Most little girls spend hours playing with hair when they’re growing up. Dolls, their friends, their sisters, their mothers-pretty much anyone who isn’t bald is a potential target for brushes, hairpins, plaits and a mishmash of girly hair flourishes.
But few end up working in the industry, much less with a global career like the one Bianca Panozzo has carved out for herself. Currently, General Manager Sales and Education for Schwarzkopf&Henkel Australia, Bianca is the most senior woman at Henkel and is the drive behind one of the hair industry’s most recognisable brands.
After completing high school, Bianca started work as a bank trainee in Sydney and eventually moved to the City Coast in Wollongong where she was placed in the Marketing team. She didn’t know it at the time, but that decision would set the direction for a global career many people would envy, but few could imagine.
“In my first marketing role, I learned a lot about graphic design, advertising, branding and merchandising and discovered I loved it…and was good at it.” As is her way, Bianca studied, worked hard and built relationships. When she eventually outgrew Wollongong in her early 20s, she moved to Sydney where she got a job in the marketing team at Calvin Klein Cosmetics.
CKC, a division of the global Unileverempire, was a $15million marketing portfolio run by a small multidisciplinary team of four. Because each person had to cover a broad range of responsibilities-in Bianca’s case PR, events, client strategy, product packaging and branding-she got her first taste of international brand engagement while working on CKC’s global packaging.
“It was a little intimidating at 24 to find myself pitching packaging concepts in a boardroom at Trump Towers in New York City, staying at a hotel where cornflakes were $35 a bowl,” she says. “It was an incredible experience and that role taught me a lot about branding and licensing, which is incredibly relevant to my current role.”
After 4 years of cosmetic marketing, she made her first move into the hair industry with global hair colour company Goldwell. In her 8 years there, she became Marketing Director for Australia and New Zealand and worked on a number of global projects for the company’s corporate headquarters in Germany.
“I look back very fondly on my time with Goldwell,” she says. “It was a family based company, much like Henkel, and I had great leaders and mentors who really lived the values.”
“When Henkel first bought Schwarzkopf in 1995, it really sparked my passion to be a brand champion and a leader of high-performing teams. This was where I wanted to be,” she says.
Bianca’s responsibilities quickly grew to encompass marketing, customer loyalty, education and sales. At the time, this presented her with a team of four senior managers, all with very different ideas.
“At this point it couldn’t just be about brand and marketing, it had to be about earning respect and building a cohesive team,” Bianca recalls. “The negativity and division had become part of some staff’s DNA, so ultimately the journey was about understanding -helping everyone in the team understand-how their roles contributed to and impacted on the bigger picture.”
“People aren’t happy when they’re not contributing, or when they’re fighting the flow. They know it, but they get into unhelpful patterns and stagnate there. When you ask about their happiness rather than pressing the corporate line, they are more likely to be honest with themselves and with you.
Then you can be a positive part of their journey to either get with the program at Henkel, or find alternative employment that suits what they want.”
This approach has allowed Bianca to keep her team focused despite tremendous change and turnover. She thinks this is because allowing people to recognise their issues as well as their strengths creates a culture of respect and growth.
In addition to her significant professional responsibilities, Bianca is also in the process of completing her MBA. When asked where the strength comes from to be so people-focused while managing such a challenging portfolio and tackling an intensive degree, Bianca is in no doubt: having a strong support network outside the office.
Bianca is married with three stepchildren (aged 18, 17 and 15 years old). She also has a brother and two sisters as well as maintaining a close relationship with her parents.
“I love using and talking about Schwarzkopf products. I also get my hair done every four to six weeks so that I can build relationships with the hairdressing community and also get to see what our competitors are doing. “
When asked about Henkel, Bianca says she’s still energised by the company and by the work that’s still to be done.”
2010 was a big year of getting the people right and setting the direction. The team is on the right track, so now our challenge is continuing to build our reputation and credibility with hairdressers and salons, and to leverage key industry events like Hair Expo to demonstrate our commitment to the industry,” she said.
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