Learning from Recession – conference

The worldwide recession has thrown up all sorts of challenges for businesses today and leaders must work to be an agent of change to propel their company forward.

That’s according to Kimberly Thompson, Director North America Brands & Leadership, Whirlpool, who is a speaker at the marcus evans Talent Planning & Leadership Development Conference taking place in Chicago on 30-31 August, 2010.

As a global leader in manufacturing household appliances and a Fortune 500 company, Whirlpool has learned some recession lessons and is willing to try new ways of doing business, Thompson explains.

“We’ve come through very well in respect of what we do. For some people appliances are the largest purchase they will have all year. Our CEO sent us on a mission and said we are going to control what we have control of meaning that we can’t control the economy, we can’t control the price of materials, the price of oil. But what we can control is how we do things internally that drive unnecessary waste and cost into our products and services. We’re making a choice not to do a lot of advertising. We’re going to invest that money instead and create the next generation of products.  That whole mantra of ‘taking control of the things you can and it will pay’ - it definitely has for us.”

Sustainable brand leadership is important for Whirlpool and for the future of the company, says Thompson. “A brand is really the perception of the customer. As we are a multi-brand house, we have to identify and understand those brands are targeting different customers who all have different needs. For us to be sustainable we’ve got to make sure we deliver to those consumers because we are a manufacturer and marketer of durable goods. To be competitive we can’t win on price alone. You really do have to deliver to your customers what they value and what they will pay a premium for. Just going with the low cost solution is not viable here in the US for a durable goods manufacturer. “

The strong China market is presenting new opportunities for a company like Whirlpool, she adds.

“Geographic expansion into China - and other areas of the world where the population is underserved – is a great opportunity for us. Here again there are many types of different customers and so our mission is to be in every home everywhere. Our challenges are understanding the different types of consumer base there. The misnomer about China is that everything is just cheap. Over the past year we’ve been watching Chinese companies starting to get their heads around brands over price because brand will get you to a premium but price is just a commodity. It’s not an easy win where you go in and sell cheap products. You really need to go in and know your customers and have a great value proposition.”

The marcus evans Talent Planning & Leadership Development Conference takes place on 30-31 August, 2010 in Chicago.