Our CEO this week is Angela Buglass, who has recently returned from 15 years in the UK where she most recently held the role of VP Marketing for LF Beauty, part of the global sourcing giant Li & Fung.
Her experience includes roles with leading players Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder (working on the AVEDA brand).
Angela is now CEO of Trilogy International Limited (TIL), a NZX and ASX listed company which comprises of three high-performing consumer brands: Trilogy Natural Products, ECOYA and Goodness Natural Beauty Lab.
In August 2015, TIL acquired CS&Co., a leading New Zealand beauty distributor, which was then followed by an 80% acquisition of Lanocorp New Zealand Limited in 2017, a developer and manufacture, of skincare, bodycare and haircare products.
Her work has taken her from NZ all around the world and back again and her stories are inspirational, insightful and so wonderfully down to earth.
Angela’s top quotes and insights from this episode include:
- I think the biggest reflection I have now about university, is when you’re studying things, you’re often getting the highlights. You’re learning the best parts of the story. “Here’s where we won”. We don’t talk enough about the losses because losing is just as interesting in terms of the development process.
- The setbacks I had personally were probably just me not being focused enough, not knowing what I wanted or stopping to think about what I wanted and what the path was to get there. But then on the other hand, I look back and think, well, I had a lot of fun in those early years of my career too. And you don’t want to get too serious too soon.
- When I worked for a smaller business the thing that was really interesting was even though my role was sales and marketing manager I was exposed to everything, not just the little bit of marketing I needed to do for my brand, but also the selling strategy. Also working with finance to make sure the cash flow was good. Working with supply chain to make sure I had stock to sell in the first place. And even working on product development, which I would never probably have got close to in the L’Oréal world. So that was probably my first sort of general role and I found that I was quite interested in all of those factors because to me they all spin around together. You can’t have one without the other. And that’s probably the best learning from a smaller business.
- Should people think about working for a smaller / mid size business for experience? Absolutely. For me it was fundamental in my development. I think you have to be aware of what you’re opening yourself up for, that you must be sure that you can cope with variation and rapid variation in a day or within a time period. So you’re switching from a finance meeting to a supply chain meeting. You’re taking a different seat at the table to make decisions when you’re in a supply chain scenario to that when you are with marketing.
- Are you good at life balance? I’d probably say ‘no’ for now. I’ve read a lot and I continue to read a lot about how my own personal wellness is so important to my company’s wellness in terms of being able to have clarity, have vision and lead by example. That’s one big, big thing. We’ve had quite an intense period of growth in our company and as, you know, a recent acquisition and that has probably meant more hours than normal. And there comes a time in a CEO role where you can’t say, “Sorry, I didn’t meet that objective”. There is absolute expectation by the shareholder that you will see those tasks through. I guess that’s why often they say CEOs have an optimum period to be in their role because it’s a lifestyle, more than just a role.
- What is the most important part of your routine? It’s my diary management and the way we are thinking ahead. I had a new EA start last week and she said to me, “How do you do it? How do you have back to back meetings and get even basic things done in the day?” So, you know, we’re talking about having diary gaps and breaks, but looking ahead to next week saying, what do I need to have done? We’re putting deadlines on my diaries for prep time, deadlines for my team to have things to me. We’ll usually go at least four or five weeks out just flicking through, because it can be very easy to run out of time to prepare for something that needs a lot of good thinking.
- What has really propelled me to do well in new roles or to succeed? It is about defining what are you missing as a leader and then finding that for yourself. So, if for example, you a really relationship driven person and you’ve spent many years doing great sales at a territory level or you know, with the same customer for many years, identifying that what you really need is fresh customers or a fresh market so that you can test your well-honed skills on something that you’ve never experienced before. Or being able to say, OK, I’ve just actually stopped learning altogether within this organization. There is nowhere for me to go. I need to step sideways like we talked before, either into a smaller organization or a bigger one, bearing in mind that a smaller one will mean a wider role in a bigger organization it will mean a narrower role.
- What are you looking for in future C-Level Executives? You’re looking for that confidence first. Firstly, I’m don’t mean arrogance, but confidence and commerciality. I think what I learned was you rely on things such as CV’s and reports from executive search interviews, a whole lot of traditional methods to assess a person for a role. The reality is it’s their ability to do the job, enjoy the job and relate to the rest of the team. That appears to me to be most important based on my experience. I’ve employed people at C-level who were perfect on paper and even had good reviews from previous employers and big organizations and again, that big organization, small organization thing played out. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because if you apply for a hairdressing job, you must go and do a day or a couple of hours on the floor showing people that you can cut hair. In our worlds, you don’t get a trial run and that’s possibly a bit unfortunate because how people interact and fit into the culture and how they actually use their academic skills to develop the business are the two biggest things for me and I’ve seen that done well and I’ve seen it done not so well.
- Your best interview questions? I try and go down that sort of parallel life because everybody has a dream that they wanted for their future, what they thought they would do when they were younger. So, for me it’s often saying, “You know, where should your career have gone? or Where would you have liked it to have gone?” Often it ends up in some sort soul searching in terms of, well I thought I was going to be an accountant and that didn’t happen, so here I am. And then you can also start to have a little bit of a feel for what their disappointments have been in their CV rather than talking only about the high points and promotions. I like to know what were the bits that haven’t happened for you so far?
- How do I know if I’m building good track record? It would depend on the category in the market. I always benchmark my brands against the category and both should be growing. If the category is flat , then maybe it’s OK to not have growth in your numbers. But if you’re introducing a whole lot of new products and not growing, then there’s definitely something wrong. And if you’re spending more than you were spending before and still not growing, there’s definitely something wrong there too. So, it comes back to some good commercial metrics.
- What is the final message of wisdom for the next generation? It’s first and foremost, be honest within yourself. Are you doing something you love or are you doing this job because you think you should? Are you honest about where you want to go and how you want to get there? And then are you honest with your team about what the job is? There’s a lot there around communication, self-development, honesty and really starting to build your own plan. You must be the creator of your own destiny.