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Leading the Way Podcast: Brian Poplin, CEO Elior North America

Elior North America is among the top six contract food service companies in North America and in the latest  Leading the Way radio show and podcast, CEO Brian Poplin gives us intel on how they got there. 

Poplin was recently awarded the Most Admired CEO in the Hospitality sector by the Charlotte Business Journal, and when you hear his leadership philosophies, you’ll understand why. With a focus on culinary innovation and exemplary service, Elior North America is committed to making a positive difference in peoples’ lives every day, which is exactly what their company of 18,000 employees are committed to integrating into their culture.

In this edition, Poplin candidly shares with us the experiences of what a rapidly growing company faces and the importance of their mantra, “the bigger you get, the smaller you have to act.”   He discusses the power of risk-taking, creating a purposeful work environment, and their bold emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility. A refreshing look at this philanthropic company whose heart is best described by their tagline, “small enough to care and big enough to make a difference.”

Key Soundbites  

  • On culture – “The way I think about it is if you think about a body of water and it’s got some oil on top, if you run your hand through it, that water separates and pushes the oil to the side. And that’s really what happens in our culture. The more you run your hand through the water, the more the differences get pushed aside. And the closer we become to aligning our culture.”  
  • On performance management – “What we think about is how do we make the person better. And better isn’t about a score. Better is about that continuous self-improvement for our team members and for ourselves. And we have to take responsibility for our own development to be in a position to say yes when everyone is saying no.”  
  • On talent development - “The ability to promote an organization and promote people from within takes a demonstrated focus on talent development and talent management. And that’s going to be different for every single individual in the organization. It’s our job, as leaders, to identify how each of those individuals get the tools and resources they need to reach their full potential.”  
  • On leadership – “Understanding that when you go from being an individual contributor in an organization to responsible for helping harness the power of the team and understand that it’s about being humble and being thoughtful and helping the team get to the right answer, not just having the right answer yourself.”  
  • On innovation - “For our teams, innovation’s just not about putting something pretty on a plate. It’s about how do we take our customers’ challenges, whether their costs, nutrition, or, in some cases, it’s about creating a wow experience, and how do we solve those in an innovative way.”  

About Leading the Way  

Leading the Way is a weekly radio show and podcast series that highlights influential business leaders and leading people practices from i4cp. Co-hosted by Emmy award-winning television anchor and radio host, Scott Murray, and i4cp’s Angel Carlton, the show features interviews with respected business leaders from the world of business, sports, entertainment, healthcare and philanthropy.  

The show airs live every Sunday at 4 pm CT on KLIF 570 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, the global audience is invited to listen live on   and the weekly podcast debuts on iTunes  or Google Play and the i4cp website the following week.