From FMCG to personal business
Having built up a successful career in a large FMCG (CPG) company, a lot of us will have settled into a comfort zone where we know how things work, we’ve established a degree of credibility and authority, and we feel confident and secure in how we go about our jobs. It’s natural to find it scary and new as we consider changing course and moving from FMCG to entrepreneur.
In fact, the tendency for most people when they’re considering a career transition is to downplay their previous knowledge and experience, believing all this to be irrelevant as they move into a different sector or role. This is reinforced by recruiters and hiring managers who will generally want to put you into a clearly delineated box based entirely on your current and previous job titles.
It may seem counter-intuitive, given the nature of these big corporate machines, their big budgets and challenges when it comes to being ‘agile’ and innovative, but working in a big corporation like this can absolutely set you up for success as you move from FMCG to entrepreneur.
Here are five things that you have learned in your FMCG role that you can now leverage as you go from FMCG to personal business:
1. Brand management
Companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever have decades of experience of building and managing successful brands. Every large company started out as a small one, and the longer it has been in business, the more it will have effectively adapted and evolved to continue to be successful. What better place to learn how to start and grow a successful business than one that has been doing just that for more than 100 years?
2. Set you up for success for life: Strategy
It’s true that a small business or startup doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of resources as a large corporation – we have less time, money and people to do the work. However, the strategic approach to raising awareness of your brand and products or services, engaging with your audience, and converting them into paying customers is very much still applicable.
3. Transferable skills
If you dig a little deeper than the most obvious job titles and descriptions on your CV, you will find a whole range of transferable skills that can absolutely be applied to new situations and industries.
For example, at Procter & Gamble, we learned:
- Problem-solving: Being a business owner is essentially about solving problems that arise every day. From an early stage, as Assistant Brand Managers, we were taught, “don’t bring problems, bring solutions” and always encouraged to think for ourselves to find a creative answer. That approach is indispensable when you’re running your own show and have no boss to ask for advice!
- Presenting and pitching: A startup is constantly pitching, whether to investors or clients or anyone who’ll listen really! At P&G, we presented to audiences of hundreds of people and were always pitching our ideas, whether to our local teams or to our senior management. Being able to effectively structure a presentation or a written recommendation is a great skill to have now.
- Data-driven decision making: When you start a new business, you’ll need to test and learn from the data you gather. We were always very rigorous in running studies and tests to support our proposals and actions with data and both qualitative and quantitative research and that rigour will help you find ways to grow and run your business more effectively.
- Leadership and coaching: Whether you’re outsourcing work and managing remote contractors or you’re starting to build a team, your leadership and coaching skills will be invaluable as the founder of your own business. The companies that are known to develop the best leaders are invariably FMCG firms and that ability to Envision, Engage, Energise, Excite and Execute (we called them the 5Es) will make you a much better founder and manager of your people.
- Budget management: As a business owner, you become fully responsible for your numbers (even if you hire someone to do the basic accounting). As a manager at P&G, we had ownership or the P&L and were always held accountable for our results. Again, that accountability and ownership, along with an understanding of the financials, is invaluable as a business owner.
4. Systems and processes
You may well find the bureaucracy and slow pace of a big corporation’s processes and systems to be frustrating but the truth is that these have been put in place for a reason. They are what allow the company to function as a well-oiled machine. With the chaos that often ensues in smaller companies and startups especially, it’s precisely these kinds of systems and processes that can create some order. You’ll save you time as you automate and systematise instead of spending your time making it up as you go and doing the same things over and over.
5. A powerful network
Possibly the best thing about working in a leading multinational is the talented people you’ll get to work with. Companies like these hire the top talent from business schools and universities around the world. You’ll work across functions, with finance, supply chain, sales, and so on, as well as with a range of suppliers and agencies. In my digital marketing role at P&G, I partnered directly with the mega players like Google and Facebook and that kind of opportunity is hard to come by when you’re starting out on your own. When you leave a job like this, that network is going to become absolutely indispensable.
So what transferable skills and experiences do you have that can set you up for success as you move from FMCG to entrepreneur to start and grow your own business? Let me know in the comments!
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