gives employees an “alternative channel” to confidentially discuss workplace issues.
Growing interest among consumers around the company’s practices and values has also inspired the traditionally low-profile family to share more about the company. “It’s forced us to say, ‘Let’s start talking about who we are,’ ” Mars said. “It’s been an evolution we’ve gone through.”
As it evolves, the company will continue to be guided by its Five Principles, Mars said. Those include quality, responsibility, efficiency, mutuality, and freedom. “The real magic that makes Mars,” she said, “is that you use all five at the same time when you look at business decisions.”
About the Event
Please join us on Wednesday, January 25 for the Gordon Grand Lecture: A Conversation with Victoria B. Mars YC '78, Chairman of the Board for Mars, Inc. Ms. Mars will be joined in conversation by Ravi Dhar, George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing & Director of the Center for Customer Insights.
Named for Gordon Grand YC ’38, the former president and CEO of Olin Corporation, the Gordon Grand Fellowship Series promotes the exchange of ideas between business and academia by inviting business leaders to visit Yale for discussions with students and faculty.
This event is open to the PUBLIC.
Victoria B. Mars is the Chairman of the Board for Mars, Incorporated, a role she assumed in April 2014. Victoria is a fourth generation member of the Mars family whose great-grandfather, Frank C. Mars, founded the company in 1911. With $35bn in net sales and 80,000 Associates across 78 countries, Mars is one of the world’s largest and most respected family businesses. The company is the global leader in chocolate, gum, and petcare and is home to some of the best-loved brands in the world.
Victoria has worked for the family business for over 37 years - or longer if you count the summer she spent packing M&Ms boxes in the factory, a job she says gave her a great appreciation of the importance every function plays in delivering a quality product to the consumer. During her time, Victoria has been involved in many aspects of the business, beginning in 1978 in Haguenau, France, where she first served as Assistant Brand Manager for MILKY WAY® and where she put to use her love of the French language which she learnt at University.
After completing her MBA from the Wharton School in 1984, Victoria returned to the business and joined Mars Electronics International, which at the time was the leading global manufacturer of unattended payment systems, as the Director of their Marine Systems Division. In 1986, she moved back to Chocolate, and joined Dove, International, a Burr Ridge, Illinois based company acquired by Mars which became the foundation for its world famous Dove® Chocolate brand, as joined head of the finance, procurement and human resources functions.
In 1997 Victoria took on a brand new challenge as Mars’ first Ombudsman. The role was a natural fit for Victoria who believes that Associates are the pride of the Mars business and that their wellbeing in the workplace should be a top priority. Committed to ensuring that Mars remains a great place to work for Associates, at every stage of their personal and professional lives, Victoria built a strong team around her, which has been providing Associates with an informal and impartial environment where they can seek advice on work-related issues for over 18 years.
Victoria has been a member of the Mars Board of Directors since 2006. In addition to being Chairman, she serves on the Benefit Funding & Investment Oversight Committee.
Outside of the business, Victoria is a member of several boards including The Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming, a social impact fund created by Mars and Danone that aims to invest €120 million over the next decade in projects aimed at increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers, the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, The Salzburg Global Seminar based in Washington DC and Salzburg, Austria, and The Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Bozeman, Montana.
Victoria graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in administrative sciences and German and French languages and holds a master’s degree in finance from the Wharton School of Business. She is a cat lover who enjoys the mountains, traveling with her husband, children and grandchildren and likes skiing, cycling, and hiking.