When Belinda Tumbers left school, she set about training for a career in hospitality. But after a couple of years getting hands on in that industry, she realised she needed to do something different.
“It didn’t feel like a good fit,” says the now managing director of Kellogg Australia and New Zealand.
Instead, Tumbers turned to advertising, where the Kellogg’s account was part of her remit in a below-the-line ad agency. She eventually left that role, but was head hunted by Kellogg a couple of years later to join its in-house marketing team.
That was 1998, and she’s still there, a decision she puts down in large part to her colleagues.
“It’s a very family-based organisation, and there are great people I’ve worked with over those years. [Plus] I have complementary values to the company, so it’s a good fit,” she says.
After an initial stint in the Kellogg’s marketing team, the journey to the managing director role saw Tumbers spend most of her time (15 years) in sales. She worked her way up to the role of national sales manager at Kellogg Australia, then moved to the US to work on its Wal-Mart International business.
Next, came a role in New Zealand, where Tumbers ran Kellogg’s New Zealand arm for three years, before finally moving back to Australia as sales director, her last role before landing the top job.
“It’s given me a good basis to step into this role: I know a lot about the customer and retail landscapes; I know how the company operates; and I knew the people I was working alongside, which meant I knew at the outset who I wanted to be a part of my team and who I didn’t,” she says.
Since Tumbers has been at the helm, she’s taken swift steps to improve diversity and help the business become more transparent. The former has been achieved in part via the Women of Kellogg program, while the latter has involved an online forum called “Open for Breakfast”, where members of the public can ask the company’s experts anything (all answers are made public).
It’s just part of Tumbers’ focus to reset the overall company culture.
“We’re trying to move from more of a conservative, hundred-year-old company to more of an entrepreneurial mindset,” she says.
Name: Belinda Tumbers.
Current position: Managing director, Kellogg Australia/New Zealand.
Responsibilities: Overseeing a cereal and snacks manufacturing business that operates in Australia and New Zealand which produces, markets and sells brands such as Nutri-Grain, Special K, Sultana Bran, Pringles, Corn Flakes and Coco Pops.
Education: Advanced diploma in hospitality management, Macleay College.
Additional training/courses: Executive certificate in global management, Thunderbird School of Global Management; executive enterprise leadership development, Harvard Business School; Unilever INSEAD Women in Leadership Development program, Singapore.
Professional associations: Board director, Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC); elected chairwoman, Trading Partner Forum; member, Australian Institute of Company Directors; member, CEO Institute.
Honourable mentions: Finalist, Joe Berry Young Food Executive of the Year Award, 2004.
Strength: I thrive in challenging situations and I have a very strong bias for action and delivering results. When things are challenging that’s when I tend to be at my best.
Weakness: I can be impatient, and in my drive for perfection I sometimes don’t always get people on the same page. I need to bring people on that journey from the outset.
Management style and tips: Very open, transparent and decisive. I believe if you surround yourself with the best people you will create the right culture and the results will follow.
Work motto: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
This article previously appeared on Sydney Morning Herald
Leadership challenges are inevitable and in a fast-moving industry, the pressure is high for women to tackle problems head-on. The way in which you approach and solve these obstacles contributes significantly to your development and growth as an effective leader. Belinda Tumbers has 18 years’ experience turning obstacles into opportunities and will be talking about better leadership and managing the minefield at The 5th Women in Retail & FMCG Leadership Summit running in September.
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