Manufacturing Support Manager, Mars Petcare
A football player throughout high school and college, James “JR” Smith knows the value of a strong team. While his focus is on a different kind of end zone these days, as a manager for Mars Petcare, he still motivates and encourages his team to produce excellent results. He says the best part about working for Mars is the company’s focus on its people — and every day is “bring your pet to work day” when you work in pet care!
What attracted you to Mars in the ﬁrst place?
When I first started looking at different companies, I learned that a lot of great companies are built on principles and have mission statements – but the key difference with Mars was the focus on how we live these principles every day. I’m a principle-based person, so that really attracted me. Mars’ Five Principles are Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, and Freedom – and the two that resonate with me most are Mutuality and Responsibility. We make sure that everyone has a voice and a chance to make an impact. Our associates also know that it’s our responsibility to take advantage of the resources Mars provides for development – from Mars University (our training and development resource) to mentorship programs.
Talk about your involvement in mentorship programs.
I wanted to work on my knowledge of finance, because I believe that when you’re leading people, you need to be able to explain the “why” behind your actions – your vision and your purpose. So I asked for help and was connected with the Director of Fi- nance, North America as my mentor. We met twice per quarter and had monthly calls, which gave me a better understanding of finance that I now use in my day-to-day role. And Mars University gives anyone access to tools to help develop on their own time — even if you’re like me and have a young family.
What is the culture like at Mars?
You can’t talk about Mars unless you talk about people. In most manufacturing businesses, the leaders are thinking about equipment, assets, metrics, and the bottom line — but Mars clearly understands that we can’t get any of that without people. When I started, my conversations with Mars leadership were all focused on supporting me: “How are you doing personally? What are your skills? How can we help you be a better associate, and a better person outside of work?” It’s really an associate-driven culture.
What makes Mars unique?
You can bring pets to work – so maybe you’re going to talk to a director or VP and they’ve got a little Chihuahua with them! It’s a very warm place. Also, the community involvement is key. Folks at Mars volunteer their efforts in a variety of different ways, from pet shelters, to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. I didn’t experience this in previous companies.
Any advice for young people hoping to work at Mars?
Do your research and to try to understand what it means to be a principle-based company. You can be a leader at every level here — but remember that great leaders have great responsibility. Take that responsibility! We seek to develop talent, not recruit it. That’s only possible when you really focus on developing someone as a leader.