Why a restructure could be good for your career

Few marketers have the promise of a job for life, but a top-level restructure should be viewed as an opportunity not a threat, according to senior figures who share their experiences with Lucy Handley.

Looking for a job

Restructures are a fact of modern corporate life. In the past few months, HSBC, Hewlett-Packard, Tesco, Premier Foods, Sony and Yahoo! have all undergone shake-ups at the top which have resulted in marketers losing their jobs.

With 53% of marketers in this January’s Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan salary survey expecting their departments to be rejigged this year and 63% saying it happened in 2011, there is an expectation that the chilly economic climate will bring more job losses in the coming months.

But many marketers are taking advantage of uncertain times and using the opportunity for a chance to move into a more senior role, start a new business or move into consultancy.

Cathryn Sleight says shake-ups are normal. Her role as Coca-Cola’s marketing director for Great Britain and Ireland became redundant in 2010 during a restructure at the drinks company, which means that marketing is now run from four business units instead of ten. Soon after, she joined Unilever as global vice-president of marketing for Knorr.

If you are offered the opportunity to experience something different, such as consulting work, and learn something new, then I would say go for it

“Change is a constant today. As marketers, this is something we can turn into a business opportunity. This can also be the same personally. Change can always be turned to advantage if you embrace it and see the positive,” she says.

Joe Clift, who was brand and customer marketing director at Lloyds Banking Group, worked on Lloyds TSB’s integration with HBOS and agreed to leave when the role came to its natural end following the completion of the business merger. “It is life that roles come to an end, it is life that you may decide your future is not with a big organisation,” he claims.

“There is always a future and there is always the opportunity to transfer your skills and experience elsewhere in an equally positive vein. I feel in no way diminished, threatened or downcast by what I am going through.”

Knoll
knorr
Marmite
Brand match: marketers can transfer their skills to a new sector or category

Clift has decided to become a consultant, although he doesn’t rule out taking another client-side marketing director role in future. The many transferable skills he has gained from roles in telecoms and banking means there are opportunities open to him. And those that build up their skills in different companies or different departments early in their careers can be at a distinct advantage when a P45 is issued.

Clift stresses that it is really important to think about the people around you, rather than just yourself, when a restructure looms. Working at the US telecoms brand WorldCom during the accounting scandal of the early 2000s, he says he had to think of staff and customers when the company was heading towards bankruptcy.

“I was EMEA marketing and communications director and the phrase I used during that time is that you think first about keeping your customers, second about keeping your team and third and last about keeping your job. That is just the way you should react.”

He kept his head – and his job – and stayed with the company after it became MCI, before moving to Visa Europe and then Lloyds.

Dealing with a restructure early on in a career is something that can toughen you up more generally, says Nick Bampton, commercial sales director at Channel 5. He’s been through a number of company shake-ups, including one that saw him lose his job as managing director of Viacom Brand Solutions when it decided that advertising sales for its MTV brand would be handled by Sky Media.

He started his career at Thames Television in 1990 and stayed until 1993 when the company lost its right to broadcast. He explains: “Losing my job at Thames Television taught me that I have to stand on my own two feet and that I am my own brand, I can’t just be a brand of a company. That is what set me on course for my future.”

After leaving Viacom in 2009, he had a stint running his own business before joining Channel 5 in 2010. “I wasn’t sure about going to Channel 5 at first, but then I started to see things from a different perspective,” he recalls. “Everyone told me that television was in a mess and Channel 5 in particular was in the biggest mess.

“But then I started to think about Channel 5 as a real opportunity because being privately owned it has enterprise and speed, along with assets like newspapers [such as the Daily Express]. I am also very confident in my approach.”

Bampton’s jump seems to have paid off, with reports suggesting a 28% rise in advertising revenues for Channel 5 last year.

His attitude is that change is generally a good thing, and not just when it is enforced by a restructure. The concept of a job for life is no longer valid, he adds, and employers should make this clear to staff. “Preparing people all the time for change would make them a lot more adaptable and enterprising.”

Big Brother
Big draw: Emma Willis and Brian Dowling will present this year’s Big Brother – which contributes to rising revenues at Channel 5

Indeed, Bampton is on the hunt for people who have lost their jobs due to restructures, as he says they are an attractive prospect. “We want people who have been through a bit of experience, are used to change and are grown up about it. People who have been through that experience are possibly more appealing than those who haven’t.

“People who have been doing the same job for 15 years are not as interesting as those who have shown loyalty, but at the same time are quite used to change.”

Switching sectors is another thing that marketers must consider, says Paul Trueman, who is now head of marketing UK and Ireland at MasterCard, following his role as group marketing director of LG UK & Ireland being axed during a restructure in 2011. He has also worked for both Cadbury and Mars.

It can often be beneficial to not know everything about a sector, Trueman claims. It means you can represent the consumer and not get sucked into the language and culture that might be stopping the company from providing something the customer wants or needs.

He says at LG they “were talking about technology that was way out there”, but Trueman believes his marketing experience enabled him to uncover the consumer benefits of what the brand had to offer.

So if your organisation or business falls into the 53% of those that are likely to restructure this year, like Trueman, you may find yourself working for a new company in a different sector, offering a growing number of senior marketers a fresh perspective.

As Trueman and other marketers have demonstrated, this could just be your chance to rise up the ladder, grasp a new opportunity to shine and stage the ultimate comeback.

What to do if a restructure happens to you

Phil Rumbol

Phil Rumbol
Cadbury

to agency 101

One of the best bits of advice I had was to meet lots of people. Even if you are struggling to see why they might be relevant, someone that person knows can often be more relevant. Getting out and meeting people helps to clarify things – and it can confirm what you don’t want to do and enable you to see new opportunities that you didn’t previously see. Take a restructure as an opportunity, explore, work out what you want and go for it.

Paul Trueman

Paul Trueman
Mars and Cadbury

to LG and then MasterCard

After 14 years of working in Mars and Cadbury, I thought I probably shouldn’t look at another chocolate bar for a while. Headhunters and recruiters will always try and fit square pegs in square holes, but you have got to look at what is behind people’s ambitions and what they want to do.

C Sleight

Cathryn Sleight
Coca-Cola

to Unilever

I always asked myself five questions when it comes to considering my career – will I learn something new? Do I have the potential to be brilliant there? Will I be working with people brighter than me? Are the company’s values in line with my own? And will I have fun?

If you are offered the opportunity to experience something different, such as consulting work, and learn something new, then I would say go for it.

Nick Brampton

Nick Bampton
Viacom

to Channel 5

If you like doing the same thing every day, you have to be very careful because at some point it will change, and then you will feel great disappointment. If you enjoy the feeling of never being comfortable, you are very adaptable to change which is a very effective attribute to have.

Joe Clift

Joe Clift
Lloyds Banking Group

to consulting

Be really clear about what you want out of the situation if there is a restructure.

Keep your head and don’t panic. Be clear about what you would aspire to get out of that situation – more often than not there are other roles within big organisations. You need to discuss with your management what is likely to fit and whether an alternative role is genuinely developmental.

I have seen people a little junior to me who have gone and done something where the tacit agreement has been to stay in a role that isn’t perfect, but the employer wants to keep them in the business and they want to stay. This certainly works if they then move on to a role that will kick their career forward.

It is never wise to jump for the first position that is offered to you and if that means you do consultancy until such a time as you land the right role, that is fine.

Headhunters: to use or not to use

“I have never got a job through a headhunter,” says Nick Bampton, commercial sales director at Channel 5. “The most effective and successful people are very good networkers. They know a lot of people and are more widely known.”

Others have found headhunters helpful. One marketer who lost a senior role due to a restructure and does not wish to be named says it is best to work with headhunters who care about finding a role that really suits you.

“The big professionals really care that you are actually going into the job, that you are going to stay there for a while because it affects their reputation. They pre-screen you to make sure you are not going to ruin the bigger picture,” the marketer says.

Headhunting firms may have a contract to fill jobs at all levels, and putting the wrong person in at the top may be damaging.

At a senior level, recruitment firms try to put the best candidates into roles that suit them, rather than “crushing you through the factory because they just want to get the next commission cheque,” adds the marketer.

Phil Rumbol, who set up agency 101 after leaving his marketing director role at Cadbury following its takeover by Kraft, asked Cadbury to provide a career coach to help him decide what to do next.

“If you are contemplating a coach, consider what you need from them. Is it for them to help you untangle a ball of wool in terms of the logistics of what you want to do, or is it to challenge and provoke you?”

For Bampton, it is important to market yourself. “It is like marketing itself. If more people know about your assets and your strengths, you are more likely to be successful. If you tend to be the quiet guy that sits in the corner, it is a lot harder when things change and you are no longer required.”

Q&A

Phil Rumbol
The former marketing director at Cadbury is now founding partner at agency 101

Marketing Week (MW): How did you decide what to do on leaving Cadbury following its takeover by Kraft?

Cadbury Nibbles

Phil Rumbol (PR):

I knew what I didn’t want to do, which was another big corporate marketing role. The restructure meant I could take some time out and work out what I did want to do. So I thought about what I would find enjoyable and fulfilling.

Restructures are a fact of corporate life, particularly when you get to marketing director level. It can be disconcerting when it happens to you, but it gives you the chance to pause and reflect on your career and what you want from it. I’d decided that I didn’t want to stay at Kraft after the takeover and that decision was more about the type of role than it was about the organisation.

MW: How did you manage the announcement of you leaving Cadbury?

PR: Restructures play out quite publicly and that can be somewhat disconcerting. I was keen that there was a press release about it and that I was able to input into that, so it was positioned in a way that was what I wanted as well as what the company wanted. Then in terms of what you do next, rather than sitting and waiting for the world to come to you, go out there and meet people.

I didn’t want to do another big corporate role. I wanted to do something a bit more entrepreneurial and the chance to start my own business with my partners seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

MW: How did you know that setting up agency 101 was the right thing to do?

PR: I asked Cadbury to pay for a career coach, someone who could help me work out what I want. From our first conversation, he said it was clear to him what I wanted to do. When I talked about the different options, I betrayed an energy for starting up an agency.

MW: How are you finding agency life having spent most of your career working for big companies?

PR: It is very different but I would be disappointed had it not been. In my old world I would get in the car, drive to an office and enjoy the trappings of the corporate world. I had a team of 100 and would spend all day in meetings and wading through PowerPoint presentations.

Now I’m much more in control of my own time and much more focused on marketing, content and working with a much more diverse group of people. That is really energising.

When I talked about my career options at the end of my time at Cadbury, I realised I got the biggest buzz from the marketing side of things. I was finding the more senior I got, the less marketing I was doing and this change of direction has allowed me to change from spending about 20% of my time on marketing stuff to spending 95% of my time on it.

MW: How does it feel spending your own money at the agency?

PR: It is much smaller numbers but it feels more live. The buzz you get when you win some new business is very difficult to compare with anything that I experienced in the corporate world

Viewpoint

Anonymous marketing director

I kind of saw the restructure coming so it wasn’t a shock. Our parent company got itself into a lot of trouble and the business was splitting up into different divisions. We had lots of consultants in and all knew that at some stage the writing was on the wall.

The company was good at looking after us. It gave me some other career options in the business outside marketing but I decided to leave rather than taking on a new role or a lower ranked marketing position. Having nearly six months’ notice meant that I wasn’t in any rush to make any decisions about my future.

I wanted to give time back to my family and I went on holiday. I was a bit fearful and thought I’d better start looking for a new job, but then my leaving came out in the newspapers. That led to me getting a lot of phone calls from headhunters.

I got offered things from different sectors and some of it came down to more pragmatic considerations like family and location. You have to be practical as well as aspirational.

Most of the big headhunters – the really good ones – look at the themes running through your CV, rather than at the sectors. At the senior level, you kind of accept that there is nothing really broken. You are probably being a really good manager, doing business plans and strategies because you have been doing them before and you’d have been kicked out before then if you were no good.

The first thing a lot of us think about is setting up our own agency – what burns away at most marketing directors is how crap most agencies are. We are not saying we are better in terms of our strategic thinking, but I think agencies are appalling at looking after customers. Marketing directors, on the other hand, come from the point of view of thinking that, in most big organisations, you have to properly look after your customers otherwise you are just not going to survive in a social media age.

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