The slow death of the FMCG marketer

Originally published on Harvard Business Review Turkey Blog.

It was one of the coolest jobs out of university in the 90’s. Thousands of people applied for a handful of marketing positions in the top FMCG companies. ”Do you want to run a multi-million dollar business?” was the slogan to attract the best talent for brand management positions. These were the gold days of FMCG marketing in late 90’s. And why wouldn’t they be? FMCG companies were concurring the world continent after continent by innovating high performing everyday products, demonstrating their superiorities via side by side demos dominating the TV media. This model created enormous consumer demand which was supplied via enriching local distributors. In the nucleus of this model, sat Brand Manager, a twenty-something year old leader, dedicated to the brand who was ambitious, well-educated and brain-washed by the company culture running a breakthrough matrix system made of multi-functional resources designed to follow his/her lead.

Today, the party is over. We are witnessing the slow death of the FMCG marketer with one thousand cuts due to ever creeping trends playing against the once strong hand of the FMCG marketers. The landscape shifted enormously and FMCG marketers find it hard to adapt. First hit came from retailers, who started to consolidate their power in the beginning of the 2000’s, which shifted power away from the manufacturers to retailers. Continue reading

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Why do expats fail in Russia?

It’s a typical story that we see in Russia. The Russian subsidiary of a multi-national company is struggling and they decide to change the top management. They bring in expats who experienced some level of success internationally. These expats come in with great motivation and compensation packages. They live in compounds close to international schools. Then they start their assignment with great energy and enthusiasm for Russian business. They make bunch of quick strategy changes to please their European Head Offices and give great speeches to the organization promising a turnaround. Yet, soon they run out of the energy. The changes don’t seem to make a big impact, the business turns out more complex than they expect and their families start to get tired of cold. Not surprisingly, they are called back by the Head Office to be replaced by the next one. Sounds familiar? Having come to this country as an expat seven years ago, I saw this story many times. Here are the main reasons why expats fail in Russia:  Continue reading

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The Hybrids are disrupting the workplace

You started to see them everywhere. A new type of people are disrupting traditional businesses or career paths despite their unusual background or insufficient experience in that area. I call them ‘’Hybrids’’. These people either come from unexpected career paths or combine unusual experiences together. Eventually, Hybrids tend to be more successful than others with usual backgrounds. Examples include: An employee in a corporation turning into an entrepreneur, a finance manager turning into a marketer or a local employee going abroad and coming back with hybrid experience. In most cases, hybrids take an unusual decision to disrupt themselves, often by changing their sphere. Sometimes, it’s driven by necessity such as being fired from a job, or out of curiosity to learn new skills in a new job. Whatever the reason is, we are living in a world which started to reward hybrids more than ever. Why? Because the definition of traditional careers are changing. Being a master in one function isn’t enough to have a stable job and income because almost every business function such as management, marketing, finance, HR, supply chain or sales are being disrupted due to technology. Secondly, the internet started to disrupt even the most traditional businesses such as real estate, banking, taxi ordering or individual transport. This is forcing the corporate people to act like entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs to learn the ways of the corporations to be efficient. Continue reading

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How to build your charisma at work?

It’s a brilliant characteristic that everyone wants to have. We call this charisma. Charismatic people have an unexplained aura around them. When they talk we listen very well. They reach our heart and change our mind. In most cases, we see them in positions of power or expertise, which begs the question: Does charisma come from power like title or expertise such as being a well-known expert in your area? Can you have charisma at work, even if you don’t have a high-level position? Can charisma be built or people are born with charisma? Is charisma necessary at work? I happened to study these questions by observing charismatic people around me. Knowing how popular the question is for anyone regardless of their experience in business, let me share with you some tips to apply at work or life:

Charisma is a skill, it can be learnt. Start by learning the right definition of charisma. The generally accepted one is: Continue reading

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How to live an extraordinary life with an ordinary routine

It all started when my daughter was born and my life changed forever. I had almost no free time anymore. At the same time, I was fighting my way to the next level at work. My responsibilities kept growing while my energy was dropping. I really wanted to be a good father and it required me to seriously alter the way I lived my life. So, I acted like many of the young parents do: First I cut my time with my friends. Second, I let go of my time for sports and eventually I was left with almost no ‘’Me-time’’ which threw my life and joy into a downward spiral. In the end, my life became two dimensional between work and home. Although I was thankful to have what I have as I loved both my family and work, something was seriously missing. From the outside, there was nothing wrong with it, but as I researched about my problem, I found out that I wasn’t the only one feeling trapped. The main problem was my routine. So, I decided to change it. Fast forward five years and today I live a different Continue reading

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Are you a 40 year old mediocre?

Let me describe you a friend of mine. He is 40 years old. He works as a senior finance manager in a respectable company, earning a normal salary. He’s not very passionate about his job as his learning curve slowed down and his next promotion is years away in a seniority driven corporate. When he started his career, he was bright and full of energy. Over the years, he somehow lost a bit of this personality. did-not-wake-up-feel-mediocre-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures He always wanted to be a CFO at his current age but sort of toned down his ambition after sending out resumes to few headhunters and getting no positive response. He justified it due to the recessionary economy and his need to choose stability to provide for his family, instead of challenging his current employer or actively seeking another job.

At home, he has a loving wife and 2 young kids. He lives in a nice apartment on Continue reading

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How to get promoted? (fast)

Have you ever worked very hard for a promotion and got passed over? Was it delayed by indefinite duration of time like months or years? Or worse, you were told in a vague way that the company doesn’t intend to promote you? At the same time, you might have experienced one of the following cases: The networking guy who is less experienced than you got a promotion because he happens to know all department heads. Or your lazy colleague got a bigger raise and recognition because she is leading the CEO’s pet project. Your manager is a jerk and he doesn’t care about your promotion, therefore you have no idea about your chances. And here’s a famous one: because of recession, the position that you intend to take is cancelled although you were the only candidate. how to get promoted (2)

If one of these things happened to you,  I’m really sorry for you. It happened to me as well. I feel you. If you think this happened because of some outside factor (i.e. recession) or bad luck (i.e. bad boss), I strongly recommend you to read till the end, because I have some good and bad news for you: First, the bad news: It’s all your fault. But hold on, here are the good news. You can do something about it. Let me explain. Continue reading

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How to teach yourself to be smart?

We all think we are smart. We think intelligence is inborn and the world is divided among smart people (like us), not so smart people (others) and geniuses (above us). We find false sense of comfort in the fact that we are smarter than the average (based on what we have achieved so far) and we don’t have to worry about those geniuses who are far above us because their intelligence is already god-given, so why bother comparing.

But once in a while, an occasion hits us. We attend a meeting where someone makes a
brainremarkably smart comment that turns heads and makes us think ”I wish I said that first”. Or one of our schoolmates who was ”not so smart”  ends up in a publication with a cocky smile on his face because he just happened to come up with that golden goose start up idea. Or worst case, we make a silly mistake at work that hurts our self esteem and maybe reputation. Whatever the reason, these are the moments that we doubt our own intelligence. We ask ourselves the following question: “Am I really smart?” Continue reading

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How to unlock the potential of your people?

If you’re reading this post, chances are, you have a team (big or small) reporting to you and you are wondering how to make them perform better. The subject is quite generic so let me be upfront on explaining why I believe that this approach works: It’s based on the presumption that ”everyone comes to work to succeed”. But somehow, people start facing barriers along the way and start to become mediocre. They lose their motivation, inspiration or lack a meaningful challenge. Sometimes, they have all the motivation but they lack the necessary skill growth to make a leap. Sadly, very few people get honest feedback to shed light on their mediocre performance.
In any case,  your job as a leader is to challenge them personally and change the story for them. Once they change their mind (not easy) to go on a self improvement journey, your next step is to guide them and keep them in balance towards a new state of high performance. Continue reading

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How to turn around any business?

So you just got your promotion to the manager or director level, or moved to another company with bigger scope and higher salary. You are supposed to turnaround the notoriously declining business and all the eyes are on you. Yet, as you enter the business, you understand the problems are everywhere. Your brand is losing market share, profitability is down, latest innovation is not working, your organization is demotivated and management’s only smart move was to bring you in, as your predecessor was shown the door. Be it taking over a declining brand, under-performing division or total company, one thing I can say for sure is that it’s very easy to underestimate the challenge and overestimate yourself by directly jumping into problems as they occur and expect fast turnaround. Your team reacts like they buy-into your solutions, pretend to go along with you, yet you somehow sense that there is something wrong. As you tend work more overtime and even make some changes in your team, nothing improves significantly and soon enough your management gets impatient with your results. By the time you recognize you are on the wrong way, it’s already late. Your team abandoned you and started questioning the plan as they have less to fear now. If you paid attention, you’ll hear comments such as, “That was not the real problem, we knew it wasn’t going to work etc.” Sounds familiar? How to turnaround any business

I faced this problem over and over in my career and learned to step back and start by identifying the problems first. While it sounds simple, it’s not easy. What follows are some practical tips to achieve real, sustainable turnaround in a declining business, proven by experience.

  1. Start with your customers, not with your employees. Everyday, your Continue reading
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