Produce Processing 7: Q+A with Ryan Downs
Ryan M. Downs is president of GLK Foods and represents the fourth generation of the company’s family ownership. He joined GLK in 2005 and is a director on its board. Prior to employment with GLK Foods, Ryan worked in sales and sales management for business integration software provider webMethods, (now Software AG) out of its New York City office.
Ryan holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He sits on the executive board of the Midwest Food Processors Association, the advisory board of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, and is chairman of the board for Appleton Boychoir.
What are the best words of advice you’ve ever received?
“Surround yourself with the smartest people you can. Being a leader is not about always having the answer; it’s knowing when you’ve heard the right one.”
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
There are many, but fro a business perspective it would be particularly satisfying to see the continued growth of our Oh Snap! brand pickles and a successful launch of our new roasted chickpea line GoBitos.
What do you do to relax?
We have a home and keep a boat in Door County, Wisconsin. When I am there with my family it’s about as relaxed as I get. There is something almost spiritual for me being on/near water. This tranquil state, however, is often tested by my three daughters ages 11 months and 5 and 8 years.
What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
We are growing the business beyond sauerkraut, and to see that through and look back at what we’ve built will be hugely satisfying. I want the people with whom I work to feel a sense of pride when they see our products in stores and to recognize that none of it could have happened without their engagement. Ultimately, I want our people to feel proud to be associated with GLK Foods because of the experiences we offer our customers.
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
See the opera at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Race cars. Go to space.
What work would you have pursued if you had not been in the produce processing industry?
Before I came to GLK Foods I was living in New York City working in the business of integration software space. I enjoyed it very much and do at times wonder what my life would look like if I had stayed in that industry. Although I don’t wonder long because I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it would not have held a candle to the enjoyment I now derive from working at GLK Foods.
What is the one truth you’ve learned about the produce processing industry?
“No crop is guaranteed and if you’re not doing everything in your power to mitigate risk, you’re begging for a failure.