CMO to CEO: Think Brick chief reveals what it takes to make the jump
- 18 May, 2017 11:42
CEO of Think Brick Australia, Elizabeth McIntyre, discusses how she made the jump from being a marketing leader to CEO and why more CMOs should take the leap
Traditionally, many CEOs have come from finance, legal and sales disciplines. But there is now a growing trend for chief executives with senior marketing backgrounds, according to CEO of Think Brick Australia, Elizabeth McIntyre.
Prior to becoming head of Australia’s leading industry body for clay, brick and paver manufacturers, McIntyre held senior marketing roles with organisations such as The Walt Disney Company and Ford Motorsport, where she was instrumental in helping revitalise the brand through V8 Supercars. As well as being the CEO of Think Brick, she went on to become group CEO of Concrete Masonry Association of Australia and Roofing Tile Association of Australia and is chair of the Building Products Innovation Council.
For McIntyre, her ability to engage stakeholders at all levels has been key to her success, something that has given her a distinct edge in her role as CEO.
“Moving from being a marketer to CEO, I felt as though I had a lot of skills that I could bring to the board table,” she told CMO. “If you don’t understand your customer or are able to engage with them and sell your products or services, you don’t really have a business. And as a marketer, you really know how to do that. That’s an essential skill a marketer can bring to the executive suite.”
Marketers also know the different communication channels really well, McIntyre said. “They know the customer touchpoints as well as social, email and how to engage customers in an omni-channel way,” she added. “You really know your customers – and that is a very valuable skill to have as a CEO.”
According to McIntyre, another reason more organisations are realising marketers make great CEOs is because they can see key patterns in the numbers and data.
“In today’s highly competitive and disruptive market, there is more focus on being sustainable and achieving growth. That’s where marketers’ strength comes into full force,” she continued.
“Marketers can make great CEOs as they understand how to engage audiences and achieve an outcome - whether they are buying your product or engaging in your service. As a CEO, if you’re not moving product and increasing sales, it can be very hard to justify your existence.”
Filling in the gaps with the right training
But while marketing leaders have the foundational experience to become great innovative and digitally-savvy business leaders, McIntyre emphasised the need to address any skill gaps when making the leap.
“You constantly need to dispel the myth that you’re not just a marketer – you’re more than that,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to upskill – do a finance course if you need to, take on additional training, address any skills gaps and broaden your scope and skills. Continuous learning and professional development is critical for career advancement. “
Unlike marketing, which is very much about working in a dynamic team environment, being a CEO can be very much in some ways a solitary experience, McIntyre said. This means CMOs need to be prepared to handle the shift.
“Take on feedback – it isn’t a sign you’re doing things wrong,” she said. “Good leaders see feedback as a positive thing and it can be particularly powerful if you want to move up in your career.
“And back yourself and have courage. Have the courage to make decisions and take risks - but also have the resilience for the times things don’t work out and you have to still turn up the next day and try something else. Failure is an orphan, while success has many fathers.”
In order to thrive, McIntyre said the switch to being a CEO from CMO needs motivation, passion and drive.
“Be passionate about what you do,” she added. “If I can’t be passionate about bricks, how can I expect others to be? If you’re not passionate about what you do, it can be very hard to make others passionate.
“You also need to know what motivates you. When times are rough, you need to be able to dig deep and draw on that motivation and resilience to keep pursuing your career or the path you’re on.”