An Interview with Larry Hilsheimer of Greif, Inc.

Larry Hilsheimer, Executive Vice President and CFO at Greif, Inc., a leader in industrial packaging solutions, sat down with students attending Business Today’s 44th International Conference to discuss his experience working in a wide range of corporate environments, being involved with charitable causes, and making the most of his education.

From his first job in accounting at Deloitte & Touche LLP to his role at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, and finally his current position at Greif, Hilsheimer has gained extensive knowledge of many different industries. Having studied accounting in college, Hilsheimer’s move to Deloitte was a natural choice, but ultimately it was the work atmosphere that kept him at the company for decades to come. Hilsheimer cited the firm’s structure as a partnership as a primary factor in facilitating his professional growth, specifically his transition from technical to management roles. Following in the footsteps of his own mentor at the company who took on a “servant-leader” approach to management, Hilsheimer adopted a leadership style focused on influence and collaboration. From his first days in management roles to his current position at Greif, he has maintained the mission of restructuring strictly hierarchical systems to encourage a collaborative environment that inspires and engages the entire company. No matter the industry, a collaborative and supportive workplace culture is key to a rewarding career.

This dedication to service has also manifested itself in Hilsheimer’s philanthropic work: first inspired by his parents and his wife Cindy to get involved with charitable work, he soon found that business and philanthropy can intersect in a mutually beneficial way. Projects such as raising money for a cancer research center at Ohio State, his alma mater, allowed him to use his business background to improve operational efficiency while also extending his professional connections in the community. When it comes to charitable work, he lives by the expression “you get back more than you put in,” with his philanthropic work playing an important role in shaping both his personal and professional life.

Finally, Hilsheimer stressed the importance of a liberal education and an open mind. While working at Deloitte, he pursued a law degree, studying for night school while keeping his job at the firm. Although he had no plans to work as a lawyer after law school, the experience gave a new perspective to his work: for example, it provided him with a better understanding of taxes in a legal context and extended his connections in the American Bar Association.

He concluded with these words of wisdom: “For students, the most important thing is for them to stay in tune with what is going on in the world around them. Don’t let yourself get tunnel vision in what you’re doing day-to-day ...You are continuously re-educating yourself in life through whatever means is best for you.