What leaders think
CEO, PZ Cussons
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
We spent quite a bit of time going through work to ensure our Carex brand and the products within it are effectively positioned to meet consumer needs as we come out of lockdown and eventually, out of the pandemic. Calculating which habits will persist and which will revert. We focussed on not only protecting our market leader position and building the brand, but really how to serve our consumers better than anyone else. So we have dug into the data and consumer habits to ensure Carex is well placed going forward.
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
I am only 10 months into my role and have been focussed on the company’s first half year set of results. I started during the first lockdown and still have not met in person half of my leadership team! So now the focus is turning to the roll out and external communication of the new strategy to underpin sustainable, profitable revenue growth for the next 3-5 years. This will be the road map for both us and investors for the future of the business.
We have had 2 national lockdowns and a range of regional tier variations over many months. In what way has your approach to these lockdowns / tier restrictions permanently influenced your own way of working and will you make any adjustments now we are in a 3rd lockdown?
With the lockdowns and life after, we are working through what we think goes back to normal and what we think changes for good. We have the market leading brand in both soap and sanitiser so it is very important that we understand what consumers want and need, how those needs have evolved and how they might going forward. We know the tighter the lockdown, the more people use soap as they are at home and the more the
lockdown is released, the more they use sanitiser. So for us it is about giving them the pack size that they want to buy when they are on the go. Treating it more like impulse or convenience. People will pick up their keys, mobile phone and sanitiser gel before leaving home.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
Completely. I think we have all been surprised and reassured by how quickly our own company and others have made the leap in enabling people to work from home. I think in future it is going to be much more about the blend of people working from home and the office. For us, we have people working and collaborating digitally all over the world. Our leadership team are spread across time zones spanning 11 hours so we had to make digital working effective for everyone. We have come along way and things will merge even more effectively in the future. You can be in an office, at home or in a factory and we will be able to seamlessly connect which is what we are seeing has already begun.
What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?
I think we have begun to appreciate some of the developing markets skill sets. We are now realising we need these skills in some of our most developed markets because we are living with a level of uncertainty in the UK, the EU and the US, that previously we had only experienced in places like Africa. So some of those skill sets that people developed working in those markets before are now paying dividends as we look at what is required to win in the current environment.
We need pace and agility – to act with a sense of drive – but also resilience is required because we are going to get bumps along the way. They come in the most unexpected forms and you don’t know when or how. It could be a lockdown, supply chain disruption, changes in the ability to travel or ship goods. So yes move quickly but have thick skin to be able to weather these challenges.
There is a dramatic reduction in carbon footprints during lockdowns, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?
Across the business, we are looking at how we make bolder, maybe even braver, commitments in terms of sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. It is absolutely at the heart of the new strategy. We are determined that whether it be around our consumers, our customers, our suppliers or the stakeholders in our local communities, we have to be stepping up more in terms of total sustainability. Whilst we will need to travel for business, we will be traveling less or demanding more of ourselves on the occasions that we do, to justify this. I have to meet our people, visit our factories but also sit in the homes of consumers around the world to see how they are using our products. Some travel is necessary but it will be less than before.
In terms of personal well-being, what changes have you made and will you stick to them post lockdown?
Well I have never been this long without jet lag in my professional career! Not that I want to rush back to weekly jet lag but for me like many people, it is not just getting exercise but fresh air. Getting outdoors and ideally, into nature. Whether it is a big commitment to go for a run or do some exercise or even a 10-15 minute walk in between meetings, I will absolutely continue with this.
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
Knowing personally how difficult it is to start a new role in lockdown, I am going to say my new CFO. Only 5 weeks into the business, whether it is talking to employees or the investors, I have been very impressed with how quickly she has grasped the business when she has been unable to travel or meet anyone.
How did you spend Christmas?
Very much at home with my family, along with most other people. Lots of baking and eating! Plenty of exercise and fresh air too. The most interesting present was actually a sustainable washing up brush which is not made of plastic like most. Very important as we acquired a second dog just before lockdown and they have chewed every plastic washing up brush which has come into the house! Both un-chewable and sustainable!
Any words of wisdom?
It is about the art of the possible and often what actually constrains us, is the way we think and operate. We just delivered our strongest half year sales results in over a decade. This performance would have seemed impossible before with so many people disrupted.