CEO of Global Grooming Business at Proctor & Gamble
Gary Coombe is Chief Executive Officer of P&G’s Global Grooming business, including the biggest shaving brands in the world - Gillette, Venus, Braun, Joy and The Art of Shaving. P&G’s Grooming business is worth $6.5BN in annual sales and serves nearly 800 million consumers around the world.
Since joining P&G in 1986, Gary has been at the heart of the consumer goods industry including regional and global leadership roles in two of P&G’s biggest categories: Fabric Care and Home Care. Gary was also responsible for global innovation and new business development on P&G’s Fabric and Air Care businesses, leading the creation of the Tide Dry Cleaners franchise, growing Febreze to billion-dollar-brand status and leading the acquisition of Ambi Pur. Appointed President of Europe in 2014, Gary was responsible for one-third of P&G’s global workforce and a quarter of total company sales and profit.
Gary is passionate about coaching the next generation of leaders in and outside of P&G. He advocates servant leadership and dedicates much of his time to coaching, leadership training, and guest-lecturing at universities. He is an active champion for diversity & inclusion, acting as executive sponsor for P&G’s Gender Equality and LGBT+ affinity groups during his time in Europe and now in Boston, and is a leading voice in the industry on men’s role in gender equality-recognised in 2018 on Management Today’s Agents of Change Power List.
What are the main challenges for business leaders?
"It’s a remarkable time to be in business and I have been in business 36 years, and I have never seen a time like this.
The pandemic is one, supply chain disruption and supply chain costs and inflation that is included in that is remarkable and we haven’t seen anything like for 10 or 15 years. Getting products made at a sensible price and getting it shipped around the world is a huge challenge at the moment. The third one is the availability of talent. Accessing talent and getting great people is ever more difficult.
Over time there are trends that businesses have to embrace just like society has to embrace. Sustainability is one. I run a company that has been around for 100 years, and I want it to be around for another 100 years. When you take a long-term view, sustainability is something that needs to be absolutely addressed by business and society and we need meaningful improvement.
Equality and inclusion in the workforce is another challenge. Business needs to embrace a more diverse workforce and be more inclusive too their gender, their ethnicity and sexual orientation. The third one is technology which continues to accelerate and change the way business is done daily. That change will accelerate in the future and businesses need to embrace and leverage change."
What skills do graduates need to become good business leaders?
""Graduates need a number of skills in today’s world. I will start with curiosity and humility. Because the world is changing so fast, I think the successful leaders in business are the ones that remain curious and remain humble and recognise there is always more to learn than they already know and to have that mindset in a fast-changing world is critically important.
Graduates need to be resilient and courageous. It can be a tough world and a tough environment.
I think successful leaders of today recognise the values of diversity and inclusion of a diverse work force and embracing all walks of society and being able to get on with all walks of society. If you are a true advocate of diversity and have everybody able to feel included in the enterprise that you represent that is a powerful advantage in today’s world."
How important is the role of universities?
"Universities and business schools play a huge role. They are centres of academic research, in partnership with businesses and other institutions which progresses thinking and innovation which is critically important to the development to the global economy and business. There also the source of some of the great talent and leaders that we need for tomorrow’s world. Those universities that recognise the responsibility they have in developing leadership talent and launching graduates who are ready to embrace a volatile and fast changing world – those institutions play an incredibly important role."
Why did you want to be a Visiting Professor?
"I am very honoured to be a Visiting Professor at Aston. I am a proud graduate of Aston University and had no inkling I would be back in a role like this, and it really excites me. I wanted to put something back – I have a lot to thank Aston for. I had a wonderful academic education here, but I also learnt a lot about people and leadership. I am delighted to contribute in whatever way I can to repay that debt. I have been in industry for 36 years and I am a practitioner and I’d like to think some of what I have learnt can be helpful and complimentary to some of the thought leading and cutting-edge academic work that is being done here. I consider this a great privilege to get this opportunity."