In today’s competitive business environment, hiring strategies are paramount to success. The debate over hiring candidates with industry-specific experience versus those from different sectors is particularly pronounced in the food and agribusiness sectors.

3P Partners recently interviewed three industry leaders to uncover the benefits and drawbacks of filling roles based on industry experience. We spoke with John Pieretti, Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain at Musco Family Olive Co; Emily Folkestad, Chief Financial Officer at Beef Northwest Feeders; and Mackenzie Bennett, Head of People at Gold Leaf Farming.

Benefits of Hiring for Industry Experience

Hiring individuals with direct experience in food processing or agribusiness offers distinct advantages. John Pieretti, Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain at Musco Family Olive, highlights several key benefits.

Understanding Food Industry Compliance and Seasonality

Pieretti emphasizes that the food processing and agriculture sectors are characterized by unique challenges and regulations. He notes, “Food processing and agriculture are dynamic industries with a number of unique challenges.” Industry-specific knowledge is crucial for navigating regulations, environmental compliance, and labor issues. He adds, “For example, the seasonality – in this industry, we deal with a seasonal workforce whereas some industries have a more stable workforce.”

Companies operating in California face additional complexities, such as agribusinesses contending with labor laws like Wage Order 14. When 3P Partners recently placed a Human Resources Director for Musco Family Olive, it was essential to find a candidate with a thorough understanding of state labor laws. We placed a candidate with over 20 years of experience with California labor compliance.

Expedited Value Add

Another significant advantage of hiring for food industry experience is the expedited timeline for value addition and onboarding. Hiring someone with a food manufacturing background means they can hit the ground running in their new role.

According to Pieretti, hiring individuals with relevant industry experience allows for a smoother transition and immediate impact. He states, “Seasoned employees take less time to reach their full potential in a role rather than learning the job from scratch.” This streamlined onboarding process means that less training is required, enabling new hires to contribute effectively almost immediately.

Pieretti shared an example of a Vice President of Finance placed at Musco by 3P Partners, who quickly added substantial value due to his extensive experience in food manufacturing: He notes that the new hire “brought significant expertise within the food industry” and quickly added value to the business.

Benefits of Hiring from Other Industries

In contrast, hiring from outside the industry also presents notable benefits, as explained by Emily Folkestad and Mackenzie Bennett.

Broader Talent Pool

Folkestad highlights the importance of tapping into a wider talent pool, especially in specialized industries like cattle production. She notes, “The beef industry overall is large, but cattle production is a small world. We know everybody that’s in the business nationally and so the only way to get people that have that specific experience would be to go steal from your friends or competitors.” By recruiting from other industries, companies can access a larger and more diverse range of candidates.

Creativity and Innovation

Hiring from outside the industry also fosters creativity and innovation. Folkestad shares that their CHRO, who previously worked in poultry processing, introduced valuable ideas on employee recognition and long-term incentive plans, which were novel to Beef Northwest Feeders. This cross-industry perspective can drive significant improvements and fresh approaches to existing business practices.

Broader Skillsets and More Diverse Teams

Bennett supports this view, noting that diverse backgrounds and skill sets benefit collaboration. She states, “The most successful teams that I’ve encountered bring together a mix of backgrounds, skills, and knowledge, combining the invaluable wisdom and experience from industry experts with the fresh perspective and curiosity of those coming from outside the industry.”

Considerations and Approach to Hiring from Other Industries

When contemplating candidates from different sectors, several factors should be considered to ensure a good fit and effective integration.

When to Prioritize Industry Experience

Bennett acknowledges that certain roles necessitate specific industry expertise. For instance, at Gold Leaf Farming, their farm management team’s extensive farming experience is critical to daily operations. “In this case, that knowledge translates directly to the successful day-to-day operations of our farms,” Bennett states.

Complementary or Related Industries

Folkestad suggests looking at complementary industries when hiring externally. “Our risk management director that we hired 6 years ago didn’t have any experience trading live cattle, but he was a very good grain trader. He brought insights into the grain markets that were an ancillary benefit to our business,” explains Folkestad. In this case, the new hire’s industry-adjacent experience was key to his success in his new role. Focusing on related industries when recruiting ensures that new hires bring relevant skills that can be adapted to the specific needs of the organization.

Cultural Alignment

Ensuring cultural alignment is crucial for the successful integration of external hires. Folkestad emphasizes the importance of hiring individuals with experience in production-based or manufacturing environments to ensure they can seamlessly transition into the company’s culture and operations.

3P Partners recently worked with Beef Northwest Feeders to hire a Vice President of Finance. It was important to Folkestad and the Beef Northwest team to find a finance leader who understood the culture of the company, regardless of the industry they were coming from.

“They didn’t necessarily have to be beef industry veterans, but they did have to check some boxes. We need people who can go into a production facility and not be totally lost. Someone who can relate to people working there and help solve their problems,” says Folkestad.

Structured and Rigorous Onboarding

A rigorous onboarding process is essential to address the steeper learning curve that candidates from other industries will experience. Immersing a new hire in the company culture from day one can propel them toward success. Folkestad recounts an example of how their rigorous onboarding process helped bring a new hire up to speed.

“When we hired our risk management director, the first few months of his job were spent on a feed yard,” explains Folkestad. “It was important to us that he understood the fundamentals of our business and how the production cycle works so that when he went out to trade cattle for us, he knew what he was doing.”

This hands-on experience is vital for bridging the knowledge gap and ensuring that new hires are well-prepared.


The decision to hire candidates with industry-specific experience or from different sectors depends on the unique needs and goals of the business. Both approaches offer distinct benefits: industry experience helps ensure immediate impact and seamless integration, while candidates from other industries can bring fresh perspectives and broader skill sets. Recognizing the increased competition for talent, the recommended approach is to consider ancillary or complementary industry experience to broaden the talent pool.

At 3P Partners, we tailor our approach to meet the specific needs of each business, ensuring the right fit for sustainable success. To explore how we can help you find the ideal candidates, click here to speak with a member of the 3P team.

Emily Folkestad | Beef Northwest Feeders

Emily Folkestad is the Chief Financial Officer for Beef Northwest Feeders, a progressive beef production operation with over 430 employees across twelve locations in Oregon and Washington. Emily and her team support all finance, accounting, price risk management, and technology functions for the company. Beef Northwest and its affiliate entities focus on cattle feeding, ranching, transportation, meat processing, and land management operations. Emily received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees from Eastern Oregon University. Emily resides in La Grande, Oregon with her husband, Bryan, and four-year-old son, Oliver.

John C. Pieretti | Musco Family Olive Co.

John is the Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain/Human Resources at Musco Family Oilve Co. He joined Musco in 2013 as Plant Manager and shortly thereafter Director of Operations. He oversees day-to-day operations at both Musco Facilities in Tracy and Orland, CA and leads a team of directors and managers within Operations, Supply Chain, and Human Resources. John started his career at Del Monte Foods directly out of college. He spent time as a field representative before he transitioned into Plant Operations where he played a key role in transitioning Del Monte’s tomato operations to Hanford and consolidating three fruit manufacturing facilities into one flagship plant in Modesto CA. John earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Agribusiness/ Agricultural Business Operations, Plant Science Minor from Fresno State University.

Mackenzie Bennett | Gold Leaf Farming

Mackenzie is the Head of People at Gold Leaf Farming and leads the firm’s efforts to recruit top talent and deliver an exceptional, differentiated employment experience. Prior to joining Gold Leaf, Mackenzie held People & Culture roles at the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, and led the build out of People functions at high growth VC-backed FinTech startups. Mackenzie attended the University of Michigan where she earned a Master’s of Management from the Ross School of Business and a B.A. in Communications and Psychology and captained the University’s DI Field Hockey team.