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What I Learned From Working at the World’s Biggest Consumer Packaged Goods Company

  • December 2014
  • Posted By Janet Muto
  • 0 Comments

(Part 1)

I recently read an article from AdAge, which recounts what former Procter & Gamble employees learned from working at the consumer packaged goods behemoth. As a former employee myself, I concur with many of my former colleagues’ insights on how the P&G invests in and trains its people. I also recognized that the lessons I learned at P&G lay the groundwork to catapult my career.

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#1. Effective business writing makes all the difference. Joey Bergstein, CMO of Seventh Generation, believes he “learned how to sell a program on one page and not 150 pages of PowerPoint” at P&G. The ubiquity and rigor of communicating via the memo gives all employees ample practice to write concisely. This was especially difficult task for me as a Consumer Insights Manager because I wanted to show off all the amazing consumer research I had so carefully planned and executed. But show and tell is no place for a memo and I quickly became better at choosing the appropriate consumer quotes and data points to buttress my top insights and recommendations. The better the memo, the more action I was able to drive within the organization.

The structure of the P&G memo is a useful framework to approaching any problem. As Jim Stengel, the former Global CMO for P&G recounts, “I don’t think of any communication without thinking what I want in the first line, provide some relevant background, and then state your objectives and strategy to achieve them. How you’re going to measure it, and what you want from the reader and anyone else.”

#2. Always have a point of view. It’s easy to think that in such a large company, your opinion as a low level employee wouldn’t matter. In reality, the opposite is true. As a new hire, you are valued for having an untainted point of view or having “fresh eyes” as one Consumer Insights VP told me. That’s why in marketing meetings with advertising agencies, the most junior manager always gives his or her feedback first. To be clear, it is not about being the loudest or most opinionated person in the room. Rather, I learned that presenting actionable insights, backed up by strong logical arguments, data, and common sense is the true recipe to adding value in any organization.

#3. Focus on the business objective. At P&G, you are always working as part of a multi-functional team and often with competing priorities. This structure has a tendency to cause conflict among teammates when priorities do not align and well-intentioned, but pushy colleagues or managers pile on requests to move their respective projects forward. I learned quickly not to always take these requests at face value, not only because you would never have the time to do everything and stay sane, but also because what you really want to understand is the business objective. By arriving at a consensus of the desired outcome and understanding why a certain project must be prioritized for the business, you can be a better business partner and work harmoniously on a thoughtful approach to a solution.

#4. Learn the language. What does it take to sound ‘smart?’ For starters, it’s picking up the specific vernacular and acronyms of the particular organization, and P&G had no shortage of grammatically incorrect and nonsensical words (PPUPY and ‘learnings’ anyone?). But even more important is to speak the language of the business. At P&G, two things mattered most – what the consumer wanted and how ideas would translate financially. Taking the time to start every meeting by grounding my team with our ideal consumer and peppering my knowledge on the bottom line positioned me not as a consumer insights expert, but a true business owner.

P&G likes to thank moms. Today, I’d like to thank you, P&G, for all the valuable business ‘learnings.’

 

 

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