Gillian Franklin is recognised as one of Australia’s most innovative marketers with a passion and commitment to supporting women in business. She is Managing Director of her own company – The Heat Group Pty Ltd – one of Australia’s leading personal care companies and is an accomplished Company Director.
During the eleven years that The Heat Group has been in operation, Gillian has grown the company from five employees working out of a coffee shop, to a robust, well resourced company of around 100 employees, complete with its own warehouse and distribution facility, currently distributing some of the world’s leading cosmetic brands. The portfolio includes Max
Factor and COVERGIRL (from Procter & Gamble), Bourjois, Essence and The Heat Group’s own brands Ulta3 and Billie Goat Soap.
In addition to running her own business, Gillian is on the Board of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association of Australia (CTFA), ACCORD, the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and MTC (Melbourne Theatre Company). She has formerly held Directorships on the Microsurgery Foundation, Neopec and CEDA.
She lives in Melbourne with her husband of 32 years and their three daughters.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Focused, Passionate, Hardworking.
What is your life motto? If you don’t take control of your own life someone else will.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I really started to pursue my career in my early 20’s, or when I started working. I have been very fortunate; I’ve had great success. In my 20’s I was the general manager for one of the divisions of Revlon and then in my 30’s I joined my first board and in my 40’s I became a company owner. So approximately every 10 years I’ve taken a big step in the journey of my career.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? My whole life. I worked from a very early stage and was determined to be successful. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to achieve and I’ve been very focused on that.
What are the challenges in your line of work? The biggest challenge is finding the best people because as your company grows, you’re only as good as your weakest link. So for me it’s all about people – so finding them and training them, developing them and keeping them inspired and motivated.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? When I started The Heat Group, I gave some of my equity, so some of the shares, away to two partners. I think that was a big mistake, you should never give equity away.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Watch your cash, be very cashflow aware.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I don’t think it’s essential but I think it’s very helpful and useful.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I think it’s extremely important and it’s had a very important role to play my career development. I’ve always had mentors and I’ve always had a philosophy that wisdom and age go hand in hand, so I’ve always surrounded myself with people who have had a lot more experience than me to give me guidance. I think everyone should have a range of mentors and it’s about networking and building relationships. I always say to people think about the word network, who’s in your net and how hard to do you work it. I have a list of people I admire and respect and I make sure I see them and nurture the relationship very strongly.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Well they need to value and respect networking as we said and I think they need to join industry groups and they need to read everything they can, so be well informed. Read the financial review, put a lot of effort into knowing what’s going on and knowing who the influencers and successful people are and find a way to develop that network so you can get that advancement and support.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? I have shareholders that really invested in me, so it’s really a very personal relationship and that responsibility to shareholders is what keeps me focused because I know that it’s up to me to deliver and meet their expectations. So sometimes when I’m feeling like ‘oh, you know this is really hard,’ I have to just stay focused because I have a very big responsibility.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? No. I think it’s more about hard work and planning, and about skill and knowledge. I think you may get opportunities but then it’s taking advantage of those opportunities and nurturing them and allowing them to come to fruition – and that’s when you’re in the right place. I’m amazed at how many people go to functions and don’t take business cards and if you meet interesting people on the table how many people don’t follow them up. That’s how you build knowledge and information, so it’s not about sitting there and waiting for it to happen. You’ve got to make it happen.