AIB Featured Business Leader – Christine Holgate
When a business leader is crowned CEO of the Year, you have to wonder what they’d be like to work for. Being able to turn a profit does not necessarily equate to being a great boss, but it’s safe to say that the 2015 CEO of the Year Award winner ticks both boxes.
Blackmores chief executive Christine Holgate has become one of the rock stars of corporate Australia. She has overseen an incredible turnaround while leading the vitamin company. Holgate was appointed as Blackmores chief executive in 2008, after an impressive run at Telstra where she rose from a marketing director to head the business sales unit. Prior to that, she gained 26 years of international sales and marketing experience in telecommunications, finance, media and healthcare, working in Asia, the Americas and Australia. Holgate’s prime responsibilities have been leading teams through significant change, growth and start-up. Her education is equally as impressive, with three post graduate diplomas in Management, Marketing and Purchasing and Supply; and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). She is also a Non-Executive Director for Ten Network Holdings Limited.
Holgate admires beloved former Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly, as well as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who recently appointed her as chair of the new Australia-ASEAN Council, although she leaves politics to the side. When Gail Kelly was appointed as the first female chief executive of a bank (St George) and then a big four bank (Westpac), her success as a woman smashing through the glass ceiling was constantly mentioned. In Holgate’s case, it is her stunning achievement in transforming Blackmores, a company operating out of the northern Sydney beachside suburb of Warriewood, to a $1 billion global organisation growing 20 per cent a year in Australia, and much higher in Asia, that has captured market attention. But Holgate is one of a small number of female CEOs of top ASX companies, including Sydney Airport’s Kerrie Mather and Alison Watkins at Coca-Cola Amatil.
Holgate notes that the thing that separates Blackmores from other organisations is its culture, singling it out as the beating heart of the Blackmore success story. This focus on culture and alignment is heavily influencing Blackmore’s push into Asian markets and new product lines, as having a strong culture and alignment motivates staff to deliver the business strategy, translating into financial results.
Alongside the push into Asia, specifically Indonesia, and just maintaining the enormous momentum in the business, Holgate has another key strategic focus for 2016: the push into nutritional products in concert with ASX-listed dairy group Bega Cheese. This joint venture, which was announced in October 2015, is yet another strategic alignment of values.
Looking back over the year, Holgate has had some great moments. Her many accolades have been a true testament to her leadership and stellar success. Probably her biggest “award” has been the vote of confidence by investors, who sent the company’s shares crashing through the $200 level, having started the 2015 year below $40. They are now trading at about $199.
What do you think?
Despite decades of highly educated women entering the workforce, women at the very top of corporate Australia are still the exception rather than the rule. Christine Holgate is proof that the glass ceiling can be smashed. Is it really lonely at the top of the corporate ladder? What do you find most inspiring about Holgate’s business journey to date?
This article was written by Jelena Milutinovic on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: The Australian; Australian Financial Review; Blackmores and news.com.au