Failure and resilience might be the best teachers


Successful Thinking: Learning from past failures and using personal intuition are crucial factors of success, says L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand CEO Rodrigo Pizarro.
L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand CEO Rodrigo Pizzaro.
L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand CEO Rodrigo Pizarro. | Image source: Supplied

The past few years have been difficult for companies and leaders globally. However, for L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand CEO Rodrigo Pizarro, his family background of entrepreneurship and resilience in Portugal helped him to not only pivot the cosmetic and skincare company’s focus during the global pandemic, but to significantly grow the company.

Pizarro, who has led the local arm of the global cosmetics and its 40 brands for eight years, says during the pandemic, listening intently to his employees and customers and acting promptly “ahead of the trends” was an important part of the company’s success.

Under Pizarro’s leadership, L’Oreal has transformed into a leading digital business, with a strong focus on data analytics and AI. Every employee at the company in Australia and New Zealand has undergone a data literacy program to enable them to make data-centric decisions, Pizarro says.

L’Oreal Group, the French parent company of L’Oreal Australia and NZ, reported revenue of 18.6 billion euros ($28.5 billion) for the first six month of 2022, an increase of almost 20% on the previous corresponding period. In Australia, the company experienced double-digit growth in the second quarter of 2022.

What was the most formative thing in your childhood that made you want to succeed in business?

Seeing my father’s journey over his working years. Seeing him succeed, fail, succeed once more, only to fail again three times. The first two times as a senior executive in two different organisations, the third while running his own business.

I have learned from all moments, but mostly from his failures. I have learned about resilience – it’s not how you fall but how you get back up. I learned about trust, or better, when not to trust.

How have you managed to build L’Oréal Australia and its stable of around 40 brands despite a challenging market?

First and foremost, I have surrounded myself with an incredible team of talented people who are skilled in their respective fields and positions. As the CEO, it’s my job to ensure that our people are nurtured professionally and personally. For me, it’s about keeping my eyes on the future – anticipating and creating a vision of what will keep us at the forefront of the market. A few imperative things that come to mind include our strong focus on data and analytics, growth of technological and digital innovations … and of course, robust sustainability initiatives.

Trends, by definition, come and go. Yes, we can surf them on the short term, but to be successful long-term we need to identify what the behaviours are that are here to stay and over-invest in them. To establish what these are, we need to be constantly listening to our consumers and employees and tuned in to the overall vision of the industry and key opinion leaders within it. Lastly, we all need a little bit of luck.

“I have learned about resilience – it’s not how you fall but how you get back up. I learned about trust, or better, when not to trust.”

– L’Oreal Australia and NZ CEO Rodrigo Pizarro
What characteristic of yourself do you think is underrated by other people?

I have a very strong vision and intuition about business growth drivers. I can identify quickly, in different circumstances … major opportunities for growth and the developments needed to drive significant transformations that will allow that growth.

This skill is also very useful in moments of crisis where I can keep my cool and see the ways out of it, anticipate and commit in decision making.

This was the case through Covid, focusing on people and making successive decisions initially to ensure their health and safety, but later to perfectly balance the employee wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

Is there anything in your daily routine that keeps you sharp, sane and motivated?

Exercise. I start my day in the gym … to release adrenaline and get my body and mind ready for the everyday challenges of life. In my personal time, I like going on bicycle rides with my son, and being active by enjoying sports together.

If you had $10,000 to invest, perhaps for a niece of nephew, where would you invest it?

I like to take risks, so I would invest if in NFT, or property in the Meta world – it’s the future.

This is an edited version of the conversation.