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Gulf Stream Search used its Leadership Audit to help a flavor systems manufacturer dodge a bullet with a key customer.

Leadership Audits

Gulf Stream Search used its Leadership Audit to help a flavor systems manufacturer dodge a bullet with a key customer.

Executive Summary

Gulf Stream Search helped a leading flavor systems manufacturer overcome its growing pains to retain a major grocery customer.

In 2019, Gulf Stream Search began working with a manufacturer of flavor systems based in the Southeast US.

The company generates approximately 35 million in revenue, is privately-held and has approximately 300 employees spread across corporate headquarters and a nearby manufacturing facility.

The company develops flavor systems for private-label, own brand products.  Additionally, the company works with major quick-service restaurants(QSR) to help them create new beverages, sauces and dressings.

The biggest challenge the company faced in 2019

Two years prior, the company landed a Top-10 retail grocery retailer to help them develop several lines of own-brand products.

Although the product line was popular, The President of the company was having trouble keeping up with Quality and Regulatory requirements the grocer required as part of the supplier agreement.  

The Quality team and staff were overwhelmed with the amount of work, not to mention overwhelmed with the technical requirements and testing protocols necessary.

The issues reached a climax in 2019 when the grocer threatened to end the contract unless the company came into compliance with the grocer’s Supplier Quality standards within 60 days.

A new Director of Quality was hired in late 2019 to stabilize some of the issues, but the company still had to make decisions about how to optimize their team structure as well as assess the aptitude of the remaining team members – the Director felt that several individuals may not have the capacity to keep up with the workload and requirements the company’s growth trajectory would require moving forward.

How the flavor system manufacturer solved its immediate crisis

The company first assessed the makeup of its key stakeholders assigned to the grocery account using Gulf Stream Search’s Leadership Audit.  The following individual’s leadership styles and performance style were assessed.

VP of Sales
VP of Product Development
Director of Quality

By assessing the key stakeholders first, the leadership team gained some perspective about their own leadership styles, areas of expertise and where they were each vulnerable as leaders.

What became abundantly clear from the Audit were two key issues that, if not addressed, would result in catastrophic results to the company.

The VP of Product Development was hyper-focused on satisfying the grocery chain’s near-term product launches.  On top of that, he had been originally hired by the President to start a new division of the company solely focused on their own brand of better for you beverages.  He was so tied up in the customer launches that no time was left for the “pet project” of the President.

The Director of Quality was brought in at a time to solve a major crisis – to stabilize the company’s Quality issues.  The President described the issue as “make or break” to him, and the Director took that directive to heart.

When the Director put pressure on the VP and his team to provide records or requested much-needed documentation, this caused frustration.

When the President was asked to intervene or provide support initially, he deferred to allow them to “work things out on your own.”

The President, through the Leadership Audit, came to understand his leadership style, which manifested as hands-off and “let them figure it out”  was enabling the friction.

He also came to understand that in order to achieve his longer-term goal – the company’s own line of products – he was going to have to give his VP and Director additional resources so they didn’t work at odds with each other.

The ensuing 90 days

The President devised a retention strategy with the grocer – he and the VP of Sales requested and was given an audience with the grocer weekly where he, the VP of Product Development and the Director of Quality would video conference with the grocer to outline the progress and breakthroughs they were making with the own-brand product launches.  

The Director of Quality then followed with how they were addressing the Quality issues.  

6 meetings were held with the customer over the first 60 days, plus preliminary internal meetings led by the President to develop a more collaborative, purpose-driven approach to saving the customer account.

The company also assessed their Product Development & Quality team members- the President made good on giving his VP and Director more resources, but he did not want to hire anyone that didn’t fit the company’s growth plans and requirements.  

The VP has subsequently re-assigned one team member to the longer-term brand initiative, cordoning them off from the grocery and private-label business.  

The Director is in the process of adding a Documentation specialist for the grocery customer, which is freeing him up to dedicate more time to getting the company’s GMP foundation in place.

Feedback from the President

The President said “We dodged a bullet” with the grocery customer.  

He realized his leadership style is highly effective in many ways, but if he doesn’t have his leadership team all focused on a greater mission(rather than their individual mandates), his hands-off style can lead to major problems.

Through the Leadership Audit, developing performance profiles using pre-hire assessments from Gulf Stream Search before hiring, he was able to avoid making short-term, desperate hiring decisions that might have backfired.



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