Editor’s Note: This is an expanded version of an interview that appears in the July/August issue of FlexPack VOICE®. The printed article can be found online, too, in the digital format of the full magazine.
Each issue, as well as occasionally in a digital exclusive, FlexPack VOICE® hosts a question-and-answer segment that discusses important issues with an industry leader. The digital features often will have a closer look at how leaders got into the industry. In this segment, we interview Madeleine Robinson, CEO of LPS Industries, LLC and a member of the FPA chairperson’s advisory council. After getting an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the New Jersey resident started her career with a bank on Wall Street. “Girls back then didn’t go into business,” she says. “But my life-long ambition was to work on Wall Street, and I was determined to get there.”
FlexPack VOICE®: Tell us about your experience on Wall Street.
Madeleine Robinson: I started in the training program of a large NYC bank and clawed my way onto the trading floor, offering to bring coffee to the traders or ‘sweep the floors,’ if only I could transfer to there from the lending floor. I was persuasive and, wow, did I love it. After seven years, I was promoted to executive vice president in charge of all worldwide trading. Several years later, the bank was involved in a very hostile takeover and so I took advantage of my golden parachute and took time off to reassess my career.
FPV: How did you get involved in the flexible packaging industry?
MR: An associate of mine once told me that everyone in packaging is there by mistake. He noted that nobody goes to school yearning to end up in the plastics business! That’s not quite my story, since my dad started the company in 1959, and I worked most summers there since I was 13. I will say, however, that I never aspired to get involved in the business. Fate intervened when my dad died, and my only sibling decided to pursue other interests. I was very conscious of the families that had been loyal to my family and realized how much they relied on us to manage LPS properly so that they could support their own growing families. Selling the company seemed traitorous and, by then, the company was fairly large and on the cutting edge of a lot of new products—zippered bags!—so my mother leaned on me to do “the right thing.” The Irish can be very charming when they need to be. I left Wall Street to come to LPS and, to this day, I still feel a tremendous responsibility to do right by my employees.
FPV: Is there a particular experience that stands out in your career, good or bad or both?
MR: I’ve been lucky to have had two great careers. However, I’m most proud of the fact that the word “no” just wasn’t in my vocabulary. No, women don’t go into business. No, young people have to wait their turn. No, women don’t work on Wall Street. All of those comments just made me work harder.
FPV: Who were your mentors and why were they important?
MR: My parents were my best mentors. They were both unbelievably supportive of everything that I did and taught me some great lessons. In addition, I had two spectacular mentors at the bank who were willing to give me the opportunity to hang myself, which is all that most people really want. In those days, it was a risky move to let a woman trade fixed income securities while the rest of the 20,000 employees looked over their shoulders. I realized later that they were risking their careers too. Pretty gutsy.
FPV: Anything you would like to say about your family? How about what you like to do when you are not working?
MR: My family consists of my many cousins, many nieces and nephews, and of course my five dogs. I love the beach and try to go to the Jersey shore, Aruba, or Florida as much as possible. My other loves are animals and fashion, as well as cooking. During COVID-19, my niece gave me a gift certificate for Blue Apron, and I can’t tell you how much fun I had cooking those dinners. Oh yeah, I love fast cars, too.