Building a Legacy

How general counsel Fabio Pozzobon’s tour through the legal field brought him to Sofina Foods

“I wanted to get involved in a business environment where I’d be building a legacy.”

Already the owner of such household comestibles brands as Janes, Lilydale, Mastro, and San Daniele, Sofina Foods Inc. is now on a mission to become the most successful food company in the world. And, with 15 years of prior experience at food and beverage maker Coca-Cola—and key lessons learned from his immigrant parents about respect, integrity, and hard work—Fabio Pozzobon is primed to help reach that goal as the company’s new and impressively unflappable general counsel. Here, he talks to Advantage about the sense of accomplishment he gets from his work.

Advantage: How did you choose the legal profession?
Fabio Pozzobon: My parents tell a story that when I was about six or seven, I told them I dreamed about being a lawyer, and that stuck with me. Early in life, I had a thirst for knowledge, and law seemed like a profession that would expand my horizons.

What do you enjoy about the law?
The law touches everyone on a regular basis, and as you grow in your career, you develop from simply being a legal technical expert to a business partner and then becoming a strategic, trusted advisor.

Did you always want to be a general counsel?
I practiced law in a firm for five years, but I always wanted to be intricately involved in the business world because that’s where you actually become part of a team, are able to help build a business, and grow within it.

Career Milestones

Earns a BA in French and a minor in political science from York University

Earns his LLB degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School; takes a position as an associate lawyer at Kerzner, Papazian, Macdermid

Becomes the corporate legal counsel of Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada Company

Climbs to a vice presidential position at Coca-Cola

Switches tacks and starts as a part-time instructor of paralegals at Seneca College and Humber College; accepts a general counsel contract position with iTravel2000

Joins Sofina Foods as vice president and general counsel

How did you land at Sofina?
I was at Coca-Cola for 15 years, and it was a great experience. Not only is it one of the best brands in the world, but it allowed me to be fully integrated in every aspect of the business. But in 2011, I took a step back and reflected on where I wanted my next journey in life to lead me. I wanted to explore other ventures, one of which was to give back to society in some respect and share my passion for knowledge, so I taught at the college level.

What did you teach?
I taught potential paralegals, and instead of just teaching by-the-book law, I was able to bring to light my day-in-and-day-out practical experience. They learned something about life, and they learned something about how the real world works so that they would be able to apply themselves in a practical, worthwhile, value-added way. It was a memorable experience.

What attracted you to Sofina?
I wanted to get involved in a business environment where I’d be building a legacy, and Sofina fit the bill. It has an entrepreneurial environment that fosters family values in business, with a strong foundation, momentum, and a great vision for growth to become the most successful food company in the world. The people are passionate, and they have the values of integrity, respect, and accountability—things that I aspire to and live, day in and day out.

What did you learn at Coca-Cola that has been most valuable at Sofina?
At Coca-Cola, I wasn’t just sitting in my office reading contracts; I got involved in all aspects of the business. The culture that I aspired to and lived every day was that you don’t just say “no” or “can’t”; you must find solutions, but you do so by working together in a professional, respectful way and challenging each other so that decisions are made and solutions are found. To do that well, you have to get involved in your business client’s  world—whether that world is finance or sales or marketing—and understand what makes them tick, what their needs are, and you need to speak their language.

Is it tough working in the food industry, with all the risks and liabilities?
It’s challenging—but in a good way. You can never forget that you are fulfilling the needs of your customers with that delicious staple that they desire. If you have proper processes in place, adhere to high-quality standards, ensure a disciplined approach to business, and live by your core values, the vision is achievable.

Do you have a legal staff working with you?
I am the legal team, but with our strong business team working with me, it really energizes me to be on top of my game to meet their needs.

Does that keep you up at night?
If you’re organized and able to prioritize what you have to deal with and communicate effectively, those things won’t keep you up at night. What keeps me up at night is trying to get to that next level, that vision. It’s exciting every day to walk in here knowing that we’re building to achieve a goal and we’re doing it as a team.