Marianna Papadakis Reporter

Marianna writes for The Australian Financial Review and Business Review Weekly from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in legal affairs, technology and business.

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CEO Q&A: Maile Carnegie, Procter & Gamble

Published 07 March 2013 10:36, Updated 16 May 2013 10:50

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CEO Q&A: Maile Carnegie, Procter & Gamble

“I spend a lot of nights thinking about how to step up change innovation in Australia,” says P&G CEO Maile Carnegie. Photo: Rob Homer

Maile Carnegie, managing director of household cleaning and beauty products manufacturer Procter & Gamble’s Australian operation says the best piece of advice came from her husband.

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What was your first job?

My first job was at a local fruit and vegetable shop. I also worked as a part-time sales rep selling safety signs to construction workers and then in the shoe department of Grace Bros, now Myer.

My first job after university was working for Procter & Gamble in marketing – even then, the company had a fantastic new hire program. P&G has a stable of well known brands and I was lucky enough to have Olay as one of my first brands.

When I joined P&G as part of the Sydney office the operation was very small and a new business for P&G (the Australian organisation has existed for 27 years versus more than 170 years in other markets around the world). Lots of world class P&G management were flown in from around the globe to help establish the organisation.

In my first few years I was surrounded by extraordinary marketers who drilled into me the basics of marketing and set a very high standard on marketing fundamentals, business thinking and communication. I found this a wonderful environment to grow up in.

Since P&G has a strong ‘promote from within’ company, I was given the opportunities, training and tools to achieve my career goals from a very early stage in my career.

Name a business leader you admire and why.

Roger Martin, dean at Rotman School of Management. I admire the wonderful diversity of Roger’s thinking (bestselling author, professor, leader on strategy, design, and innovation) as well as his balanced contribution across business, education and society.

He is doing significant work in his home country (Canada) to help improve their national innovation output and prosperity.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

It was from my husband: “It is harder to define success than it is to achieve success.” I think this is particularly true for women as we have many options we can pursue.

What are you reading?

I am reading three books: Reverse Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan, The Wide Lens by Ron Adner and Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje.

What is your best deal so far?

Convincing Procter & Gamble to let me use my corporate travel budget to include flights/travel for my family when I was running both the Asia marketing/design functions as well as a global/BRIC-focused beauty care business.

Overnight my kids became immersed in emerging countries and I was able to juggle my mum and corporate roles during a very demanding, high travel time in my career.I spend a lot of nights thinking about how to step up change innovation in Australia.

The combination of the high cost of doing business, complex regulations and a lack of focus/skills in some sectors of the economic chain makes fostering innovation in Australia more difficult than it should be.Even something as “simple” as bringing modern oral care technology into Australia is too hard and expensive.

Oral B just launched a wonderful new toothpaste to help improve Australia’s terrible oral health problems (we have the second-worst oral health in the developed world) and it took years longer and cost dramatically more than it should have.

Describe your biggest regret in business and what you learned

Early in my career I was running a very broken business and spent too much time fixing the fundamentals versus also ensuring that we were delivering short-term results.

I learned that either delivering short term or long-term results is easy; exceptional leaders balance and deliver both. I remind myself of this every time I am creating the strategy and action plan for a new role.

Where do your best ideas come from? Where do you do your best thinking?

My best thinking happens when I am exercising, especially when I am running. My best ideas happen when I am listening to conflicting or seemingly irreconcilable problems being discussed by a smart multi-functional team.

I love trying to figure out how to find an unexpected and better path forward.

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