'Punching Into The Unknown'

Gergen, senior political correspondent for CNN and former presidential advisor, covered a variety of topics including the state of America, the 2016 presidential election, leadership and trust, and the new generation of emerging political and business leaders.

He expressed concern about the world's present unstable conditions, but said he is optimistic about the future because he sees a new breed of leaders. With the rapid transformation of information exchange, and changing political and business patterns, clear decision paths are complex, ambiguous, contradictory, confusing and complicated.

Therefore, the future is not clearly predictable, and more than ever before unknown. That will pave the way for new thought leadership. It will consist of seven key attributes: inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; skills in working within the system; a fast start; a strong, effective team; and a passion that inspires others to keep the flame alive.

Another highlight of the Forum was an executive panel discussion with the CEOs and presidents of The Hershey Company, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo, Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive.

They covered a variety of topics with highlights focusing on M&A and consolidation (it will continue for the foreseeable future because companies are available at the right prices), increasing short-term value for investors while innovating for continued success (recognizing that shopper personalization and e-commerce are critical issues), and recognizing that flexibility, agility of decision-making and execution, and speed to change are critical components of future growth.

Stagnito Business Information's Multicultural360 Conference was a success, as it transitioned from a sole focus on the Hispanic consumer to adding Asian and African-American platforms. The finer points of shopper demographics, how to market and sell to this rapidly growing population segment, case histories, and how this industry transition affects mainstream retailers were presented and discussed in detail.

As good as the conference was, I was privileged to have dinner with Rocky Sickmann, director of military and event sales for Anheuser-Busch InBev. And for two hours, it was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

Rocky was one of 52 American hostages during the Iranian Hostage crisis in 1979. He was held captive for 444 days before being released. He told us in detail about how he was a 22-year-old Marine Sergeant when Iranian militants stormed the American Embassy.

For the first month, he was tied to a chair and not allowed to speak. He and other hostages were interrogated and forced to watch torture videos. He was subjected to mock executions with rifles pointed at his head. He shared his cell with two other Marines, the only other hostages he would see for the duration.

After his release, Rocky married his high school sweetheart, who had waited for him, and they have three grown children. He has worked for A-B for 33 years. He was invited to the filming of the movie Argo, the Academy Award-winning story about the hostage crisis where he met director/actor Ben Affleck, who asked him to address the entire cast and crew and tell them what his captivity was like.

In addition to working with the military, Rocky speaks in front of numerous groups, including the VHA, disabled veterans, and former POWs describing the terrors, hopes, and resiliency that people go through to serve their country. He is a real American hero.

A couple more predictions gone awry:
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
–Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

"Reagan doesn't have that presidential look."
–United Artists executive, rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film "The Best Man."

– Harry Stagnito,

President and CEO,
Stagnito Business Information