Next Gens Snack on Management Tidbits from LiDestri Leader

August 23, 2019

Before she took on a role at food and beverage manufacturing company that shares her last name, Stefani LiDestri was a dysphagia therapist helping patients through eating, drinking, and swallowing rehabilitation, worked for Big Pharma briefly, and opened three fashion boutiques in Atlanta, Georgia.

Stefani LiDestri, co-president of LiDestri Food and Drink, talks with members of Fisher's Family Business Next Generation Leadership Program.

It was all in preparation for the day she would return to LiDestri Food and Drink, armed with the sales, manufacturing, and managerial knowledge and experience needed to be a successful co-president of the family-owned company. Stefani works side-by-side with her brother, John, and father, Giovanni, to lead the Rochester-based business.

Earlier this summer, members of the Next Generation Leadership Program through St. John Fisher College’s Family Business Initiative sat down with LiDestri to learn about the history of the company and hear her career path to co-president.

“I think back to stuffing envelopes with pasta sauce coupons while watching Three’s Company and chuckle. It’s special to have those memories.”

During the discussion, LiDestri also spoke about how she balances being a family member and business leader.

“It’s important that we understand our roles, where our boundaries are, and who has talent where,” LiDestri said when explaining how her family decided which roles they would assume within the company. “The most important thing for the business to thrive is for the family to be healthy ... because we are so involved.”

Holly Rund, the great-granddaughter of the founders of Kittleberger Florist who serves as the manager of the Webster-based company, welcomed the opportunity to hear about the dynamics of another family-owned business. While the two businesses differ in size, Rund said she found similarities in the issues that arise for both companies, including communication and setting aside time for family meetings. During a tour of LiDestri’s facilities, Rund also noted how content employees seemed in their jobs, underscoring the importance creating environments that promote employee satisfaction.

The talk and tour at LiDestri is one of several events and workshops for the Next Generation Peer Leadership Group. Designed to help participants successfully assume leadership positions within the company with a focus on family governance, transition, and leadership skill building. Dr. Carol Wittmeyer, interim associate dean of the School of Business, who facilitates the Next Gen Leadership program, said LiDestri hit on several key issues for the group, including building her own leadership capabilities.

“Our Fisher Next Gen Leadership Program participants are fortunate to be able to have conversations with family business leaders who can relate to their unique challenges and opportunities. Stefani offered them vision, empathy, encouragement, and humor. We are grateful to Stefani for sharing her journey, from deciding to join her family business, to rising to the rank of co-president. She shared some of her deliberate strategies to build her internal and external credibility, some coincidences, and how she got comfortable inviting and having hard conversations with her partners–her dad and her brother,” said Wittmeyer. “The plant tour to see innovation in action was another great take-away for our Next Gens.”