“There’s a huge opportunity for B2B companies to enter podcasting. People get personally connected to you and your brand, and its a great opportunity for business storytelling.” –Victoria Meyer
On this episode of The Chemical Show, host Victoria Meyer celebrates the podcast’s 100th episode. And, in a role-reversal, is the interviewee instead of the interviewer.
Today’s guest interviewer is Madeline Meyer, a summer intern at Progressio Global and computer science major at Texas State University. They discuss Victoria’s journey in the chemical industry, from working as a project engineer at Amoco to starting her own boutique consulting firm. They also explore the evolution and current and future state of the industry, including localization, sustainability, and the UN Plastic Treaty negotiations.
Victoria highlights the value of personal connections through storytelling and previews her upcoming event, The Chemical Summit, launching in October 2023. Lastly, she announces that the podcast will be adding a second episode each week and will focus on business issues and her own expertise and perspective.
Tune in to learn more about the chemical industry’s transformation through the eyes of its leaders.
And visit www.thechemicalsummit.com to learn more and register.
Watch the episode on YouTube
Listen to How Business Storytelling Creates Commercial Value
How Business Storytelling Creates Commercial Value
Welcome back to The Chemical Show. This is Victoria Meyer. Today is our 100th episode of The Chemical Show, which is a huge milestone. Since launching the show in 2021, I’ve had the opportunity to engage more deeply across the industry and interview, well, almost 100 guests.
For this 100th episode, we are turning the tables or the microphone, and I am going to be interviewed with some of the same questions that I ask my guests. Today’s guest interviewer is my summer intern and my number 1 daughter, Madeline. She is entering her junior year at Texas State University, majoring in computer science, and she’s working for our business this summer and I thought it would just be fun for her to ask the questions. So Maddie, take it away.
What’s your origin story? What brought you into the chemical industry and what led you to where you are today?
That’s always an interesting one. Like a lot of other engineers and people in the industry, I was good at math and science and somehow that turned into engineering and history or a career in chemicals. So when I was coming out of undergrad, I knew frankly that I wanted to see the world.
So I took a job with Amoco, back when there was an Amoco and now of course it’s part of BP and INEOS and what have you, as a project engineer, and they promised me that I would get to travel and see the globe and build projects around the world. And I saw Marietta, Ohio and Baytown, Texas and Decatur, Alabama. So not exactly the world, but it was definitely a launch point for me.
I went from Amoco to Quantum Chemical to do some manufacturing. Quantum, of course, is now owned by Lyondell Bissell. And I worked in polyethylene and polypropylene and really was fascinated just with the whole polymer industry. I really liked the tangible nature of it, but I always knew that I really wanted to be on the business side of things. So that led me into business school where I did my MBA at Kellogg School of Management..
After Kellogg, I joined Shell where I spent almost 20 years leading global businesses, doing M&A, strategy, business development, starting up businesses and turning around businesses and just getting a lot of great experience. After I left Shell, I went to Clariant for a couple of years, and when I left there, I knew that I wanted to do something different.
Throughout my entire career, I had always thought at some point, I would own my own company, a consulting company or an engineering company, serving the industry, taking more of a leadership role. And so that led me to launching Progressio Global.
So how is the industry different today than when you started?
It’s been 30 years, which is something I don’t always like to admit. I think there’s a lot of aspects that are the same and then it’s also different. I think one is a more diverse industry in a lot of ways, both in terms of just the diversity of people in the industry and the diversity of thinking. It is a much more global industry.
When I first started working, they were global companies and international companies and it was an international business environment. But the reality was we were all operating somewhat autonomously and really focused on a pretty narrow geographic region. So I think we are much more diverse in global business today and industry than we used to be.
I also think we’ve gone through different cycles. I think at the time that I joined the industry, there was some growth, but it quickly turned more conservative where the focus was operational excellence, doing more with less, being really operationally excellent across the industry.
I think where we’re at an inflection point today where there’s a lot more innovation going on, particularly because of the drive towards sustainability and just sustainability, circularity, being more green across the industry, still recognizing the value of our inherent chemical products and what it does for the world, but also needing to do it a little bit differently. So I think we’re in a place where there was growth when I first joined, it felt like there was a lot of operational excellence in the middle. And today I see a lot more innovation, growth and diversity throughout the industry.
Interesting. So tell me about Progressio Global.
Yeah, so Progressio Global, it’s a boutique consulting firm. I started it in 2017. And my focus, our focus is really helping companies execute upon their strategies and their marketing activities. I think what’s really important, and this comes through when I talk to people on the podcast, is really about making it customer-centric and people-centric. At the end of the day, we are in a B2B environment, but it’s also really people-to-people.
With Progressio Global, what I really like about it is the ability to go and impact a variety of different companies and help them really understand how to tune their strategy and their marketing efforts so that they are very customer centric and people centric and really thinking about the impact that they’re making because at the end of the day, I really believe and I think it’s proven true when you’re focusing your business on creating value for your customers and for your employees, you can be more successful, right? More companies want to do business with you. If you know that you’re growing and you’re growing to meet customer requirements, and heck, even things that your customers didn’t imagine that they needed, then there’s value there. And so that’s part of what we do, and it’s been a lot of fun.
You’ve been running your podcast, The Chemical Show, for 2 years now. What have been your biggest learnings and surprises?
Yeah, I think part of the learnings is just how engaged people are in listening to other leaders. So I started it with this idea that there are a lot of great stories across the industry. There’s a lot of challenges that the industry is facing and that each company is facing. And we need to hear from more leaders in the industry because I think in our traditional media often you see the same leaders over and over again. I think there’s an opportunity to hear different points of view, and that’s one of the things that’s proven true. A hundred episodes, 2 years. It’s been really quite a journey.
Part of it for me has been just learning what the process of podcasting is. So when I first started, you know, I set up interviews with leaders that I thought would be great conversations and I really thought, “Hey, I have great conversations all the time, this is going to be a breeze.” What I found out is like, oh, no, I actually do have to think through the questions ahead of time. Um, I like to give the questions to my guests ahead of time so that they can be prepared because what’s been surprising to me is I’ve gotten very comfortable being recorded and, and being on camera and being on audio all the time, but everybody else doesn’t have that experience. So, the more work I do upfront, the more effective the interview is, the more comfortable everybody is, and frankly, the better the outcome. So that’s one of the things I’ve learned along the way.
The second thing is that people really listen to it and I get feedback every time. My mother, your grandma, Maddie, every week listens to the episode and she gives me feedback. So I get feedback on almost every episode from somebody, not just your grandma, but also from people across the industry. It’s really striking to me how people listen to the podcasts and what they learn from each guest. So it may be that there is 1 individual who is running a PE backed firm and people have said, hey, I think that’s really cool. I didn’t know that’s how you got into these PE backed firms. I really liked that.
Finally, what’s been been really surprising to me is the number of people that have told me they’ve listened to a podcast episode before they went and interviewed with that particular leader or that company. So they were using it to get insights about the company, about the individual themselves. And that has been frankly surprising. I didn’t expect that to be the case, but it also to me shows the value of storytelling, of creating these personal connections and personal interactions and just how powerful the human voice is. The spoken word, the interviewing process, and being able to really just access leaders, listening to their points of view and gaining from that.
The chemical industry has gone through a lot of change in the past several years, the pandemic, supply chain challenges, a focus on innovation and sustainability. How do you see this evolving in the future?
Innovation and sustainability are here to stay.
So I think it’s interesting we’re sitting here in 2023 and I think everybody thought that some of these supply chain challenges would be behind us. I think they are, but we’ve got new ones. So what I see happening as I talk to leaders across the industry is a bit more of a localization. That is something that came about during the pandemic when people realized the challenges of these really strong supply chains. And so a bit more of a focus on creating regional businesses, local impacts and understanding that we’re still gonna be a global industry, there’s no doubt about it, but I think just the effect of the long supply chains and getting smarter with what those supply chains are to be more effective. That’s one thing.
I think there’s no doubt that sustainability and circularity is a key to the future of the industry. So as we record this, the negotiations for the UN Plastic Treaty are taking place, and the outcomes of that are going to really drive industry behavior, consumer behavior, et cetera. So the industry has to be ready to take those challenges on and evolve.
With that comes this need to keep owning the narrative. So I think one of the reasons that we’re having some of the challenges we’re having is that particularly when we look at sustainability and circularity around plastics, we haven’t told the story very well about why plastics are really critical to today’s modern environment.
The opportunity is to keep telling that story to demonstrate, that it’s not just about plastics in general. It’s about the fact that my computer monitor is made out of plastics and chemical materials and I really like it. My smartphone that I use on a day-to-day basis has a wide variety of chemical products. It would not be possible without products from the chemical industry, without innovations, and without continuing development. I think that’s important.
I never thought about that! So if you could go back in time, would you do it again? Join the industry, launch your own business and start a podcast?
The answer is yes. Yes! But I might do it in a different order, I think some of the reasons I joined the industry came true and they’ve continued to evolve. Like what I told you, when I first started working, I expected to see the world. I didn’t see that in the first couple of years of my career, but I did see it as I developed and as I progressed in my career, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the globe. I’ve had the opportunity to work with really smart people, grow businesses, and solve really interesting challenges. Would I do it again? Yes, I think so.
And I would say it’s still a great industry for people to join because there are great opportunities, great challenges and great potential. Would I launch my own consulting business? Yeah, I might do it sooner. I might do it differently. So I think that is a yes. And would I do the podcast? Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. A hundred episodes in, it has not always been easy, but it’s been good. And definitely, I think, there’s actually a huge opportunity still, for B2B companies to enter podcasting. What’s really been interesting, we didn’t talk about this earlier, is that people get personally connected when they hear your voice in their ears. I think it’s a great opportunity for storytelling and I’d continue to do it. I would do it again.
What’s next for you, the podcast and your consulting business?
Yeah, so I think a lot of things are coming up next. Number 1, one of the things I’m really excited about is expanding my business to be more of a media focus. And with that, we are launching a conference this year, The Chemical Summit, October 24th and 25th of 2023. So this year in the Woodlands, Texas, and I am super excited about that. That’s really built on just some of what I’ve seen in the podcast, right? People want more connection, they want thought leadership and they want insights that they can actually take back to their business. And that’s what the Chemical Summit does. The Chemical Summit is launching this year. I think it’s going to be an annual event, maybe even a biannual event. We are going to be growing to see where that goes. And I’m super excited.
The podcast, a hundred episodes down and continuing on actually adding a second episode every week. So in addition to interviewing leaders across the industry on the podcast, I’m also adding in a second episode every week, focusing in on some of the challenges that people talk to me about and say, hey, we don’t understand why we can’t do X, Y, or Z, or why our customers aren’t responding a certain way. So there’s going to be a second episode almost every week, really just tackling business issues and providing my perspective, the perspective that I’ve learned through my career and through my consulting business to continue to grow.
Want to learn more about business storytelling? Listen to Episode 107: Using Storytelling to Make Your Business Case
Don’t miss the newest chemical conference, featuring many leaders who have been featured on The Chemical Show podcast. The Chemical Summit takes place October 24-25, 2023 in The Woodlands, Texas. Learn more at www.thechemicalsummit.com