Meet a contributor:  Max yeater, ceo, pro*Act

Max YeagerMax leads Monterey, CA-based PRO*ACT, a network of more than 50 local distributors of fresh food across the U.S. that are committed to delivering “The Perfect Order”—the right product, delivered at the right time, for the right price. 

He joined PRO*ACT in 1994 as a commodity buyer. Throughout his tenure he’s held positions of increasing responsibility, including Vice President of Procurement, a title he held from August 2000 until his promotion to Chief Operating Officer in 2007, and then promoted to President in January 2011. In 2016, Max was named CEO. He has overseen the successful development of PRO*ACT's strategic grower/shipper relationships, contracts, and consolidated purchasing programs which bring value to PRO*ACT’s suppliers, distributors, and multi-unit customers. When he’s away from the office Max enjoys golfing, cars and being a dad. PRO*ACT is a CGTbyPMA Corporate Partner at the $10,000–$24,999 level. 

We asked Max about his career path and his leadership philosophy. 

You’ve been with PRO*ACT for more than 20 years. How did you get into the fresh food business?

Being raised in the Salinas Valley, produce is part of your growing-up experience. I passed fields of strawberries, romaine, artichokes, broccoli and more every day on my way to school. All my friends had parents who worked in the industry, and I caught the bug early. From the age of 14 when I moved sprinkler pipe in the field for a buddy’s family, to my days of driving cooler to cooler selecting lots as an inspector and handling logistics long past midnight, I guess it was my destiny.    

What’s the most important lesson—painful or positive—that you’ve learned in your career?

Most the time something positive comes from the pain, but I think the most important thing in this industry is to be open and honest.   

Can you think of a person who’s played a key role in your career? What did that person do to help you?

I’ve been fortunate to have so many people play a role in my development, and continue to do so every day. It’s funny: If you can learn to lose your ego, even for a bit, there is something to be learned by just about everyone you pass each day in business or your personal life.    

As a leader of your company, what’s the single most important thing you do every day?

Being a steward where people are empowered consistently to learn, develop and realize their fullest potential. Practicing integrity in all ways to connect people into a larger force for good.  Consistently recognizing, inspiring and encouraging individuals’ optimal growth. I realize this is not one thing, but it is my personal life vision and the goal I strive for each day. 

What's your advice to someone who'd like to sit in the C-Suite in the food business?

As a leader in your company, you need to be willing to take risks, innovate and welcome change. The balance there is to realize that the current workforce is made up of people who desire change alongside those who have an aversion to it, and much of your responsibility will be to foster a culture that encourages healthy dialogue between all viewpoints.

Looking at CGTbyPMA, what do you consider the critical role they play in the industry?

It is vital that our industry continues to attract the brightest minds, and adequately prepares them to meet the challenges of tomorrow. While this can happen organically in some of our companies, it is refreshing to see the great strides being made by CGTbyPMA to develop leaders, and cultivate a desire to invest in personal growth and leadership in our industry.

Why do you and PRO*ACT support CGTbyPMA? 

PRO*ACT has benefitted from the many programs offered through CGTbyPMA, and we have seen firsthand the benefits of investing in leadership training, industry understanding, and personal growth for our personnel. The opportunities offered through CGTbyPMA continue to refine, shape and challenge our personnel—and the industry at large.

Learn more about the mission of CGTbyPMA and discover the ways you can help support our work.