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Isabel Bonacker says her career has been a “mosaic” of different roles, including a job at a not-for-profit fostering social entrepreneurship, a stint at the consultancy firm McKinsey and working as a full-time mother.
Throughout those years of switching vocations, her parents never pressured her to join the family business, Babor Beauty Group, which is Germany’s leading luxury skincare brand.
“Babor was always there, like a companion throughout my life, but my parents really never pushed me into a role. They said I have to find my own path.”
As it happened, her own path led her in any case back to Babor, where she is now Deputy Chair of the Board.
This family walks the talk. For generations, they’ve said employees are the most important thing.
Tim Waller, who became Group Brand President and Co-CEO of Babor in February this year, is from outside of the family but, unlike Isabel, he’s spent his career in the beauty and cosmetics industry working for L’Oréal and Estée Lauder, among others.
Between them, the two leaders bring complementary perspectives to the three-generation-old company – Isabel is a family insider with experience outside the industry, while Tim is an industry insider with experience outside the family.
“I think we can benefit from that in headquarters – an outside view on how we can do things better,” Isabel says.
Tim was promoted after working as CEO for the company’s Americas unit, where he helped double the business.
“It’s the perfect scenario where I don’t have to necessarily sit back and wait as long as you would generally wait coming into a company because I’ve seen the business,” Tim says. “I have seen what I think it takes to unlock the enormous potential that we have because this company is built on a very solid foundation.
“Seeing where maybe there were little tweaks or bottlenecks and levers of growth to unlock from the outside in was, I think, very beneficial.”
“Tim has come from setting up the company in the US in a very structured way,” Isabel says.
Founded in 1956, Babor has a rich heritage in the professional skincare market that has earned it a reputation as an expert brand, along with the trust of millions of customers. The company has built a base of over 100,000 aestheticians who sell its products. In recent years, it has grown from a purely business-to-business model into a multichannel seller.
“Multichannel will drive growth, but we’re anchored in the professional skincare market – in the expert market,” Tim says.
One of Tim’s main tasks is to help Babor advance further into international markets. The company currently has 70 per cent of its business in Central Europe but aims to derive between 60 and 70 per cent from outside the region by 2030.
“That’s quite an achievable target because of the multiple building blocks that we have in play,” Tim says.
Another key focus will be to continue the company’s proud history of sustainability. Its new production site, the Babor Beauty Cluster, will be the most sustainable cosmetics factory ever built, Isabel says.
“Sustainability is something the company has always done, since before it was called sustainability,” she says. “We’ve always done our bit. Twenty years ago, it was reusing the water in our processes. We’ve used green energy for a decade already.”
I think we can benefit from that in headquarters – an outside view on how we can do things better.
That deeply ingrained commitment is one thing that draws talent to the company. “We’ve always done this, and it’s a value that’s important to our company culture. We have a lot of employees who are contributing and who honour that, or who love to be part of the company because of that,” Isabel says.
After the COVID-19 pandemic started, the company empowered Tim to keep all of his employees in the US, while competitors there were laying off sales staff. “This family walks the talk. For generations, they’ve said employees are the most important thing.”
It’s the employees, along with an entrepreneurial culture, that will help Babor in its ambitious international growth efforts. Tim is confident of success. “This is a fantastic family owned company that is at the forefront of innovation and sustainability,” he says.