Pippa Hallas' decade of bold moves as CEO of Ella Bache

Written on the 16 May 2019 by David Simmons

Pippa Hallas' decade of bold moves as CEO of Ella Bache

In the ten years that Pippa Hallas has been CEO of Ella Baché she has steered the iconic company through uncharted waters.

While newer brands have had the advantage of youth to see them survive and thrive the beginnings of social media, the 83-year-old skincare company has had to make a complete overhaul.

When Hallas took over as role of CEO in 2009, replacing her father John Hallas and becoming the third CEO in her family's history, the world was on the brink of some major changes.

Having to jump headfirst into a leadership role in a post-GFC and embryonic social media landscape required some serious courage. Perhaps that's why she has titled her new book Bold Moves.

As well as documenting the various business lessons she has learnt in her 10 years as CEO, Hallas details how Ella Baché, Hallas' great aunt, graduated as a pharmacist in Prague, despite being denied education as a woman in the 1920s.

Two world wars forced her to leave her family and friends and relocate: first to Paris where she opened her own laboratory and boutique selling her skin care formulations.

Along the way, Ella Baché managed to escape an unhappy arranged marriage, whilst always maintaining her financial independence.

The history of Baché's empire extends throughout Bold Moves to Hallas' current day experience as a modern female CEO of a major skincare icon.

Hallas slipped into the role of CEO with these words ringing in her ears: "the first generation makes it, the second generation spends it and the third generation blows it". She did not let this get in her way, despite suffering from imposter syndrome at the beginning.

Over 80% of people who work in different capacities at Ella Bache are women.

"We have well over 1000 women as part of the Ella Baché family and are very conscious of equal rights, the need to support a more inclusive and flexible work place and  elebrate diversity," says Hallas.

"Supporting women is at the heart of our business, from Jessica Watson's world voyage to rural first time business owners."

Business News Australia spoke with Hallas about her experience writing Bold Moves, her journey within Ella Baché, and how she managed to transform the business into the savvy giant it is today.

Ella Baché has a very inspiring story, does her journey motivate you in your own work and how you go about live day to day?

Absolutely, every day. I didn't realise gender inequality existed in the world at all until I started in my CEO role and began walking into boardrooms outside the organisation where I was the only female.

I remember walking into a boardroom environment as CEO aged 33, a male member in the meeting turned to me with some advice "just tell everyone you're a lesbian, that will get
them listening".

I didn't realise the importance of having a female role model like Ella in my life and how unique it was when I was younger. I really believe when you're young your work ethic gets formed and your view of how to live your life.

As a young female CEO did you find that imposter syndrome impacted your work? How did you overcome it?

It definitely did. I stepped into Ella Baché when I was about 29 as head of marketing, and then I went into the CEO role a few years later. In the grand scheme of things I was pretty young female CEO and I think I was really comfortable wearing the hat and the title of head of marketing. But I certainly wasn't comfortable with the CEO title for 12-18 months. I used to introduce myself to people outside of the organisation as the marketing director as opposed to the CEO and so I did feel like an imposter. I had to really fake it.

Imposter syndrome is a really weird thing, but self-doubt is not uncommon. I think a lot of women and men experience it, but women certainly to a greater extent, I think.

In your years as CEO what would you say is the main business lesson that you've learnt?

I think business is just a vehicle for human beings coming together. I think the people side of running a business, whether it is your colleagues, your stakeholders (that's certainly in this business where we're also a franchise business), the need to bring people on the journey, to be able to engage people, build trust, persuade, and influence is so critical.

And I think those people skills are probably still underestimated especially in a world that experiences so much velocity with the speed of change.

I talk a lot about it in the book but really backing yourself is so important. It's really about having the courage to sometimes be that voice in the room where you are driving change that people are cynical of. You really have to understand that sometimes leadership is not talking people where they want to go rather than where they need to go, which is hard.

Pippa Hallas, CEO of Ella Baché (provided)

Ella Baché has been around for a while now, and there's no shortage of skincare brands at the moment, but you've manage to stay ahead. What have been some of the initiatives you've put in to stay ahead of the pack?

When I think about this question, I go back to some of the values that Ella had when she started the business. I think if I look at our products and I look at the results they get it's just a big tick. And working in a business where your products are superior and work and there's such pharmaceutical formulas then that's just a given. I don't have to sell that they sell themselves.

But I think what I've had to do to be relevant today is pretty much pull the same levers that Ella pulled back in the 30s. They are using technology, personalisation, which goes to the heart of our brand, and then also having influence and changing the whole marketing model. I think if I think about what Ella did, she had to get the brand name known and to get attention she had to use technology tied to making formulas and she had to personalise that and create personal relationships. I think I still do that today but obviously with technology and social media it has completely changed the way we execute that.

Was the dawn of social media quite a shock for a company that's not a young one?

I personally didn't find it difficult because I'm a marketer by trade and have that background and I love all that sort of stuff, I get really excited by it and I think social media and moving the media model from a one-to-many traditional model to one-to-one communication through social media and the amplification that gives you as a brand is enormously exciting. I think where we probably struggled is that change and how quickly people also adapt so it's probably the education around not having to use newspapers anymore, even though you can't touch it and feel it like you can a bit of paper it's got huge reach and you can do some amazing storytelling through it.


Win a copy of Pippa Hallas' book BOLD moves + an Ella Baché limited edition skincare gift pack

 

 CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Competition close 27 May, 2019. Winner will be notified via email.


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Author: David Simmons

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