You can’t catch a Rising Star, if that star is Sheila Quinn – she moves too quickly and nimbly in her work as COO at Chicago Meat Authority Inc. (CMA). Just ask Jordan Dorfman, president, owner and founder of CMA. Dorfman hired Quinn for a six-month consulting contract in late 2008 and later brought her on full time as senior vice president of corporate planning. This past August, he promoted her to COO.

“Sheila has a strong strategic focus. She handles complex situations by breaking them down into easier, more manageable bite-size pieces and tackling those one by one,” Dorfman says. “She has a strong character ethic as well as a charismatic personality that allows her to gain well-deserved trust and compliance. While still new to her role, I think these traits afford Sheila a fine future at CMA and she certainly has been a rising star by my estimation, I’m quite certain that the industry would agree.”

Knack for the meat business
Quinn’s career trajectory in this industry wasn’t a set course. She has a strong background in organizational development (OD) and worked as a consultant for international firms like Price Waterhouse Cooper and Kensington International, among others. When she was recruited by Dorfman, however, she quickly developed a knack for the meat business.

“I was a math major in college and think this is a problem-solving industry and look at it that way. In this industry, you have to have broad skills, but it changes all the time. It’s the problem-solving mentality that helps you get to the bottom of things," she observes.

Along with a rapid immersion in the industry, Quinn has developed an affinity for the products and people. “I love it, even though people sort of laugh at me and say, ‘Just give it 10 years,’" she jokes.

In her current role, Quinn is using her enthusiasm, OD experience and relationship-building skills to put together an infrastructure involving CMA's strong, largely tenured customer base. “I think it’s really rallying the organization around our mission statement to be preferred supplier of customers. Everyone knows it, everybody breathes it and it’s about getting us focused on that while we are building infrastructure to poise us for next stage of growth,” she explains. In turn, she reports that customer feedback has been remarkably positive in both the further processing and portion control side of CMA’s business.

In her day-to-day responsibilities, Quinn says she enjoys working with people across the spectrum of the industry. “What I enjoy most about working here gets back to people. I’m constantly talking and communicating with people, especially as I’m moving more into sales. It’s about helping your customers satisfy their issues, resolve their problems and grow,” she says, adding that there is rarely a dull moment in the meat industry. “It’s a fun business because it’s constantly changing and moving and you have to be at your best. I’m never bored, and I don’t know that many people in the meat industry who are.”

When she’s not anticipating industry change and building her company’s infrastructure, the Chicago native likes spending time with her family and rooting for her sons sports teams. As she looks to the future her role with CMA and its potential for even more growth, she uses another Rising Star metaphor: “The sky’s the limit.”

Lynn Petrak is a contributing writer in the Chicago area.