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‘Find Your True North’: Vitamix CEO On Tapping into Your Potential

Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg poses with JWU culinary faculty + students

Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg kicked off her recent talk at JWU Providence’s College of Culinary Arts by cutting right to the chase: “When I was 30, I had a near-death experience that completely changed my perspective. Today, I am going to give you a nugget of something that you hopefully won’t have to have a near-death experience to discover!”

Today, Berg serves as the fourth-generation president and CEO of the iconic family-owned company, which has a reputation for high-quality and high-performance blenders for home and commercial use. Prior to the aforementioned near-death experience, she recognized that she was floundering, both personally and professionally: “I had my bachelor’s degree, I was pondering a master’s degree.” But she felt unsure about her direction.

Fast-forward to her stark memory of lying in a hospital bed, listening to her mother speaking to the doctor in hushed tones (not realizing that she could hear the conversation): “When can we take her home, doctor?” “We’re just hoping she gets out of here at all.” That moment crystallized the philosophy that motivates her to this day: “I realized the fragility of life. You have to make the most of each day.”

For her, that meant making sure that others around her were as driven by personal purpose as she was: “I see the potential in people that they don’t realize they have. That became my leadership style — the more people I could lead, the more people I could touch.”

I realized the fragility of life. Make the most of each day.”

At Vitamix, Berg has created a set of guiding principles that clarify the company’s higher purpose beyond “just making money,” as she puts it. Her goal? To find individuals who are determined to make the world a better place — and leverage their ambitions to do so. “If employees have personal purpose, they will not only be more satisfied in life, but more engaged in their work.” (She quoted the somewhat dispiriting statistic that, on average, employees are engaged roughly 33% — or 1/3 — of the time.)

Berg’s leadership style is the opposite of micro-managing, and leverages what she calls “empowerment through alignment”: “When all of your colleagues have a strong sense of personal purpose, there’s an instinctive understanding of what needs to be done. If you care for something so deeply — if values are the lens through which you make decisions — then it’s a bond you share with others. You don’t have to waste time explaining yourself or figuring out what a supervisor wants — you know what it is you need to do, and you do it.”

Berg urged students to find their own “true North.” “You don’t have to do it alone,” she noted. “Find mentors, a network that can help you and push you. You want to align yourself with people who have a drive or purpose that meshes with yours.”

She also emphasized the importance of taking care of yourself: “I’m not saying, ‘Be selfish,’ but make sure you are whole. At the end of the day, you need to enjoy your life — nobody is going to do that for you!”

TOP: VITAMIX CEO JODI BERG WITH CULINARY STUDENTS + FACULTY. BELOW: BERG ON CAMPUS. PHOTOS: JOHN FARAONE

Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg speaking at JWU’s College of Culinary Arts

Career roundtable with Berg and culinary students

Topics: Culinary Arts Business