In normal circumstances, my job involves… working with teams across the world as we transform Avon and support our five million Avon representatives, based in countries from the Philippines to Poland. One moment I can be talking with the research and development team about new patents we’ve secured, and another moment I might be hearing from an Avon rep about her new YouTube beauty channel and what she needs from us to be successful with her business. Although I’ve been with the company for more than 20 years, every day is different. We’re in the midst of a huge transformation, so as the CEO it’s about driving that forward, building relationships with my colleagues across the world and taking them on the journey as we become a digitally led beauty company with a clear social purpose.
In the past month, the biggest change to my day-to-day work has been… needing to focus on nurturing high-touch connections in a no-touch world. I’ve been working hard to compensate for the lack of in-person cues (and hugs!) by making sure I’m really in the moment, I’m expressing myself and truly ‘seeing’ the person I’m talking to..
I’m adapting to working remotely by… moving relationships to the virtual world – like everyone else. In a strange way, I actually feel more connected to my team than ever. We’ve been able to continue to work collaboratively and I’ve been surprised at how creative we can be, even when working remotely – we’ve delivered some great innovations to keep our reps running their businesses virtually. Taking time for yourself is key: for me, this means working out, exploring the outdoors with my dog, or reading a good book – even if it’s just for 30 minutes.
The recent innovation I’m most proud of is… working to ensure the company makes a successful transition into the digital era. In recent years, we had made significant in-roads online, but Covid-19 jumpstarted Avon’s digital makeover. With face-to-face selling no longer an option, we needed to accelerate our representatives’ use of digital tools to run their beauty businesses, so we quickly rolled out new technology and new safe-delivery mechanisms. Importantly, we also hosted virtual workshops for reps all over the globe, sharing best practice on selling through their social networks and setting them up with digital shopfronts. As a result, we have seen nearly 200 per cent growth in digital customer transactions for the first half of 2020 in the UK alone.
The most significant challenge has been… the social cost of the pandemic. At Avon, we’ve been tackling gender-based violence for 15 years, and this was really a moment to step up. Lockdown left millions of women around the world trapped indoors with their abusers and we saw a spike in domestic violence in many countries. At a time when support services didn’t have a physical presence in the community, we knew that we needed to act quickly. So, we launched the Isolated Not Alone campaign, distributing more than $1 million to frontline services to ensure they could continue operating during the pandemic. We called on governments to provide additional funding for support services and make provisions for people to leave lockdown safely if they needed to. We also engaged our representatives, encouraging them to be the eyes and ears in our community and identify any potential signs of violence or abuse. The issue doesn’t go away just because lockdown has lifted – we’re seeing worrying reports, and we’ll continue to speak out against gender violence and give our support.
I’m keeping my team motivated by… recognising and celebrating our achievements. Yes, we’re all sick of hearing about ‘unprecedented times’, but that’s what these are – and it’s remarkable that, seven months in, we are still delivering huge, innovative projects. We’ve also been running wellbeing initiatives throughout the pandemic: self-care advice, online yoga, tips on working from home. There’s no magic bullet, but it all makes a difference.
For me, leadership during a crisis means… remaining true to your purpose. I always stay rooted in what Avon stands for: the company was founded on creating opportunities for women to earn and learn, before they even had the right to vote. And now, more than ever, we keep that purpose front and centre – our vision to create a better world for women, which is a better world for all.
My role model for crisis management is… every mum out there – juggling, holding it together, supporting the family emotionally, practically, financially. We’ve seen throughout the pandemic that women are affected more than others, because they are usually the ones balancing work and family needs.
The three most important values that will see my business through adversity are… purpose, inclusivity and passion.
The biggest change I hope we’ll see in my industry post-crisis is… for us to build it back better. We’ve seen a real step-change towards a more inclusive beauty industry, where people recognise that beauty does not represent a single ideal. Diversity and differences should be celebrated. Avon has always been a democratic brand, as our rich, diverse customer base shows.
The one thing I can’t wait to do when all this is over is… hug!
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