About Face

In Focus
NAME:Ercument Ates
COMPANY:Galderma Australia & New Zealand
POSITION:Managing Director
LOCATION:Sydney, Australia
Managing Director Ercument Ates turned around the underperforming Galderma Australia and New Zealand into a profit-generating machine in just two years and at the height of the pandemic. It’s something he credits not to his steadfast leadership but to the power of teamwork.

Galderma is the largest independent dermatology company in the world dedicated to skin health. However, its business in Australia and New Zealand was underperforming compared to its international counterparts. So when the opportunity came to join the company in January 2020 as Managing Director, Ercument Ates, whose career spans more than 20 years working in overseas markets, including Canada, Turkey, the UK and the US, jumped at the chance.

“Joining Galderma represented a fresh new challenge,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “It was a business that wasn’t growing to its potential, but I knew it could be a star in the region and in Galderma globally.”

Ercument saw two critical opportunities for taking the business forward. The first was to reset the growth ambition to double digits, not single digits. He recognised that everyone in Australia and New Zealand could potentially be a customer of a company in the business of skin health – the opportunity for growth was strong.

Second, he saw a chance to make Galderma a great place to work. By collectively coming up with a definition for what that meant, he knew he could help to create a culture where ambition and inclusiveness would be the bookends of high performance.

What Ercument didn’t know, however, was that the business world would soon be turned upside down by an unprecedented global pandemic. It was the challenge of a lifetime, but one that he took in his stride. And even more, it was one that transformed him as a leader.

Putting the ‘team’ in turnaround

Against the backdrop of the pandemic and in just two short years, Ercument effectively turned the underperforming Galderma into the high-performing star he knew it could be. Today, the company continues to achieve unprecedented growth in revenue and profit, ahead of every category norm under his leadership.

However, true to his humble character, he credits the achievement to his team. “It’s not one person that could have achieved such a turnaround in performance,” he says. “The part I played was gaining everyone’s trust by being visible, present and transparent, and using technology to connect the organisation.”

Upon realising that the true impediment limiting performance wasn’t the team but instead a risk-averse culture that lacked empowerment, Ercument got to work fixing the flaw. “I united our business based on ambitious but more meaningful KPIs in an environment that the team and I co-created. We did lose people as a result, but the people that stayed and the new talent we recruited wanted to be part of the new vision,” he shares.

“Innovation informs the way we work with each other, collaborate with skin experts and communicate with our local customers and consumers. This gives our global-to-local business model a true competitive advantage.”

This new vision resulted in a more successful Galderma, one that radiated with empowerment, collaboration and quick decision-making. Ripe with innovation, the teams work closely with global counterparts to develop new solutions to consumer and patient needs. It’s an integral cornerstone of the company’s global business and commitment to advancing dermatology health.

“Innovation informs the way we work with each other, collaborate with skin experts and communicate with our local customers and consumers,” Ercument points out. “This gives our global-to-local business model a true competitive advantage.”

The best way forward

In the face of the Great Resignation and flexible working arrangements brought on by the pandemic but here to stay because of demand, Ercument says a new style of leadership is needed for a business to succeed in the future.

“The top-down model of directing people and tasks to deliver a result may work in a more predictable business environment. However, in a more dynamic one, leadership styles have to evolve to empower the people who are closest to the consumers and customers,” he explains. “I don’t know how any business leader can succeed in uncertain times without an increased focus on people and culture.”

His strongly held beliefs are helping to guide Galderma into an unknown future. Over the next couple of years, the company will be focusing on transitioning to a new hybrid way of working and maintaining a continuous growth mindset. The focus on being – and staying – a great place to work will continue and even more, Ercument is cementing the company’s leadership as a champion for mental health, helping other companies adopt mentally healthy workplaces as well.

“Leadership styles have to evolve to empower the people who are closest to the consumers and customers. I don’t know how any business leader can succeed in uncertain times without an increased focus on people and culture.”

“Galderma is a founding member of Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA). It’s a matter close to my heart because I’ve personally witnessed mental health in my family, and I’ve seen it affect my team, especially during the worst of COVID-19 when people felt disconnected and isolated from family, friends and colleagues,” he shares.

Even though CMHAA revealed that three out of five working Australians struggle with mental health or provide care to someone who does, there continues to be a strong stigma attached to the issue in the workplace. “When we did our research, we found that most workplaces are not equipped to manage mental health – something that affects three million working Australians and costs workplaces A$70 billion a year,” he explains.

“The data suggests that 70 per cent of employees do not seek help for their mental health. But I strongly believe in bringing your whole self to work. You won’t get the best out of people if you don’t normalise mental health in the workplace.”

Between Ercument’s keen business prowess and his empathetic leadership, it comes as no surprise that he was a finalist in The CEO Magazine’s 2021 Executive of the Year Awards in the Managing Director of the Year category. As a leader who is making a meaningful difference in his sphere of influence, he is an inspiration to all.

“I just want to make a difference to people’s lives,” Ercument says. “In my experience, they end up wanting to make a difference back. That’s all leadership is at the end of the day.”


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