To celebrate International Women's Day on 8th March, we're delighted to feature an interview of CPM Ireland's Managing Director Lorraine Butler who shares her experience on International Women’s Day and her role on the board of Today’s Women In Grocery.
What does IWD mean for you?
International Women’s Day creates time in our busy lives, for awareness and reflection on women’s efforts and achievements. It reminds us to stop and reflect on the progress women have made, our contribution & our successes. In turn, it reminds us to continue our future strides to create future success both individually and collectively.
As a leader in your business how will you strive to maintain a gender parity mindset?
Personally I have very seldom been comprised in my career because of my gender. That is not to say that I have not seen others (both genders) who have been less fortunate. I have always taken the approach of the ‘best person for a role’, however as I have matured through business and life, I see that personal circumstances have to be considered and accommodated in order to help the best person be the best they can be. My management team live by this philosophy and I ask that we seek out leaders in all layers of our business who will embrace this philosophy.
On my first international Women’s Day as MD for CPM Ireland in 2016, I made the following pledge and I have kept this promise to date:
“I pledge to ensure that 'the best person for the role' always secures the role. I pledge to eliminate personal circumstances as a factor that might negatively impact a person securing the role. I pledge that teams acknowledge these circumstances and support each individual to realise their potential, for mutual success.”
What role do you take in life/business to help forge positive visibility of women?
As the oldest of 8 sisters I am well versed in all things female! As I grew through school (all girls convent of Mercy) and college it was clear that my younger sisters looked to how I was behaving – both good and bad! And mirrored much of my behaviour. Thankfully I have always been ambitious and hardworking, and a huge belief in collaboration– characteristics instilled by my parents. Each of my sisters followed in my footsteps into college and we are all thankfully experiencing strong careers and good lives. I worked in eircom/eir for 14 years and set up the eir Business Diversity & Inclusion group – I was one of 12 members of a Senior Leadership team and the only female, it was clear that females had not the same likelihood to climb the ladder in eir for various reasons – none of them conscious by anyone involved. The ICT and technology business is heavily male dominated and the eir Women in Business network created a forum where women across eir and our clients could come together to share experience and support of each other. Men also joined some of our sessions to create an appreciation of both viewpoints.
I joined CPM in 2015 and inherited a strong customer base of Retail clients. I had no retail experience and quickly realised that all of my customer contacts were men! In order to build up my expertise in Retail I sought out to build my network. Together with 5 other women we have created TWIG – Todays Women in Grocery – a sub board to the Irish Grocers Benevolent Fund (IGBF) the main charity in Retail. Our research showed that 62% of employees in the retail sector were women and only 5% were at board level. TWIG is a forum where women in Retail come together, network and share experiences. Our first event in 2016 saw 150 attendees from the industry. Our event in May 2018 has sold out within weeks of tickets going live and we are expecting 430 ladies to join the event.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
My parents. Both of my parents come from humble backgrounds and due to family circumstances, both left school & the education system quite early. I am the eldest of eight children – all girls! My parents support, positive work ethic, integrity and respect for any person they come across gave me the best possible foundation in life. My parents’ guide to my sisters and I has always been ‘Be the best you can be’. I’ve always worked towards making them proud and experiencing things that I know they too would have had their earlier education been different.
Are there any women in leadership that you admire outside of your organisation?
Carol Ann Lennon, Managing Director of Open eir is someone I greatly admire. Carol Ann is an inspirational business leader, consistently achieves strong business results, but always bringing her people along the journey. She has a strong ethos in balancing work and family and supports others who work with her/for her to adopt the same. She is a major advocate for diversity in the workplace and a great supporter of those who wish to progress and develop. She is the only female member of the eir Board and last year became a non-executive board director at AIB, while spearheading support for Special Olympics in Ireland. And while achieving all the success she has, she remains a very grounded, a lovely human being! Louise Phelan VP Global Operations EMEA for PayPal is also someone I have huge admiration for. She has a very optimistic, no-nonsense and can do approach to how she leads a business, breaking the impossible down into manageable bites and achieving growing success. Louise is from a large family and heritage not too dissimilar from my own and to see the career heights she has achieved, while again remaining a really grounded and supportive individual, is very inspirational.
What was your first ever job?
Working in a Delicatessen in Carlow town – I did 1 weeks work experience as part of Transition Year in school and secured a part time job for 2.5 years which helped fund my teenage years and all that comes with it! I then managed Pizza Hut in Rathmines for 5 years to put myself through college… and all that comes with it!
Describe the journey you’ve taken to get to the role that you are in today.
After studying Computer Science, I spent a couple of years in the recruitment & software industries and then moved to eircom as an Account Manager. I progressed through roles and ranks there, until I became responsible for Ireland’s largest B2B sales team with eir. After 14 years with eir, having become a qualified coach and mentor with DIT and IBEC & completing an MSc. in Leadership & Management Practice with UCD Smurfit Business School, the opportunity to run a company end to end really appealed to me and I was fortunate to join CPM, part of the Omnicom group in 2015 and have never looked back.
What advice would you give young women working in sales and marketing to support them?
Anything is possible – whatever you want to achieve, it is achievable, but you are responsible for your own journey and destination. Regardless of whether you realise it or not – Every Day you are being interviewed! Do what is expected of you in your current role with excellence, but adopt practices and behaviours of the role you want next! Work to identify & secure a mentor who you respect and will learn from – but ensure to take heed of their advice –they haven’t achieved the success they have, without learning a thing or too along the way – so listen, observe and action on their guidance, it will speed up your journey to success.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a career in sales and marketing?
Find a product that you believe in. Sales can be hard…. But If you believe in the product, your role moves from selling to a customer, to offering them a service that will enrich their lives or way of working. And don’t take a ‘sales/marketing job’. It will be short lived and will add little value to you beyond filling your pockets for a time. Consider the career that sales and marketing can give you- it’s a rich ground for customer, market and business understanding. The experience you attain in sales and marketing is a firm foundation for most other roles in business. Do the role extremely well, take the learnings and do all you can to achieve your targets. Leverage this success to move onto the next career level. Choose the company you work for wisely – consider if the organisation has a’ customer first’ philosophy – if this is evident, they are likely to be a ‘people first’ organisation which bodes well for you building a longer term career with them.
If you could state one characteristic that makes a strong business woman, what would that be?
What are the few resources (books, articles, blogs etc.) you would recommend to someone to gain insight into becoming successful in life and their career?
To be honest, I’m not a huge reader – I usually make a new year resolution to read more, but it hasn’t really taken life in practice. I also tend to learn more from practice vs theory and find that biographies are a good balance of the two. A colleague recently recommended a publication by Joe Biden, ex VP of the United States- “Promise Me, Dad” where he talks through the 3 things any person really needs to have a good life…Something to do, Someone to love and Something to look forward to. A simple philosophy that rings true. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 habits of highly effective people” is also worth a read as are the Harvard Business leadership blogs which are short synopsis’ of thinking, but usually, leave plenty of room for thought!