As they say, good things come to those who wait. But certainly, greater rewards come to people who improve themselves further while waiting.
You cannot argue with success, especially if they come in threes or by a hundredfold, and this may simply apply to the career life of a determined girl, who right after college already knew what she wanted.
Kathlene Gomez graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Business Economics. As soon as she stepped out of the Diliman campus, her exposure to economics, finance and marketing disciplines was formidable enough to face the corporate world.
As a management trainee exclusively chosen by one of the country’s biggest telecom companies from among the brightest of her batch, Gomez was immediately promoted as head of Customer Analytics and Strategy Unit of the company’s Customer Engagement Group only after two years.
Credit that to her perseverance and focused attitude, amply enriched by her knowledge on corporate, brand, trade marketing, market research and analytics.
While market research was very challenging for her, she wanted more. The truth of the matter was, she yearned to do actual program implementation and set her eyes on the exciting world of marketing.
What made her move? “The complexities of promoting different types of products, the challenge to one’s creativity and strategic thinking,” Gomez says matter-of-factly.
Gomez evolved from assistant brand manager to marketing director of one of the country’s most innovative poultry product companies, Bounty Agro-Ventures Incorporated (BAVI).
“The creative, analytical and strategic thinking processes that go with every consumer campaign, doing a commercial, whether a billboard design, or a piece of communication is what I like about marketing. For me, it is an ever-evolving field and I can therefore see myself dedicating my career to it,” she declares.
When she first joined Bounty Agro Ventures, Gomez’ first major challenge was to face the difficulty of promoting a “commodity product.”
In the Philippines, poultry companies are one of the lowest advertising spenders because they carry products that people will buy no matter what. However, the emergence of new and a growing number of competitors in the market has forced poultry companies to think of ways on how to protect their market share.
Gomez’ creativity as a marketer was put to test: she has to protect her brands’ positioning and image across a country that is geographically difficult to manage with limited resources and budget, which was exactly what she loved about marketing. She further tells us her story:
“Becoming the youngest marketing group manager at age 26 in a male-dominated poultry industry did not come easy. I sat through management meetings filled with men many years my senior. Focused on my age and stiletto heels, they would send me those prying looks of doubt when I entered the room, investigating whether I had sufficient knowledge of marketing and the poultry business. I did not let age and gender box me in. Growing up, I got used to overcoming the difficult and using the difficult to prove the impossible.”
On her first year in BAVI, Gomez launched an economy brand of dressed chicken in 940 stores across the country. Everyone thought that her idea was not going to work because for years they had been marketing a premium brand. She, however, dared to challenge a set-up that was long regarded as effective.
When she was promoted to Marketing Head, the hallmark of her leadership was the formation of a strong team. She worked on teaching them how to have clear goals. She conducted performance evaluations and coaching, redefined their roles and empowered them to handle significant projects. In a year’s time, the group successfully launched 52 campaigns, organized 55 events and achieved a 100% report compliance rate.
“These instances demonstrate the constant challenge I face in my work—to go against the grain, to make things happen. My refusal to be lulled into a comfort zone of unchallenged assumptions and traditional approaches not only produced immense revenue but most importantly, served as a source of inspiration for our people, who for me are our company’s best assets,” Gomez proudly says.
After just a year as a Marketing Group Manager, Gomez was able to improve the Top of Mind Brand Awareness of the company’s fresh chicken brand from 11% to 46% and Brand Usage from 6% to 39%.
Likewise, she pioneered the first-ever online ordering website in the chicken rotisserie industry which resulted to a 49% increase in total delivery sales volume in less than two months after launch.
Gomez was also able to successfully launch three new brands in more than 900 retail stores throughout the country. Counting her marketing blitzkriegs were the aggressive marketing campaigns on social and digital media, making BAVI brands the most liked brands in their categories on Facebook.
In August 2011, Gomez received the Best Real-Life Marketing Plan Award during the 28th Strategic Marketing Course – a 6-weekend short course for young professionals conducted by the University of the Philippines.
In 2012, Gomez was chosen to be part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange Program in Florida, USA—a program for outstanding professionals geared at expanding knowledge of their professions and their industries in an international setup.
Moreover, she joined more than 20 marketing and advertising conferences and seminars the past years to help her gain deeper knowledge of her field.
She considers the following as her mentors and models for excellence and leadership: Ronald Mascariñas, President of Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc., Joven Dy, former Senior Vice President of BAVI and Tara and Dondi Alentajan, her former bosses in Globe Telecom and BAVI, respectively.
Her management style
Is there a Gomez touch that she wants to instill to her underlings?
“As the head of a department, I let my team members take ownership of projects and give them enough leeway to grow, learn and make mistakes. I see to it that my team members enjoy the recognition they deserve for a job well done or learn from mistakes made and move forward. Although I give my team members enough freedom to do things their own way, I still make sure that I proactively get involved in any situation that might compromise the team’s overall work productivity,” she proudly shares.
Gomez always encourages a healthy exchange of ideas among her team members. Always appreciative and welcoming of new ideas that can also challenge other’s ideas, she encourages a productive exchange and deeper understanding of ideas among her team members.
How does she manage and inspire people to become productive?
Gomez tries to ensure a healthy and upbeat working environment and relationship in her team. She always recognizes a good performance, giving away constructive and positive feedback that develops competence and high morale of the team.
“I make sure that I make it clear to them what the objective of each project is and what the results of their work can contribute to the total business and the company. Knowing how vital their roles and contributions are, makes my team members work harder and feel motivated to achieve the desired output of each project,” she says. “I believe that the only brand of leadership that can truly make a lasting difference is continuing to inspire and challenge people,” Gomez says.
Gomez’ family did not have a lot when she was growing up. She taught herself that for every opportunity that life would present to her, she would not just do good at it, she had to overcome and excel.
“I was going take my seat at the high table. I thrive in the firm belief that anyone can be a leader and achieve anything in life through hard work, determination, and sincerity,” she says.
Her family has served as her number one inspiration and has constantly pushed her to never stop chasing her dreams.
Someone once told her: “Never do what is easy, but do what is right; because the right path is usually never the easy path.” This has always been her guiding principle in life. “A great leader is not afraid to take risks, is averse to mediocrity, works harder when challenged, and constantly identifies opportunities for growth and improvement,” she adds.
Her vision for the team
“The vision is to have a highly developed marketing culture in the company so we can be competitive, locally and internationally as well,” Gomez says.
She wants BAVI’s campaigns to be recognized as being the most innovative, not just in the poultry industry, but in the food retail industry, too. “It’s about constantly being the most dynamic and innovative,” she says.
How does she describe Chooks-To-Go’s rise over the last five years?
Gomez says, the growth was rapid and expansive, from pilot stores in Visayas to a thousand stores.
“From that growth, the roles that the marketing team is taking on also had to change and evolve, and we are still evolving to-date,” she says.
Gomez perceives this as a positive motivator for her team, as she wants to continue to rise to every challenge and learn more about functional and technical skills, most especially their leadership styles.
The challenges she is foreseeing in terms of marketing a business with rapid expansion, such as Chooks-To-Go:
Gomez says: “It is important to plan, but in the heat of things, you also have to be brave in taking risks because the cost of missing that opportunity may far outweigh perceived risks.”
Where does she want to see the brand in the next 5 years
“I dream of creating a strong international brand, one that will earn its place amongst Asian and international brands,” Gomez says.
On winning the Young Market Masters Award (YMMA)
“This is a testament to the hard work that I and my team have put to fruition. It wasn’t the goal to win the award; it was more of an affirmation of the team’s effort to constantly be the best at what we do,” she states.
For her, winning the YMMA puts Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. in the list of employers to consider by topnotch talent out there, especially those who are looking to be a part of a company that is poised for greater growth.
“Finish my MBA studies and to practice international marketing. Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. has been generous in giving me a study grant to further pursue my studies abroad. The company treats its employees like business partners, with each person being a valuable stakeholder. This grant shows the willingness of BAVI to invest in its people, especially since we share the same goal and vision. It’s investing in my personal dream, as I am also invested in the company’s long-term goals,” she concludes.
Written By: Roger Pe