Ferrero Hazlenut Company's CEO started off in procurement
Ferrero Hazlenut Company's CEO started off in procurement

From CPO to CEO

28 March 2018

Making the move to company leadership requires a range of experience and a lifelong passion for learning, Marco Gonçalves tells CIPS Switzerland branch

Marco Gonçalves is a member of an exclusive club: a chief procurement officer who has made the leap to a CEO position. Formerly SVP in charge of procurement at Nestlé, Gonçalves has been CEO of Ferrero Hazelnut Company – part of chocolate company The Ferrero Group – since September 2017. So, how did he make the transition? Gonçalves spoke to CIPS Switzerland branch to reveal his key steps to executive success… 

1. Experience different functions
While Gonçalves started his career in procurement aged 15 – typing up purchase orders at a family-owned dairy company in his home country of Brazil – he has also spent much of his working life learning the ropes in different functions. At Unilever, he spent time in marketing, sales, production and IT. “That was a fundamental experience helping me to develop an integrated view and understanding of the value chain,” he reflects.

2. Never say no
“You need to have the courage to take risks,” believes Gonçalves. “I would not be where I am today without taking some significant risks and moving myself out of my comfort zones, many times.” He has “never said no” to a professional opportunity, throwing himself into new challenges with determination. Having spent much of his working life in developing countries “where opportunities and challenges come every day” has also shaped him. “Such an environment naturally motivates to you to be adaptable, focused and continuously learning new things to be able to deliver results quickly,” he adds.

3. Have a learning mindset
The world is moving so fast, and executives need to be able to move with it, keeping up with new skills, through formal and informal routes. Gonçalves attributes 70% of his success to practical experience and 30% to formal education and learning. “I always invest time in self-development because things are constantly changing,” he says. Examples of formal education include a senior executive development course at Swiss business school IMD and a sustainability course in Cambridge. Curiosity is a critical attribute. “The day you stop learning, you stop growing,” he says.

4. Think about purpose
Gonçalves advises procurement leaders to “seek the impact and make the difference”. Creating a meaningful purpose “to act as a catalyst” for the team and the business is key. “This has to be done internally first and then extended externally, upstream with your supply base and downstream with your customers,” he explains. Achieving high performance means collaboration with all stakeholders, from customers to suppliers to governments. “A meaningful and clearly communicated purpose is a gravity point to boost performance,” Gonçalves says. “This becomes your strategic compass in [steering] organisational focus towards the most important [activities].”

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