Food & Beverage R&D Consultant, Greg Wiseman and Associates R&D Consulting
Greg Wiseman utilizes his extensive research and development experience to analyze challenges and come up with solutions for established and up-and-coming food and beverage companies. He specializes in product development, commercialization, intellectual property strategy and product management.
Greg’s day started as he eased into the morning.
A great thing about being a consultant is the ability to work primarily from home. Greg relishes in this opportunity, by indulging in his natural habit of staying up and sleeping in late. Without a commute to work, he has the privilege of starting his day at the time most comfortable and avoids scheduling meetings before 10:00 AM—he admitted he is not much of a morning person!
Greg ventures out on his commute through his NYC apartment, heading between the kitchen and the dining room.
He set up his laptop on the dining room table and ate breakfast while browsing emails. Greg also utilized this time to review his agenda for the day and adjust a few priorities to structure his schedule efficiently. Without the need for excessive paperwork, Greg’s primary tools are his computer and phone.
Greg prepared for his first phone call of the day: A networking call with a former colleague. He browsed her LinkedIn profile to catch himself up on her recent activities while keeping an eye for any of her connections that might be beneficial to discuss.
While networking, Greg is mindful of spending time efficiently but will also never pass up the opportunity to meet new people. Even if he’s unsure if the person he’s linking up with will provide any immediate value or has relevant experience in his field, that doesn’t mean he or she might know someone who does. More on this later…
Regardless of who Greg’s meeting with, he arrives at each networking discussion with a purpose by researching the individual’s present career activity and preparing valuable insight, questions and ideas about how the two can support each other. Reciprocity is the name of the game here.
“Networking, networking, networking; take the phone call, have the meeting!”
Greg took the networking call. He and his former colleague broke the ice by discussing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Afterward, the two jumped right into work, updating each other on their current career efforts. Once Greg shared the news of his new consulting business, his colleague quickly offered to introduce him to a few of her connections that would be further help. Greg reciprocated this support by extending advice on his colleague’s new business venture.
Remaining adaptable, flexible and realistic are all important factors during times of drastic change. With the current state of the world as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg and his colleague were experiencing similar challenges of social isolation impacting the pace of business. The food and beverage industry relies heavily on office/lab time to create, experiment with and test products. Navigating through the roadblock of lacking collaborative, communal space to continue formulating new products has proven difficult. Now, more than ever, relationships and distant but consistent communication is crucial!
“My heart goes out to everyone impacted by COVID-19 during this time, especially those in the service industry who cannot work at home with a computer!”
Greg drafted and sent his colleague an email, thanking her for her time along with a few attachments to further describe his background and areas of consulting expertise. Greg browsed her connections after the call to find relevant individuals that might be worth an introduction.
When imagining the ideal client, Greg and his peers align with the same idea of small to medium-sized companies that have graduated from the kitchen or incubator and are starting to move towards significant distribution. These companies don’t have the financial means to hire an R&D team or department just yet, but definitely have needs in those respective areas like scaling or product design.
This is where Greg and his team are a perfect fit to be hired under a contract. With the extensive background Greg holds, he can provide a future-thinking perspective for the companies who are still learning. The insight on problem-solving and strategizing from the depth of Greg’s experience is invaluable.
Greg took another networking call with a new connection.
This call transpired from a mutual connection that suggested the partnership might have beneficial opportunities. Initially, Greg was unsure if he and the individual could provide substantial value to each other, based on professional backgrounds alone but, loyal to the belief of ‘taking the call,’ he was pleasantly surprised in their capabilities of sharing networks. It turned out, there was plenty of work to be done between the two of them, involving a food/beverage/supplement manufacturing company in New Jersey that Greg could be of great service to.
Greg’s former career coach, Charlotte Lee at LHH, emphasized the importance of playing outside of one’s comfort zone. Discounting someone’s value could lead to hugely missed opportunities down the line, with various other connections. Greg advises to network with anyone and everyone willing to put in 15 minutes. At the very least, a nice chat could transpire… which we all could use during these times of social distancing!
Greg sent his new connection a thank you note, along with a separate email to introduce her to another individual in Greg’s network.
To nail a cold introduction for a new networking relationship, keeping it personal and simple is a great framework to build upon. Greg advises to send a short email to the individuals who should be introduced, with a personal greeting and a few brief reasons as to why they could benefit each other. Then, leave it up to the others to configure the details of getting together to respectfully avoid applying pressure. Although something to easily overthink, this process is quite straightforward. Short and sweet is key.
Greg spoke with the head of R&D at a major manufacturer of plant-5based dips about short term support she needed for her team. Greg asked ample probing questions to develop a solid project proposal and after hearing the details, understood the context within the company’s priorities. He rearranged his day’s schedule to prioritize developing the project proposal to send over to her by the end of the day.
Greg harvests trust with his clients by showcasing the flexibility to prioritize certain needs. This also demonstrates his ability to shift gears as things change, to stay ahead and in control. In this particular instance, Greg’s client needed project management support to help facilitate the fast-paced introduction of a product to market with an aggressive deadline. To make something like this happen seamlessly, a strong project manager with an ability to coordinate all cross-functional groups is crucial. Greg stepped in to direct this process.
Remaining adaptable and thinking ahead are skills needed to succeed in the consulting industry. Understanding when to prioritize clients’ needs while also balancing other projects is important as well. For consultants, there is an uncertainty of when new projects will arrive. Sometimes workflows in like mad and other times, the pace is quite slow.
Greg experiences instances of one client consuming 100% of his time, or 10 clients spread out across just a few hours each week. While the hope is to reach a median level, where the work is not stressful but also not boring, learning how to be comfortable with both extremes will instill confidence while navigating various speeds.
Things can also be unpredictable. In the food and beverage industry, there isn’t a peak season per se, but certain products have busier months than others depending on particular reasons for the demand. For example, the cream cheese business is booming from Thanksgiving into Passover, as traditional and relevant dishes require the product. Patterns in sales are seen on a product level, as opposed to the industry as a whole.
Greg took a break for lunch, consisting of leftovers… as always! He also popped on the TV while eating to catch up on the news.
A habit most of us can relate to!
To prepare for his next call, Greg reviewed the meeting agenda, project material and different information for the work he will be completing.
Greg advises to always come prepared to calls or meetings to make the most of the time spent and keep things moving efficiently. Preparing also allows Greg to become equipped with solid answers to any questions the clients may have.
Greg took the call he prepared for with the company he will be working with.
The company Greg is consulting for is launching a new coffee beverage. They are a strong, but early-stage, company with needs of R&D information but without the financial means to hire an R&D team. For this particular project, Greg will be providing consulting of high-level strategy and background, as well as specific elements of product development insights.
When it comes to ‘high-level strategy,’ Greg describes directing this process as becoming a “master of the contexts” while allowing the company to learn how to “master the facts.” For most of his career, Greg relied on and valued understanding each detail himself. Having moved into the consulting space, Greg has learned to guide others to do the same. High-level strategy means thinking about the interrelationship between the people and processes from a birds-eye perspective, while correlating how these concepts impact the entirety of the project.
While collaborating with a company on a project, Greg sets the foundation by finding a north star. What this means is examining the elements of the project and deciding which will be the priority. For example: if the quality of the product is the north star, the speed to market and cost will have to remain flexible. The focus will vary from project to project, but remaining aligned as a team towards the priority is crucial to the process. Realigning may take place throughout the lifeline of the project, but each individual must then readjust individual responsibilities to remain intact as a whole.
When thinking about what it takes to bring a product to market, Greg intricately breaks down the process, a skill that takes more time to master than one would think. To start, a good idea is born. Afterward, market studies take place in the form of surveys or insight gathered directly from the target consumer. Feedback allows for refinement of the product idea and after that, begins the developmental stages. Here, teams often run into barriers of cost, or lack of technology. Decisions are made from this point forward to navigate the challenges and continue to refine the product from an idea into a prototype. Once the prototype is developed, further studies take place. This might involve sending the prototype out to consumers for taste, smell or design feedback. After this, more adjustments occur to account for the feedback and then the prototype turns into a product ready to commercialize. The life of the process can take anywhere from 9-18 months.
Greg can offer insights and project challenges the company will face, as well as the pros and cons of different formulation and processing approaches. There is much to consider and decide upon in the early stages of developing a new product, such as timelines, the taste of the final product and manufacturing costs.
Utilizing Greg’s consulting as a resource allows any company he works with to understand opportunities and risks before launching the product to avoid unnecessary mistakes that only add time and costs to the development period.
Greg utilized a break in his meetings to draft and send the proposal for the urgent project that he committed to earlier in the day.
When drafting a proposal, Greg incorporates each discussed element of the project, including things that weren’t necessarily said but that he anticipates will be important components later on. Large decisions down to nuanced details are all included in the proposal, such as the details of the work that will be delivered, the payment plan and the title of the project.
When valuing the work, there are a few options to choose from. Rates can be determined by an hourly basis, by a one-time project fee or by a hybrid of the two options. There are also instances when a consultant’s work can be traded for equity in the company. Each method of payment comes with its own risks and opportunities. Determining the best method of payment varies on both the project and the relationship between the consultant and the client.
Overall, the goal during the proposal process is to be clear, determine boundaries and minimize any grey area in the agreement. Greg even uses the same words as the client as a result of active listening. This signals to the client Greg truly values the client’s needs by writing a proposal the client can easily digest by the client inspired by shared dialogue. The hopeful result of these strategies is approval to begin the project.
Greg began his last activity for the day: a two-hour virtual meeting with the colleagues he is working with to build their R&D consulting firm.
The idea to begin the firm happened organically. While Greg was looking for a full-time job, he had dinner with his former colleagues to discuss everyone’s particular journey. Who they knew, what they knew and what they wanted for the future were topics of conversation. Not long into the night, the team recognized their diverse and extensive set of skills collectively and an idea came together.
They decided to switch gears from chasing independent efforts, to build and collaborate the efforts. Shortly after the dinner, the team landed on the name Five Star Consulting to pay homage to Kraft Foods’ address in Tarrytown, NY—555 S Broadway is where they all met— along with the number of team members.
The firm is still in the early stages of development and the team is learning how to market themselves as well as how to work together. The meeting during this time was for the group to make progress on communicating capabilities while also aligning on each role.
The team members come to the table with various areas of expertise, allowing full R&D services across every discipline to take ideas from concepts to finished products. The team must remain flexible, but determining primary responsibilities for each individual will help determine direction. The meeting was productive and ideas started to transpire onto paper in no time.
On a normal evening, Greg and his partner decide to go out to dinner or order in. Lately, cooking at home has been the go-to, which they both enjoy!
Greg winds down watching a bit of TV to relax but also admits, like most of us, that his phone is in his hand as he checks emails or latest news updates.
Greg graduated with an Engineering degree from Purdue University. With slight uncertainty of what his future roles would entail, he hit the ground running with his first landed role at Kraft Foods. There, Greg led a team of cross-functional Senior Scientists and worked in a collaborative environment, experimenting and making decisions for product development. Greg then moved to New York and began gaining momentum on the research and development side of the food and beverage industry leading the product innovation team for Kraft’s US-Canada Tassimo project, an on-demand beverage system that freshly brews a wide variety of hot beverages, including coffees, cappuccinos/lattes, teas etc.
This experience allowed him to collaborate with household names in the industry like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Peet’s coffee and many more. From Kraft, Greg joined Nature’s Bounty as a Director, and eventually Senior Director, of the Project and Product Management team focused on development and commercialization of food and supplement innovation.
Greg has always held an entrepreneurial spirit, having invented an independent plant-watering mechanism at the youthful age of 11. With the self-motivating environment fostered at Nature’s Bounty, a conversation with his partner led him to catapult his creative ingenuity outside of his day job. Greg went forward to grow his side-gig invention of Gallery Magic, a magnetic apparatus to hang artwork. However, due to material and manufacturing costs, he had to halt production.
Fast forward to present day, after a night out with some colleagues, Greg and his team of four other individuals decided to head out on a limb to combine their corporate experience, expertise and passionate spirits into building their firm. Five Star Consulting—the working name to Greg Wiseman and Associates R&D Consulting—was born in January of 2020 and has allowed Greg’s various skills to work harmoniously ever since.
What is your advice to aspiring food and beverage consultants?
Greg explained networking to be the number one skill to perfect. He believes getting a name and website out there isn’t the recipe to acquire a reputation or gain momentum in the field—the key is in the relationships cultivated with others. Greg suggests relying on collaborative conversations, competency and efficiency.
A great thing to keep in mind while beginning to network is that each relationship is a two-way street. Both individuals must contribute to the success and growth of each other for the relationship to flourish. Learning what YOU bring to the table, be it tangible work, ideas, curiosity or enthusiasm is crucial.
“Practice, hone in on and get REALLY comfortable with networking.”
What can someone younger without much experience bring to a networking conversation?
Greg introduced us to his mentor’s book, Bring A Dead Mouse as his secret networking weapon. The book explains and Greg endorses that the best thing for an individual to bring to a networking conversation or meeting with ANYONE, from a CEO to the President, is something to be remembered by.
This could be an article, a video or a small gesture of relevance that leaves the other individual impacted. The important thing here is that the networking conversation is had, the meeting is attended and the effort was made. Nothing fancy or expensive is required; just make it personal and powerful.
Any advice to those newly navigating the endeavor of working from home?
Before becoming a consultant, Greg worked for Kraft Foods and Nature’s Bounty Company for a total of 28 years. Through those years, he did a significant amount of work with remote teams that were spread across the world in Europe, Asia and South America as well as locations here in the US/Canada.
This experience strengthened Greg’s skill set for working via phone and video, as well as generally working from home while still successfully achieving results. Right now, millions of people are learning how to work from home for the first time, due to COVID-19 and the social distancing that is currently enforced. Greg has a few approaches and techniques, but advises to find the ones that work for you.
Here are a few of Greg’s suggestions: