'Brand' New - New CEO aims for fresh directions at Summit Industries
by Joel Groover
December 02, 2013 12:00 AM | 3032 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Creomulsion hit the market in the 1920s, most Georgians bought the over-the-counter cough syrup at small-town drugstores worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. Today, many shoppers order the 90-year-old remedy on their tablets and smartphones.

But if the vintage cough syrup happens to be a big seller via Amazon and other 21st-century channels, this comes as no surprise to Mike Musso, the new CEO of Marietta-based Summit Industries, which makes Creomulsion and a host of other consumer packaged goods (CPGs).

"The bottom line about Creomulsion is, it flat-out works," said Musso, who joined the company in September. "It is a high-performing, high-satisfaction product that people trust."

Fundamentals like product quality, packaging appeal and marketing savvy have always driven success in the CPG business, but rapid change also means older brands like Creomulsion must adapt to the times, Musso said. After all, when a Griffin pharmacist concocted the cough syrup back in the 1920s, eco-friendly packaging was not exactly on consumers' minds.

"Today, we have the most educated consumers in the world," Musso said. "They're asking if the content is recycled or if the plastic is biodegradable. We're taking this into account as we position Summit's brands for further growth."

The 65 full-time employees at Summit Industries' Marietta headquarters make and distribute 13 consumer product lines and 75 different SKUs - a wide array of products sold at food, drug, mass-market, automotive and institutional retailers alike.

As CEO, Musso aims to ramp up brands such as Lexol, Lantiseptic, Creomulsion and Boroleum by applying lessons learned from his 30-year career in CPG. The veteran executive has served in leadership roles at giants such as Procter & Gamble, Frito Lay and PepsiCo, and has spearheaded dozens of turnaround-restructuring projects for MorrisAnderson & Associates and Richard Niner's Winriver investment firm.

Prior to joining Summit, Musso headed Oxnard, Calif.-based Cosmetic Specialties International (CSI), which made packaging for the likes of Procter & Gamble, L'Oreal and Amway. "At CSI, I learned the nuts and bolts of packaging, which had been the missing link in my CPG background," Musso said.

"Packaging is hugely important to your brand image. It is the first point of satisfaction and can be a key point of dissatisfaction as well."

In a sense, CPG has always been part of Musso's life. He grew up in Birmingham, Ala., surrounded by brightly colored packaged goods as he stocked the shelves, swept the floors and worked the register at his family's grocery stores. He was in the 8th grade when he set up his own darkroom.

"I now own 30 cameras, many vintage, but my favorite is a Mamiya 645," he said. "My current digital is a Fuji XE1."

Over the years, Musso has photographed ancient temples in Nagano City, Japan; a birthday party in Cienfuegos, Cuba; and even the treasures of the Vatican.

"My first cousin is the Archbishop of Malaysia," he said. "So we were able to stay in his apartment at the Vatican and to experience some unique things that not many people get to see."

Musso and his wife, Kim, who have five children, are also passionate about early childhood education. They own a Primrose School in Alpharetta, and Musso helped found one of the country's largest online education companies, Childcare Education Institute.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Musso even does some teaching himself as part of the school's annual CPG "boot camp" for MBA students. Typically, the students quiz him about the keys to success in CPG.

"I tell them it has got to be the highest-quality product, but that you also need strong leadership and strategy," Musso said. "Leadership sets strategy, hires the highest level talent, and invests time in employees to build competency. Results can't come, though, until there is a culture built on relationships and trust. Simply put, that means always doing the right thing for employees, customers and consumers."

Mike Musso

Title: President and CEO

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor of Science in Communications, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Family: Wife: Kim; Children: Lauren, Stephen, Madi, David and Bailey, plus three dogs and two cats!

First (Post-College) Job: Sales Manager at Procter & Gamble Food Division, New Orleans.

Best Job: CEO of Summit Industries! But prior to this opportunity it was selling high-end audio equipment during my college years at Long’s Electronics in Birmingham — back when records were albums and not streaming audio.

Lessons Learned The Hard Way: Strive for improvement, not perfection. Excellence is an ongoing process.

Advice To The Next Generation: Learn how to be a leader! You can’t be a leader without the ability to influence. You can’t influence without trust, and you can’t build trust without building relationships. That means investing in face-to-face time with people! Twitter, Facebook and email are no substitute!

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