Lisa Kaplan has spent more than 25 years working in strategy and marketing roles in the agribusiness; satellite telecommunications; maintenance, repairs and operations distribution; finance and insurance; and resin distribution industries. Kaplan is the vice president of strategy and marketing for Northbrook, Ill.-based resin distributor M. Holland Co.
"The linking factor of these industries is that they are oriented to business-to-business commerce, which I have found incredibly challenging and interesting. It has afforded me a range of business opportunities and challenges to solve," Kaplan said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey.
"During my career, I've witnessed a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, English Premier Soccer from the stands at Old Trafford and negotiated with the King of Tonga. And, in all cases, I was either the only or one of very few women in the room, which brought its own complexities. Even with all these experiences, my greatest career highlight is my work at M. Holland, where, as a member of the executive team, I can both honor the past and shape the future for this storied and successful business," she added.
Kaplan said her current challenges at the company include initiatives in diversity and inclusion and an approach to sustainability and the circular economy.
"Both represent areas where we have much road ahead of us but that will ensure that our business remains competitive and relevant," she said.
Kaplan has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Michigan and master's degree in international affairs and Eastern Asian studies from George Washington University.
"I enjoy working on change and change management-related issues and enjoy the challenge of effecting change for the better. These topics are multifaceted and require the use of many tools in our management toolbox to effect success," she said. "In that the plastics industry is vital to so many areas of the global economy, there is an almost limitless opportunity to effect change and make a difference, whether internal to M. Holland and its business goals, or within the industry at large."
Kristina Leal of Ink Communications nominated Kaplan for Women Breaking the Mold.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Kaplan: I am very focused on the next generation for our business with customer relationship management (CRM) and data analysis. The combination of the two can help us refine our approach to our clients and the market in general and may impact how we go to market across our three business units, within certain industry verticals and in regions of the world.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Kaplan: For a somewhat conservative industry, there is a huge appetite to borrow best practices from other industries and to embrace change that meets many of the macro forces of change head-on, such as sustainability.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Kaplan: This industry continues to grow in its understanding of the value diverse experiences bring. So do not hold yourself back if you do not have a background in plastics. I made the decision to cross industry lines to pursue my current position and am thankful that I did. I would encourage others from different backgrounds and experiences to do the same. Subject matter expertise outside of the plastics industry is valuable and affords you a unique perspective. Bring your whole self to this industry and be a driver for innovation, new ideas and positive change within it.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Kaplan: I am finding that it is quite unusual for someone in my role to come from outside the plastics industry. My background allows me to be effective in a way that deep subject matter expertise would not necessarily have done. I hope that my relative success, alongside a lack of previous plastics experience, has broken a traditional "mold" and provided a model that can be replicated.
Lastly, many are taught to be the most professional version of ourselves at work while leaving core parts of our personalities and who we are at home. Through my growth in understanding servant leadership, finding a company whose core values align to my own, and becoming a female executive, I've found that being authentically myself is the greatest way to find personal and professional success and lead teams.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Kaplan: My current boss, Dwight Morgan, who leads corporate development at M. Holland. He is patient, measured, articulate and practices servant leadership to its fullest.