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Make no mistake. Ed Shirley is a man who hates to lose.
The 52-year-old has been honing his competitive streak since his days as a high school basketball player. As the recently appointed vice chair, global beauty and grooming for The Procter & Gamble Co., he’s now in the game of his life. The playing field is a big one. In addition to assuming responsibility for P&G’s $28 billion beauty and grooming business, Shirley has been charged with creating a cultural revolution at the 172-year-old packaged goods behemoth, one that encompasses cross-brand cooperation and a faster, more agile decision-making process in a notoriously bureaucratic environment.
“I’m highly competitive and I want to win,” says Shirley. “When I see opportunities and a pathway for us to grow faster than we have been growing because we’ve been playing individual games versus scaled games, it may not be easy, but it’s possible.”
Shirley comes to his role as an outsider. The majority of his career has been spent at Gillette, which P&G acquired in 2005. Since then, he’s moved swiftly up the ranks of his new parent company, being named group president, North America in 2006 and vice chair in July, 2008 — one of four in the company and the only non-legacy P&G-er in the position.
He assumes control of the beauty and grooming category from the hard-charging Susan Arnold, who aggressively built P&G into a beauty powerhouse over the last decade. While the company has been largely successful — with seven $1 billion brands in its portfolio and a global market share of 12.6 according to Euromonitor International — more recently growth started to slow. Arnold resigned as president of global business units in March, paving the way for Shirley to execute a new vision for the beauty and grooming division.
The key imperative is to reignite growth—quickly. “Our commitment externally to [Wall Street] is between 4 to 6 percent growth,” says Shirley. “But I’m a very competitive and driven leader and I look forward to finding a way to do better than that. I see an incredible opportunity to grow faster and make a difference in the company’s overall results, because the economies of our categories are very accretive. If we can do that, we’ll make a difference in the company, the Street will look at us differently and that’s very motivating.”
To drive growth, Shirley has identified a number of key building blocks. Chief among them is fostering collaboration between P&G’s brands, which include Olay, CoverGirl, Pantene, Gillette, Wella, Herbal Essences, Venus and a host of fine fragrance names including Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. “Historically we’ve talked to the consumer individually as categories,” Shirley says. “What I see as the big opportunity is to identify how we can play across brands and across categories and meet more of the consumer’s needs holistically. That is the way for us to create breakthrough and differentiation.”
That means linking together brands both productwise, as with CoverGirl and Olay Simply Ageless Foundation, and through marketing programs, as with a partnership between Gillette’s Venus brand and Always feminine care. “It’s limitless in terms of the ideas we can create,” Shirley says. “In the past, maybe one or two brands participated. Now we’re creating the capability that more can, whether it’s television media or brand savers or cause marketing programs.”