John Latella, MSF 1999
John has been the Chief Operating Officer at Garden Fresh Gourmet since 2007. Garden Fresh Gourmet is the market leader in the fresh salsa category and one of the country’s most successful brands in the deli department of the grocery store. With total revenue around $100 million, supporting over 425 employees and their families, Garden Fresh’s line of salsas, hummus, dips, and tortilla chips is augmented by a robust private-label business. John’s responsibilities include day-to-day management of the entire organization, as well as cash management including both short-term and long-term financial planning.
John volunteers as a member of the Salvation Army Metropolitan Detroit Advisory Board, is vice-chair of the Salvation Army Metropolitan Detroit, and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Bed & Bread Committee. Thanks to his steadfast work for the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, he was recognized as the 2012 Distinguished Volunteer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2010, John was recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40, and in 2012 was selected as L. Brooks Patterson Elite 40 Under 40. John has been a speaker for Walsh College BusinessLIVE annual conference, lecturing on small and family business growth. In 2012, John joined the faculty of Walsh College as an Adjunct Professor teaching Business Law.
Interview with John:
What was your job title before you started at Walsh?
“Actually, before I started at Walsh my job title was Law Student. I pursued both my JD and MSF at the same time, as well as worked as a law clerk at a Southfield law firm.”
What is your job title now?
“Partner, Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel”
How did Walsh College help influence you?
“Walsh did a tremendous job of preparing me for real-life situations through instruction, instead of utilizing straight theory with no real-life applicability.”
What struggles did you go through during your time as a student? After graduation?
“As a student my biggest challenge was finding the time for myself. While pursuing two advanced degrees at the same time, one can guess that my personal time was very limited. What I learned to do was treat my education like an 8 to 5 job, and then every evening work-out and take a break from school activities; training/working-out was a great stress reliever. After graduation you almost struggle with the exact opposite effect because now you no longer have your studies, so you have more personal time to fill up than you did before. It was during this time that I really started focusing on my career path and putting extra time into that, instead of the set 8 to 5. “
What have you learned along the way to where you are today?
“First, an education will get you to the door; it won't open it for you. You need to distinguish yourself from others in the marketplace in order to make a difference, regardless of the career path you take. I learned early on from my father that you treat all people with compassion regardless of their situation/predicament. What might seem like a small issue to you could have them bearing the weight of the world. I have been blessed to have mentors that are better people than they are business people, and it's amazing the success you can find when you treat people the right way.”
What is your greatest accomplishment?
“Hands down, my marriage and my children. There is nothing more important than family, and I believe that many of us spend too much time working and not enough time with our kids and family. I have received many personal business acknowledgements, but they all pale in comparison to a kiss from my 5-year-old little girl.”
John is a proud husband to Michella and proud father to 10-year-old son Gabriel and 5-year-old daughter Gianna.
Why would you encourage people to attend Walsh College?
“Walsh College offers students an opportunity to learn in an environment that mirrors real life situations. They don't waste your time teaching impractical theories that have no beneficial use in reality. It is an environment where everyone who is teaching has experienced that lesson firsthand.”
What advice would you give a new alum or current student?
“Please find time for yourself and personal interests outside of your education. Too many of us sacrifice relationships, hobbies, etc. to try and get ahead. A truly successful individual will find the appropriate work/life balance and ultimately thrive in their career.”
Please join Walsh College in applauding John Latella in his continued successes with your comments below.
Contact Duc Abrahamson, Alumni & Student Relations Manager to nominate an alumnus to applaud at (248) 823-1298.