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Career Path

A beautiful career in cosmetics

by Melinda Earsdon

Stephen Mosely
President and Managing Director
- Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam
L'Oreal

Look in most homes and you are likely to find a L'Oreal Paris product hidden away in the bathroom or lying on a dressing table. And even if you don't, chances are there is something from one of the L'Oreal Group's many other brands, be it Lancome, Shu Uemura, Biotherm, Giorgio Armani or Maybelline, to name but a few. The company is a world leader in beauty products and, with 18 years of consecutive double-digit growth, they make an excellent bet for a career in the colourful world of cosmetics. Stephen Mosely, President and Managing Director for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam says that L'Oreal is always looking for talented people.

Strange as it may sound, Stephen Mosely started his career wanting to be a lawyer. "In those days in England you needed money to become a lawyer, and my family weren't in a position to provide that, so I needed to finance my legal apprenticeship myself. I joined the army on a short-term contract with a fixed-term bonus and asked them to send me to places where it would be too dangerous to go shopping, so that I could save most of my pay. While I was overseas I met many fascinating people from completely different backgrounds to my own. When I got home I had to choose between becoming a lawyer in London or working overseas. I loved the human aspect of legal problems, but instead joined an international conglomerate that offered a management training programme so I could learn about the different disciplines such as production, finance, sales and marketing. I enjoyed trying to put myself in someone else's shoes, whether it was a customer or a consumer, so I decided to earn my living through sales and marketing. It was quite difficult to get sent abroad without business experience, but I discovered my best chance to find an overseas employer was to do an MBA."


"I used to plan my career precisely, but then I discovered that you encounter so many unexpected events in life that planning doesn't necessarily help"

Since then Mr Mosely's career path has taken a much more dedicated route. MBA completed, he joined the International Division of Procter & Gamble (P&G), specialising in marketing in key Middle Eastern and European countries. Following a brief sojourn with the World Economic Forum, he returned to P&G, this time as the first Marketing Director of their new joint venture in China, where he launched leading brands such as Pantene, Olay and Safeguard. After this, he was off to Maybelline Inc. and, following their acquisition by L'Oreal in 1996, has been steadily moving up through the ranks.

The cosmetics industry is always going to sound glamorous, and it doesn't take a great deal to understand the attraction of working in a world drenched in models and make-up, but does it live up to its dynamic reputation? Mr Mosely says yes. "Sales and marketing in the cosmetics industry is a great career, especially for individuals who are interested in other people and making them feel good about themselves. There are always products being developed and new ways to make people look their best, which is very satisfying."

But has the economic downturn and drop in consumer spending made the market more difficult for budding executives to break into? He disagrees, "While it is true that many companies have lowered their costs by cutting staff, this is not true of everyone. An organisation that exists to serve consumers needs sales and marketing as close to those consumers as possible. Put it this way; L'Oreal Hong Kong has achieved a 67 per cent growth this year and we need top quality people to fuel this growth, so we are always looking for new staff."

Mr Mosely insists there are only three basic requirements a person needs to succeed in the industry. "You need to be passionate about what you do, curious and creative in terms of analysing the numbers and looking for new ways to accomplish things, and you need to understand people and be able to relate to them. Given this, you will always get ahead."

And talking of getting ahead, what does Mr Mosely see as his next step? "To be honest, I used to plan my career precisely, but then I discovered that you encounter so many unexpected events in life that planning doesn't necessarily help."

China Opportunities

As with most industries, the opening up of China provides an excellent opportunity for sales and marketing executives working in the field of cosmetics to move to the Mainland. Consumer spending is up, as is the demand for luxury products, and brands need staff behind them to accommodate this expansion. While salaries are lower than Hong Kong, many companies, including L'Oreal, maintain that they are calculated to give a similar disposable income as can be expected here.


 

Taken from Career Times 15 November 2002, p. 28

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