Life after brand management: Bhupesh Shah
In this careers feature, Liz Foster asks the question, with the number of corporate marketing roles shrinking as you climb the ladder, where do all the brand managers go?
Bhupesh Shah, B.Sc, MBA
When and where did you work in marketing?
I started my career in 1990 as a marketing analyst for Canadian Tire (Canada’s largest hardgoods retailer), progressing to buyer and finally marketing manager, where I was responsible for about $600 million in purchases. From there, I had a short stint as a group product manager for nine brands with Clorox Canada and finally director of marketing for Karcher Canada, where I launched two flanker brands.
Highest marketing level reached?
Director of marketing, Karcher Canada Inc.
What do you do now?
Since 2005, I have been providing marketing, sales and web strategy services to SMEs. My current engagements centre around social media and diversity marketing. I am also part-time Professor at Seneca College and Humber College (both in Toronto, Canada), where I teach marketing and other business-related courses. I find the two complement each other – I am able to bring current theories to the business world and ‘real-life’ examples to the classroom.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
It was a combination. I was dissatisfied with the slow pace of decision-making and short-term focus that I had experienced working for large companies. At the same time, former colleagues, suppliers and competitors were asking for help on reaching particular demographics. The time was right to take the leap into consulting and I have not looked back since.
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
The ability to see things from multiple perspectives. Successful marketing requires close communication and collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
Definitely! Climbing the proverbial ladder has exposed me to the softer skills that are key to one’s success in marketing – listening, persuasion, negotiation, relationship-building, and customer-orientation, to name a few.
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
The best part would include becoming intimately familiar with a brand portfolio and knowing that your activities can change people’s behaviour. The worst part was how share price can influence execution. Things like having my spend cut in the first six months because the company’s share price was low or pricing a line higher than what the market would accept to please analysts.
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
Remember that it’s all about thinking from the consumer’s point of view – their needs and expectations. Sales drive everything in the company – including the marketing. Focus on learning from your sales team, your suppliers and your customers as they have unique experiences and insights that can help you become a better marketer. Get out of your comfort zone – participate in customer presentations, do something that has never been done before. Build solid relationships with your colleagues in other departments and divisions. Don’t assume that everyone understands marketing – take the time to explain (in their language) why it’s important for everyone to work collaboratively.
Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?
I am totally satisfied with what I’m currently doing as it allows me to leverage my brand management skills for the benefit of a wide variety of clients. Not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love… and get paid for it!