Beiersdorf NZ - Merilyn Havler
At home with a global brand
Merilyn Havler juggles family and business with precision
and dedication. As the General Manager of Beiersdorf New Zealand,
manufacturers of NIVEA, Merilyn has a company to run, staff to
manage, and four-year-old to bring up, not to mention the
responsibility of New Zealand's top selling skincare
Beiersdorf New Zealand's General Manager and mother of
four-year-old Stella, Merilyn Havler, fits a lot into a week. With
at least one day in five spent overseas, Merilyn's life features
early mornings, diligence and focus, and the immeasurable support
of her partner Simon. The rewards for all her hard work are paying
off. She has been instrumental in the development of her staff (a
team that has grown from one member to 40, in seven years), and the
growing success of the NIVEA brand in New Zealand. And her family
is lucky enough to sample new products a year ahead of their
availability to the public!
OHbaby!: What was the most
exciting thing about bringing NIVEA to New Zealand?
Merilyn: Working with fantastic products
and a global, iconic brand, coupled with the prospect of growing a
business and introducing people to our great product range.
OHbaby!: What was the hardest part
about the early days?
Merilyn: Working really, really long
hours, making some early mistakes (but then, thankfully, learning
from them) and not knowing if I would be able to grow the company
as quickly as I wanted to.
How did you develop your business plan? What specific
things did you need to work out in the planning
Merilyn: The first thing we did was work
to understand the current situation. We scoped out the competition
and considered how we should position ourselves. We also set very
clear financial goals, regarding what we expected to sell, what to
invest, and what the potential return would be.
OHbaby!: What was your learning
Merilyn: I thought it would be hard, and
it was. But the effort, diligence, and dedication has paid off. I'm
fortunate in that I was able to build a brilliant team. The results
we've achieved are a fantastic pay back.
OHbaby!: What did you learn about
the business that surprised
Merilyn: Funnily enough, I was surprised
by how quickly we were able to roll out NIVEA into new categories.
People really embraced the brand - they wanted more of it.
OHbaby!: What is a typical day
like for you?
Merilyn: At 5:30AM I get up to go for a
run or to the gym. Back at home, I get Stella up and ready for the
day. I get her dressed for kindy then I drop her off. Then I'm into
the office in Parnell, Auckland for an 8:30am start. The day
usually consists of a mixture of meetings (both internal and
external), planning sessions, working on business strategies,
dialogue with offshore counterparts, and discussions with our
various communications agencies or suppliers. It's fair to say that
at least one day out of five I'm overseas, either in Australia or
Europe (our head office is in Hamburg, Germany).
OHbaby!: What is the most
stressful "working mum" day you have ever
Merilyn: We were in Singapore and my
partner was at an off-site meeting for his work. Our nanny phoned
and said she had a family emergency that she had to go to. Neither
Simon nor I could make it home to Stella, so the nanny actually
took Stella along with her to the emergency, and looked after her
there until we could be there. It was very stressful!
OHbaby!: Have you been able to
take steps to make your business family-friendly?
Merilyn: I introduced a new initiative
to allow our people to knock off work at 2pm on Fridays. Our middle
management layer in the marketing team are starting to have their
families, and we want to retain their expertise in the business and
accommodate them, so we've introduced flexible working
OHbaby!: How does your partner
offer support to you as a working mother?
Merilyn: Simon is very supportive. As
I'm away a lot, we share childcare arrangements and he's always
there for both my daughter and me. I couldn't ask for
anyone more caring and giving of both his time and spirit.
does motherhood fit in with being a business-woman, and how does
your business fit in with motherhood?
Merilyn: Each role enhances the other -
becoming a mum has made me a better person in business, and the
business role I have makes me a better mum.
OHbaby!: How do you maintain a
healthy balance between your work and family life?
Merilyn: I make sure I am disciplined
enough to build in time for myself, and my family. Before I had
Stella, I would get in to the office at 6am and leave at 7pm. Now I
work smarter and not harder, and my hours have changed
accordingly so I can spend time with her.
OHbaby!: Do you ever feel "mummy
guilt" about spending time working instead of with your
Merilyn: While guilt is not a
particularly useful emotion, the honest answer would be yes - when
I'm travelling is when I feel it the most. To alleviate it, I keep
a raft of beautiful images of Stella on my PDA.
OHbaby!: What kind of a boss are
you? What would your employees say about you?
Merilyn: I really like to empower my
staff, give them the space to be the best they can be and provide
them with a positive role model. I get a tremendous buzz from
helping them grow and seeing them succeed. I like to set a clear
direction and encourage them to make their own choices along the
way. It's all about the outcome. We don't let "perfect" get in the
way of "better".
OHbaby!: What direction would you
like to see the business go in the next five years?
Merilyn: Our clear focus is on further
developing our skin and beauty care brands and extending our number
one position in the market. We believe passionately in our
products, so we want to get as many people as possible enjoying
OHbaby!: What do you most enjoy
about the business now?
Merilyn: Developing the leaders of
tomorrow, and the fact the NIVEA is now New Zealand's most
purchased skin care brand.
OHbaby!: What products are you
most excited about?
Merilyn: NIVEA My Silhouette, our
fantastic new body product that is great for new mums because it
helps them regain their pre-pregnancy body. Our Double Effect
deodorant is also great for mums, because most are really
time-poor, and this product means you have to shave less
OHbaby!: Do you have a favorite
quote that you repeat to keep yourself inspired when the going gets
Merilyn: "The best way to predict the
future is to create it!"
As seen in OHbaby!
magazine Issue 4: 2009
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