Be patient- change takes time: I have been a part of conducting meaningful change in organizations for many years in different roles, and have learnt that people struggle with changes and need time to process and digest.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Guy Elitzur.
Guy Elitzur holds significant management experience. He currently serves as CEO of Vertical Field, a leading agro-tech provider of vertical farming and living green wall solutions for urban environments and smart cities.
He previously headed up STK Bio-ag Technologies (STK), a leading global crop protection company as its CEO and served as a member of the board. At STK, Elitzur led the company to successful geographical expansion and fundraising of $90 million in return for a majority stake. Prior to this, Guy served private and public companies in senior executive roles. He is a licensed CPA and earned his L.L.M. from Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I originally come from a financial background and have been in the field of innovation and agriculture for over a decade. I was attracted to the agricultural field and the particular challenges it faces in this complicated era, and am very passionate about bringing meaningful innovation that changes the way we grow and consume food.
What led you to this particular career path?
Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to be a farmer. The smell of fresh soil has always been a source of calm serenity and inspiration. Life took me in all kinds of different directions, and I’m very glad that through different twists, turns, and business opportunities, I have ended up in the agricultural sector, which I’ve been working in for the past ten years.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
The company’s vertical farms are disruptive on a number of levels. By growing food on-site, we are disrupting the agricultural supply chain for supermarkets, restaurants and institutions- and giving them an opportunity to have more control over their produce. These companies no longer need to suffer financial losses around distribution, transportation, food losses, and more. By growing food on-site we’re also eliminating food insecurity, reliance on foreign economies, and other external factors that create unfortunate surprises in the supply of food to cities.
Essentially, we’re also disrupting the entire notion that food needs to be grown horizontally and in rural, land-rich locations. Vertical Field’s urban farms come to introduce an entirely new way of relating to agriculture and access to important nutritional resources at the local urban level- our disruption comes to say: you don’t need vast land to produce healthy soil-based produce.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Before I entered the agricultural sector, I had thought of it as a very simple, low-tech science that involves planting, watering, and harvesting with simple heavy labored techniques and processes. I learned along the way that the agricultural field is, in fact, a much more complex, intertwined, high-tech, and fast-paced field than I imagined, with inspiring innovation and technology that has vast impacts on the daily life of many people around the globe.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
At the beginning of my career, I had the privilege to work with one of the most amazing women I have ever met and was one of the senior managers at the organization. The way that she addressed challenges and connected people to her team and the mission was incredibly inspiring and taught me many lessons in leadership and management.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disrupting an industry is positive when it benefits the citizen population in the most important ways. When regular people- from diverse socio-economic backgrounds have increased access to crucial resources- such as water, food, shelter, financial opportunities, etc- this is a positive disruption. Of course, even within this framework, disruptive companies must be careful that they are succeeding in creating a positive impact, and are not unintentionally doing harm. Societies change, economics change, technologies change and therefore disruptions are an important part of that. We must check ourselves as leaders, as innovators, and as influential actors that our positive intentions are successfully translated into positive impacts.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Be patient- change takes time: I have been a part of conducting meaningful change in organizations for many years in different roles, and have learned that people struggle with changes and need time to process and digest.
Control your ego — it will lead you nowhere.
When dealing with people, use your ears more than your month — listen
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We’re looking to expand and further develop in a number of ways. We hope to continue to infiltrate the American and European markets, as well as enter the Asian market. We also would like to install solar panels to increase the sustainability of our products. However, to be truly disruptive, prices must be competitive to conventional agriculture, which is an important goal of ours, which will truly shake things up.
Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I have discovered through my work with Vertical Field that people are incredibly driven by social and environmental innovation. People want to be involved in projects that genuinely do good in the world- it inspires and encourages them- and when you give them an opportunity to do so- they run with it. This resonates deeply with me, as someone who also seeks to create positive change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Gut feeling is a managerial tool, it is not just a gut feeling. Over time and in many cases I have learned to ‘listen” to these senses and to add that level of intuition to my decision-making toolbox. In addition to considerations around strategic, economic, and business model development angles, I have found that truly listening in can positively contribute to decision-making in ways that I never imagined.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As the leader of a company that inspires positive and sustainable changes to the food chain, I would like to see more companies and organizations increase their environmental sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint. the harm to earth and the environment. Top-rated companies should play a forefront role, both inspiring others and benefiting from such changes.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow Vertical Field on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/verticalfield
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/company/18645471/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!