PRIVATE COMPANY WITH ANNUAL REVENUES OVER $500M
Assistant General Counsel, Bunzl Distribution NA
Ryan Fehlig works on a lot of teams at Bunzl Distribution NA, where he is assistant general counsel, and he recently has overhauled his management style.
“I used to treat others the way I wanted to be treated,” he said, meaning he would avoid micromanaging. “That works for some people.”
But recently, in the process of earning his executive master of international business degree at Saint Louis University, he explored the idea of situational leadership — that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to moving a team from Point A to Point B.
Said Fehlig: “I’ve learned to adapt more.”
It may prove to be a valuable adaptation at his company, which is the largest operating unit of Bunzl PLC, the global business-to-business distributor of essential goods and equipment. Fehlig said he spends most of his time managing acquisition projects on the non-financial side, coordinating with outside counsel and the internal deal team to ensure that document-drafting and due diligence are done well — and on time.
And time can be an issue. In the first five years after he joined Bunzl in 2013, he recalled, the acquisitions were constant and overlapping; at one point, he said, there were nine in progress at the same time.
According to Fehlig’s nominator, he has a knack for solving “complex legal issues under difficult deadlines,” while somehow keeping “a calm and professional demeanor” and displaying a cool “temperament under pressure.”
He actually thrives on the pressure.
“Especially when you have a lot going at once and you can’t spend hours thinking up something perfect,” he said. “I like having to be creative and being practical and finding something that works well enough.”
Fehlig earned his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999. He clerked for an appeals judge before landing at what was then Blackwell Sanders in St. Louis.
“I had a lot of experience, I’d say, at a young age,” he recalled of his years at the firm. “I was probably doing stuff that my resume told you I shouldn’t have been doing.” He made partner and was making good client connections, so he decided to shelve any aspirations of going in-house. But then he got a call from a recruiter who said Solutia Inc., a specialty chemical and performance materials company, was looking to hire someone to build out its legal department. He went there in 2008.
In 2012, Solutia was acquired by Eastman Chemical Company, leaving Fehlig with the feeling he wasn’t near the power center of the company. He made the move to Bunzl the following year.
At Bunzl, Fehlig has worked on more than 20 acquisitions. He also manages legal support for the company’s real estate portfolio, which consists of more than 170 leased facilities of a combined space that exceeds 15 million square feet in North America. In addition, Fehlig manages legal support for Bunzl’s IP estate (which includes more than 400 trademark registrations in North America) and business contracts (such as customer and vendor supply agreements).
While in his free time he likes to duck-hunt and cheer on the St. Louis Blues, when he’s at work, he still likes working on teams.
“I like playing a meaningful role on the team,” he said. “I do like complexity and trying to be creative and coming up with solutions.”