Recently appointed as the company's southern chief operating manager, Mr McConnell, 40, got his first taste of global markets when he joined Elders Wool International in its export trading division.
Buying, selling and trading wool he gained a good understanding of the global commodities market, and having a sweet spot for agriculture, he moved north to Swift Australia in Brisbane after its acquisition of Australia Meat Holdings and joined its trading division.
There he spent six years buying and selling beef and hedging currency in global markets before being posted to the United States, where he set up from scratch an international trading division for the company out of North America.
After just one year in the post, he was promoted further into the processing side of the JBS North American business to manage international sales and was responsible for sales offices in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mexico.
Based on his global experience and track record in getting results, Mr McConnell quickly identified other global markets where the company was not an active direct marketer and, with a restructure of offices and a changed approach delivering the JBS US operations, achieved a larger slice of market share into these major importing markets.
So when JBS Australia decided to split its Australian arm into separate north and south divisions to improve performance, he was an ideal candidate to return home and lead the new southern division based on his farming background, his connections with the southern Australian sheep, lamb and beef production systems and his international marketing expertise and success.
Mr McConnell said the decision to split the business was a logical one because the business in the south operates different to that of the north.
Importantly, he sees tremendous opportunity to develop a stronger relationship with southern producers "and you need to be on the ground to do that", he said.
The sheepmeats business was totally different, with great opportunities, and JBS had broken it out as a separate business unit to make sure they were fully focused and kept it simple, he said.
While the north is solely a beef processing unit and a strong lot-feeding component supplied primarily from large pastoral holdings, southern Australia has a greater mix of beef, sheep and lamb with a much greater emphasis on high-quality grass-fed products supplied from smaller intensive operations.
He said the relationships JBS had with its farmer suppliers was also fundamentally different compared to the northern division.
"It's about getting the cultures right and the right team in place to drive that culture requires a vastly different approach", McConnell said.