Sherilyn McCoy has officially assumed the title Chief Executive Officer of Avon Products, Inc., the second woman to hold the post in the 126-year history of the worlds largest direct seller.
In her first public exposure, Sherilyn, a 30-year veteran of Johnson & Johnson, told analysts on a call following the release of the company’s latest disappointing financial report, her first and most urgent objective is to stabilize the business. She said she will start by visiting key markets including the U.S., Brazil, China, Mexico and Russia, and make assessments of the company’s competition, costs and technology, product portfolio and operating model.
“I am taking a fresh look at every aspect of this business,” said Sherilyn. She plans to devise a roadmap with five or six key priorities, and expects to have a more defined outlook by August. “In my experience, turning around the business requires clear priorities, realistic expectations and strict accountability,” she said. “As I begin this new role, I am both realistic and confident about our opportunities.”
Andrea Jung, who stepped down as CEO after 12 years and assumed the role of Executive Chairman, was absent from the call. But two days later moderated the company’s annual shareholders meeting where she said the Board had found in Sheri “the exact right leader” to take the company into the future. Andrea lauded Sherilyn’s strong turnaround track record calling her a “decisive leader” with a warm touch, who has already proven to be a people motivator.
It was also an emotional moment for Andrea who used the opportunity to give thanks to Avon’s representatives and staff around the world with whom she has worked for more than a decade. She recalled achievements many years of double-digit growth and the expansion of the Avon Foundation into the world’s largest corporate philanthropy program of women’s causes, with $860 million raised to-date.
“It has been a privilege,” Andrea said, “to serve as Avon’s leader.”
But she acknowledged too, the company has been floundering and it was time for new direction.
Andrea pinpointed that it was late in 2010 when Avon’s problems became more serious. The increasing size of the company [$5.6 billion in 2000 to $10.9 billion in 2011] was stressing its operational structure, along with softness in select businesses, are among the factors that have negatively affected performance. In the first quarter of 2012, Avon’s sales fell 2% to $2.6 billion with earnings plummeting 82% to $27.6 million from $143.6 million. Kimberly Ross, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, advised that second quarter results are also expected to be weak.
As Sherilyn gains her footing, Kimberly has been ushering the company along. As the dominant Avon voice on the analyst call, Kimberly pointed out some efforts already underway to cut costs and recharge the business.
The company is taking steps to smooth out difficulties in its U.S. redistricting program and in Brazil, its largest market, will be formulating more products and advertising campaigns to appeal to local tastes. The company is consolidating business units from Eastern and Western Europe into one European entity. There will also be more job cuts corporate wide.
“Our business review is focused on three key areas,” said Kimberly, “revenue, cost structure and cash generation.”