Women in Leadership Profiles

Belief in Brand Spurs High-Powered Performance

Sue Klug, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Republic Services, has achieved excellence throughout her career—because she truly admires the businesses for which she’s worked.

Sue Klug started in the mailroom of a local grocery store and left 18 years later as Senior Vice President of Marketing. She received her MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business. Now the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Republic Services, she says her high-powered performance is fueled by life outside of work and being absolutely relentless in the pursuit of her big goals.

Above all, she says, “To perform well in a high-level role, you must believe in the business and in the brand that you’re working for.”

Q: What is your current role at Republic Services?

A: As EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, my focus is on profitable growth. My team achieves growth by advancing the brand and by engaging pricing tools to manage our top line and profitability.

Q: What drives you to perform in a high-level role?   

A: You must believe in the business and the brand. Most of my career has been in supermarkets. That’s a business where you’re helping people feed their families. At Republic, the sustainability platform is what most interests me.

Q: What attracted you to a business career, and in particular, to food industry management? Did you have a specific plan for your career, or has it been more of an organic progression?

A: I grew up very poor. There was never talk of going to college. I got a job in the mailroom at a grocery company called Vons, which is now owned by Safeway. Vons gave me opportunities to advance, and I started college while working there.

While there wasn’t a formal leadership development program, I was exposed to different disciplines within the business, and supported by many mentors. Bill Davila was instrumental to my career development. Bill started as a janitor in a grocery store. Fifty-one years later, he left the company as president.

I have always had a strong passion for sustainability, and Republic was a natural fit for my next career move. It wasn’t necessarily a deliberate and straight path, but I worked hard and followed opportunities as they presented themselves.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

A: Identifying high potential people and supporting them as they grow and advance is very rewarding to me. On the business side, it’s rewarding to see the good work we’re doing in the area of sustainability—operating responsibly and making the planet a better a place.

Q: What is the best career advice you ever received? And as a mentor, what lessons do you like to impart?

A: Focus on continuous improvement! Even if you knock it out of the park, celebrate the success, then think about how you can take it to the next level. My advice to my team is to be bold, go for it, dream big!

Q: How does Republic Services support career growth?

A: Republic supports career growth in a variety of ways. We established a General Management Accelerated Program – GMAP. Through GMAP, we pair highly qualified college graduates with leaders who have a deep understanding of the business. It’s pretty revolutionary for our business.

Republic provides other opportunities to advance along the career continuum and offers training for various positions. For example, many of our supervisors were first drivers with strong people management skills. We teach them skills and techniques to excel in their new roles.

Q: What philanthropic causes are you involved in, and how does your leadership platform amplify your impact?

A: My daughter, who is now 21, has Cystic Fibrosis. It’s a very debilitating disease. There are treatments, but no cure. When she was born, we were told she’d live to 21; but here we are, and she’s doing awesome after having a lung transplant at 17. This is very personal and important to me, and I have a burning passion to find a cure for this disease.

I do what I can to generate awareness and funding for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation—as an “orphan disease” it receives no government funding, so there is a need to generate funding for research.

Q: What is the mission of Women of Republic, the company’s business resource group? What is your role as executive sponsor, and what is the group’s goal?

A: Women of Republic is our first business resource group. The biggest focus for Women of Republic is recruiting more women—determining the right message, where we recruit, and so forth. We are working to approach recruiting from a female perspective.

Q: What are some of your personal interests, and how have you navigated the competing demands of work and personal life over the years?

A: It’s all about robust support systems. My kids are grown now, but we had a live-in nanny when they were younger. You need the support system behind you. The same goes for work—the number one thing for me is to hire and support the best team. We recruit talented people and then give them the support and opportunities to grow.

Women, particularly, have a hard time saying no. I believe women need to retrain themselves, define clear boundaries, and have the courage to say no.

I have always told my kids – I love you more than anything, but I love my job too. I think that’s a good message, and it’s really important for them to see what makes Mom happy.

Q: What’s your personal superpower?

A: Relentlessness! Stay Focused. Failure is not an option.

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