The latest event in the HK Marketing Society calendar was hosted by Guy Parsonage at The Difference, the collaboration space in the PwC Experience Centre in Wan Chai.
This time we went Under the Spotlight, our interview/Q&A format that 'gets to the story behind the story', with two very different speakers - Mars Wrigley's Nicole McMillan and GOGOVAN's Reeve Kwan.
Nicole is an Australian global marketing executive with almost 2 decades experience in driving the world’s most valuable brands in local, regional, and global leadership functions – as well as being a board member for our very own Marketing Society in Singapore. She’s currently the VP for Marketing at Mars Wrigley APAC – home to the eponymous chocolate and chewing gum brands.
Reeve Kwan, by contrast, has a career background that’s anything but corporate – as the co-founder of acclaimed HK start up (and first unicorn) GOGOVAN, now the largest online logistics and freight business in the region. Reeve started GOGOVAN just a few short years ago after graduating form college in the US.
But despite their different career backgrounds, both Nicole and Reeve spoke with openness and honesty about 'brave leadership' - the theme which is underpinning much of The Marketing Society’s activity this year.
For Nicole, (a self-described expressive!) brave leadership touched upon many very personal aspects of her career. Indeed, she reminded a fascinated local audience that marketing is really about human transformation (which is facilitated by technological or digital changes). Put another way: a technological or digital transformation alone is not enough for success. In that context, she described how it’s often difficult in a big organization to swim against the tide. Sometimes, the 'luxury' of having generous resources can be a double edged sword – and you need to be prepared to make a stand against inertia and the received ways of doing things in big organisations. She also reminded members of the help and support your team can give you when you are prepared to show your vulnerable side. All-in-all brave leadership is about maximizing the human potential of your business.
For Reeve, brave leadership touched upon the practical challenges of launching a start-up – not the least of which are cashflow and funding. Reeve spoke eloquently about moving swiftly because his company’s first three year objective (to be HK’s biggest call centre) was achieved after only 4 months! Bravery included taking no salary for the first year while moving through series A and series B fund-raisings, and having to compete with copy-cat start-ups! In the new economy, Reeve was emphatic that 'either you deliver or you die' and having dodged bankruptcy three times along the way, GOGOVAN is now a much loved part of the fabric of HK’s daily life.
After sharing their personal histories, our speakers outlined a number of common ideas for us to take away on the talent side of their organisations. Big or small, start up or established corporations, a number of common themes emerged:
- There is value in investing in grads to build the future of the company
- Teams are more responsive when you are more open and human
- Companies can evolve based on problems that they encounter
- Start up companies grow as the people in the company grow
And finally, as Nicole said, make an impact! The moment you feel you’re not making an impact is the time to step away.
By Andrew Harrison, Director of INVISIBLE THREAD