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On our latest podcast, we interviewed Douwe Bergsma, CMO of Georgia-Pacific. He shared his unique background with us, including growing up in a low-income family in the Netherlands, and his journey from P&G to Georgia-Pacific. Listen to the interview now to hear his thoughts on being an agent of change, why continuing to climb is so important, and how he decided to move to Atlanta with his wife.

Daniel: Today on Connections.

Douwe: Come to our farm for a day and then ask the same question. Yes. Almost every day, and my wife probably would argue, but always every day there’s a moment I’m scooping some horse manure into a bucket. And it is so grounding to be around these animals on the farm. [00:00:30] And basically, I come home, take off my work outfit, get into some cut-offs and help her out where there’s any water blockage or walking the horses out or literally fill up the buckets with manure and help her out in the farm as much as I can in the weekdays, but especially in the weekends. I move hay around, I move bags of pellets and horse food, etc., etc. It’s really very physical, very [00:01:00] close to nature. And I think that is my alternative to meditating and grounding. Everybody has their thing. I know a lot of my friends play golf or they spend time with their kids. I guess this is my thing and it’s very grounding. I always joke, CMO by day and farmer by night.

Daniel: In case this is the first time you’re listening to us, my name is Daniel Rodic and I’m your host here at Connections, as well as co-founder of Exact Media, which is the company behind [00:01:30] this podcast. We created this podcast to connect you, our listeners, to the leaders and the legends in the marketing and advertising industry. Every episode, it’s our job to tell their life stories in the hope that you’ll be able to learn from their experiences and pick up some tips, tricks and tactics to accelerate your career.

To get a bit of context, Exact Media works with marketers to help them drag trial, conversion and acquire customers for their business by enabling them to distribute physical offers, whether it be a sample, a [00:02:00] gift card or a coupon, into consumers’ homes using the excess space in e-commerce parcel. For example, if you are buying running shoes online, a bank could include an actual granola bar in that parcel, or a gift card, or a coupon to get one dollar off that granola bar in-store.

If you are a marketer that’s trying to drive trial for your product or aggressively trying to acquire customers in a new channel, I encourage you to visit us at www.exactmedia.io to learn how we can help you.

Now, [00:02:30] on to the episode. Today’s guest is Douwe Bergsma, Chief Marketing Officer at Georgia-Pacific, overseeing brands like Brawny, Angel Soft, Dixie, and Vanity Fair. I am super excited to share with you this story because Douwe had a very atypical upbringing to most people in the marketing industry. He grew up in the projects in Netherlands and this meant his parents had to work incredibly hard, forcing him and his brother to become very self-sufficient. They had to cook their own [00:03:00] breakfast, make their own snacks when they got home, and even did their homework unprompted, and really only getting to spend time with their parents at dinner time.

While he doesn’t drink a lot of beer, in fact his favorite drink is a double espresso macchiato, which he enjoyed just before this interview, in university, Douwe ran one of the largest bars in Netherlands. This experience eventually helped him land a job at Procter & Gamble at school, which was a huge dream come true, given his upbringing.

At first, [00:03:30] he thought he was going to be a lifer at P&G but he eventually realized that he had to first pick where he wanted to live before picking where to work, not the other way around. This really ties closely with what ended up being one of my biggest takeaways from this conversation, Douwe and his wife’s life philosophy, “You are either climbing, camping, or quitting.” That means you’re either progressing, going absolutely nowhere, or worst case, falling behind. And very often you are [00:04:00] fooled into thinking you’re climbing, when you’re actually stagnant.

It’s his realization that Cincinnati was just not a city he wanted to live in and that he was really not moving anywhere in his current role, and it was that realization that ended up being a big driver for why he took the CMO role at Georgia-Pacific. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview. Here is Exact Media CEO Ray Cao and his interview with Douwe [00:04:30] Bergsma.

Ray: Douwe, thank you so much for doing this. I know you’re incredibly busy. You know, just for our guests, I know that most of them know you and your story and all that, but maybe you could just start off by sharing a little bit about what your current role is and what is it you now do at Georgia-Pacific.

Douwe: Yes. Well, hey, thanks for doing this. Looking forward to the conversation. I’m currently I’m the chief marketing [00:05:00] officer for Georgia-Pacific’s consumer business. And I play a few different roles, the most important one being leading the capabilities across all our brand building activities, which include consumer knowledge, brand analytics, our packaging and product design, as well as all of our marketing activation which include shopper marketing, media, digital media, social media, [00:05:30] content, promotions, marketing operations, and those kind of things.

And then we also serve all our brand groups that own the P&L for each of our brands. So it’s a very matrix organization and then I’m responsible for the capabilities, developing and leveraging the capabilities across the board, and probably a few in-house agencies, the in-house design agency, an in-house digital agency. We have in-house [00:06:00] community management that is left for our corporate communications, so we’re building some in-house services as well. And then we manage most of our suppliers and vendors, so the media agencies, the creative agencies, shopper marketing agencies, flow through my organization as well.

Another role I play is in the leadership team for our business, where I’m kind of the brand building expert towards all of our brands. And through [00:06:30] that I have brand building leaders in each of our business organizations that represent all the capabilities I mentioned, but then within each of the businesses. And they are the first go-to leader for anything that has to do with building brands and driving marketing.

Ray: That sounds like you run pretty much all of the business, is there anything…?

Douwe: I know. [inaudible 00:06:56] Just to be clear, the businesses are run [00:07:00] by the different general managers and vice presidents, who all have a range of brand directors who are responsible for the P&L of each brand and they get in the different capabilities. So I provide them the marketing and brand building capabilities, but I have a colleague that runs sales and sales effectiveness. I have another colleague that runs pricing and merchandising and another colleague that does supply chain and manufacturing. These centers of the wheel bring it all together. I’m responsible for providing them with the best support in the area of marketing and brand building. [00:07:30]

Ray: Got it. Got it. So Douwe, I’m actually gonna roll it back a few years back to childhood. You didn’t grow up in the United States, you grew up in the Netherlands, I believe, and so I’m just curious, what was your childhood like? What do you remember of it?

Douwe: I think overall I had a great childhood, with challenges that I only realized we had when growing up. Because when you grow up often is you don’t realize it, but on hindsight, [00:08:00] we grew up…I grew up in a low income neighborhood. I don’t think we’re…I never thought we were poor, but if you look at the statistics later on I was like, “Huh?” Yeah, actually we were low income and we lived in a questionable part of town. And we had our challenges and my parents did a fantastic job hiding these from my brother and myself.

Both my parents were [00:08:30] working, and my mother ran some stores and my dad was at a wholesaler for heating systems. And they made long hours. I think my mom actually at one point had several jobs. And then my brother and I were having happy lives in a low income neighborhood. My mother is from Persia and my dad is Dutch so we basically grew up as low income immigrant kids in the [00:09:00] heart of the Netherlands. But my life very early on was all about school and soccer, the two Ss, and life was good.

Ray: Were your parents very hands-on when you’re growing up?

Douwe: No, no. Since they were both working and both pretty busy, my brother and I became very self-reliant. We would wake up and make our own breakfast, we would get on the bus, go to school, come back home, make our own little sandwich when we got home. [00:09:30] And then around 7:30, 8:00, my parents would be there and they would yell, because my brother and I would be playing soccer outside. They’d say, “Hey, come in for dinner,” and that would be when we would see them. And they would check, “Hey, did you do your homework?” like, “Yeah, three hours ago.” So we were very free, I would say, growing up as kids.

Ray: Did you ever play soccer competitively or it was just more casual, for fun?

Douwe: Well, competitively with a [00:10:00] soccer club in the Netherlands. So, you become a member and you get into a team and you play the competition throughout the year. But it’s very similar to people playing USTA or ALTA, which is a big tennis league in Cincinnati. I never played for a school team or a professional team that would pay you to play. So yes, it was a competition and we had our championships, but no value was ever exchanged, other than me paying the club to be a member and then them allowing [00:10:30] me to play in the team.

Ray: So it looked like you went through business and you studied economics and business. I mean, did you set your sights on going into brand management and marketing right away or were there things that you were considering doing elsewhere?

Douwe: No, when I went to business school in the Netherlands, which at that time, the education system in the Netherlands was very different from the U.S. system. We didn’t have grad and undergrad, we just had [00:11:00] a four-year program that you did right after high school and then you would work, and that was about it. You had to go abroad or maybe there was one school where you could do your MBA, but that was not a thing people did back then.

So I went to business school and at one point in time, I actually chose the logistics direction: math, and analytics, and statistics, technology. Those were things [00:11:30] that really, I was really attracted to and I was relatively good at it. Math was always my best scoring subject in school, in high school, and also when I went to business school.

But at one point I became president of an organization, which is kind of an umbrella organization for fraternities and sororities, that’s the best way to explain it. And then they had a centralized building where all the activities would take place. There’s about 200 volunteers [00:12:00] that run the organization and about 5 or 6 full-time employees. There was a lot of activity involved, so you basically take a year, a year and a half off school to become…to run that organization.

And during that period I realized that the positioning and the marketing side of running an organization or running a business, because there was a lot of money [00:12:30] flowing through and out as well, but just for example, at the centralized building was one of the largest bars, entertainment buildings in the country. So I would say we’re probably in the top 20 consumers of beer and drinks in the Netherlands, which was by…you have like over 1,500 student members. [00:13:00]

And one of the big benefits was that beer was about half the price of any other public establishment and so people would always come during their four years in college or six years in college, they would always come to that place to, A, meet their friends that were all coming to that same place because they were members, but also it was a low price for consumers because we were a nonprofit. But we still ran it as a profit organization.

During that period I realized that the logistics and the financial side of business was not [00:13:30] the most attractive to me, but I really got engaged in how do you better position and how do you make it more attractive for the members? How do you make sure that the environment, the city we were in, starts to appreciate and value us more than what they perceive us to be? And so it was kind of a mix of better PR and better marketing. So when I came out of that year, I switched my specialization away from logistics to marketing.

Ray: Got [00:14:00] it. Got it. Okay, it sounded like you ran one of the busiest bars in the country, were you also an active consumer of the beer as well?

Douwe: No, that is funny. The building, the property I mentioned, it had a library, it had an eatery, it had a big bar, it had a small bar, it had a coffee house, and then a big patio. And then, I think once a month, there was a big event, a big party kind of themes [00:14:30] where there was a Happy Jazz Festival or was a Greek-themed party. We had major bands from the country come and play there.

But all along, I’ve never been a big drinker, but I was a huge consumer of coffee and still am. You would ask anybody in the building, “What’s his favorite drink?” I think most of the people that worked with me would say, “Oh, it’s a double espresso macchiato.” And as a matter of fact, before we started, I just consumed [00:15:00] one, which was also true during my college years. You could always find me there during coffee hours, drinking coffee and getting some sandwiches. I wasn’t as active in the evenings and drinking beer.

Ray: I’m sure there’s a photo of you and a keg somewhere. Someday, someone will dig it out.

Douwe: I’m sure I have one, because I vividly remember, in order to become, in my early years, in order to become a member of one of the fraternities, I actually was a member of [00:15:30] one of the notorious beer-loving fraternities, which is…

Ray: I’m not surprised.

Douwe: A member of that. Well, because, yeah, these are great guys, I just don’t keep up with them. When we go out, I switch to water.

Ray: So was P&G your very first job?

Douwe: Yes. I was the assistant…sorry, no, at the time I was called brand assistant of Vidal Sassoon Wash & Go. That [00:16:00] was my very first job straight out of college at Procter & Gamble in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Ray: Was P&G a big recruiter at the time in the Netherlands?

Douwe: They were a very active recruiter because they wanted to attract the best people they can get. I carefully chose the word “not big recruiter” because their Dutch offices didn’t need that many people a year. They probably [00:16:30] hired maybe 10, 15 people per year, which is obviously small compared to Shell, or Unilever, or Philips, or Ahold, or any of the other big Dutch companies that are out there recruiting. So they were very active because they tried to get the best of the best, but they were not big, because they only needed a few folks.

Ray: Yeah. Did you consider doing anything else or were you set on P&G?

Douwe: No. I [00:17:00] was kind of a standard student coming out of business school having a focus on marketing by the time I decided that’s what I wanted to do. And you do that, you kind of go along with the flow. So in the Netherlands, the biggest…the most active recruiters were companies like Unilever, who has their headquarters in the Netherlands. Procter is very active in the business school I was at. I’m sure I applied for some other companies like Shell, maybe Philips, maybe Unilever… [00:17:30] sorry, Ahold, that I don’t remember.

But I do remember that I was going for the interview process of Unilever and Procter and the biggest difference was Unilever had round after round and all kinds of stuff and Procter & Gamble interviewed you one day, you come back two weeks later the other day, and they offered you a job at the end of the day and then the whole team took you out for a drink in Rotterdam and celebrating it. And I was like, “This is just fantastic.” And then I called Unilever like, “Well, you know, we’re thinking you’re coming back in three [00:18:00] weeks and then you have another round,” and I was like, “You know what, I’ll jump on Procter.” It also helped that some of my friends were already there. Then I cancelled the whole Unilever thing and ran to Procter at the time.

Ray: What do you remember the first year or first few years? Was it a love at first sight, “Wow, this is where I wanna be,” or did it start out shaky? What do you remember of it?

Douwe: I was ecstatic. As I said, Procter had thousands of people that wanted to work there, [00:18:30] so being selected was already a major win. Like almost everybody I studied with that I know off applied so it was… And then that was the years before you [inaudible 00:18:44] it was a kind of very well-known entity. And that was a major win. So landing the job at Procter & Gamble, coming from the neighborhood I came from, as I just talked to you, because I basically grew up in the projects, [00:19:00] in a very low income immigrant neighborhood, so for me to go from a low-income neighborhood and start at Procter & Gamble six years later or five years later, it was almost unimaginable. But that was one.

The second thing is the profile of the people they hired were very similar. Many of the folks that worked there, I knew quite a few already because many of them were presidents of similar organizations [00:19:30] I described. So, every city has like three or four of the organizations I described, and these presidents come together at least once or twice a year. So it’s kind of the network of leaders in the college student community and so I knew quite a few of them because that apparently was Procter’s profile, like if you’ve done that kind of activity, you got invited. And that was kind of the profile they were looking for.

So having that major win, having people that are [00:20:00] very similar in backgrounds and some of you know them and it’s a very young organization, so that was like more from a social and from a cultural perspective. And then the amount of time they invested in developing you was beyond my expectations. I thought I would come in and I had to work really hard on day one, which was true, but they invested a lot of time. They had so much set up to teach you all the stuff you [00:20:30] didn’t learn in business school, basically. It actually was the best business school I could imagine.

And that made my first years, it was just one big experience in many ways. If this is the first time you’re working, Jack, you know, you work with people you actually like to work with, Jack, was a major way compared to where I came from, Jack, but it was the development and the processes and the analytics and the brand building foundation [00:21:00] that you needed to know, the international aspect. Before I knew, I was doing business courses and marketing courses in Scotland, in England, in Germany, in Belgium, interacting with people that just started from all over Europe. That made a major impression on me. Back then I was like, “This is really where I wanna be.”

Ray: It looks like…I mean, all throughout your childhood and upbringing, until you got to P&G, [00:21:30] that you were, you know, a pretty big overachiever where you did well almost in everything. Did you go in to P&G with a game plan that, “Hey, I’m gonna spend a few years here and then go do something completely different,” and architect sort of a road map for yourself? Or did you end up just going with the flow and 19, 20 years later, you know, you went on to become the CMO at Georgia-Pacific?

Douwe: No, and you probably get this answer a lot, it’s [00:22:00] a combination of the two. I really went to Procter & Gamble, I’m going to be honest with you, is, “If I make it three years, that will be awesome,” that’s the route I used because then I’ll make it to brand manager and once I’m brand manager…so I went to one of the best business schools, although that’s what I believe, in the Netherlands, and then I worked for one of the best marketing companies, and I was like, “If I have the business school and I become a brand manager of Procter & Gamble, the world is gonna be [00:22:30] filled with opportunities.”

And my first years I just have to make it through because one day they’ll figure out that I actually don’t belong and that they did a mis-hire. That’s kind of how I went through my first year because I was surrounded… Like in high school, I was always one of the best in my class. In college, things came relatively easy and I got really good grades, but then I started at Procter and everybody was even better or similar or better than me, and I’m like, “Holy, how did I get in here? These folks are amazing and [00:23:00] they must have been sleeping at the wheel when they interviewed me.” I was convinced that one day they will find out on me and they’d say, “Sorry, you remember…” Well, 20 years later I was still there, or 19 years later. But the first year it was really, how do I get through that? And I worked really, really hard thinking that I had to step it up ahead of the rest.

And later, I learned from recruiters is that [00:23:30] those are the ones that Procter actually loves, those are the insecure overachievers, that’s what they called them, and I fell right in that segment, “insecure overachiever.” They knew how to keep you insecure because I’m not sure if you’re aware, but they have a progression philosophy that the top 15% has the highest level of opportunity, but the bottom 15% actually has the least.

[00:24:00] So it’s not that you can stay and they find you a job, no, it’s either, when you’re a marketer at Procter, I’m not sure if they still do that, but it was until the day I left, is the top 15% would get a 1 rating, the bottom percent would get a 3 rating. If you receive a three rating, you basically had six months to step it up or step out.

Ray: Interesting.

Douwe: [inaudible 00:24:19]

Ray: Yeah, they’re like the General Electric Corporation, right?

Douwe: I never worked at GE but it’s… So you have this enormous pressure to say, “I should never fall into the bottom [00:24:30] 15%.” And it was the bottom 15% of their own employees. At Georgia-Pacific, we look at something similar, but we look at the marketplace. We want people at the top of the industry, not on top of their peers. So at Procter you are always competing with the woman or the guy next to you. That brings a lot of the pressure.

Ray: At what point in time did you lose the insecurity? Or did it just [00:25:00] continue to be there for the remainder of your time at P&G?

Douwe: I’ll call you when I lose the insecurity. I think you’re always a little bit insecure when you’re not running your own company. I think it’s the insecurity, to some level, that creates a higher level of pressure. And I know for myself I perform so much better under pressure. But at Procter, I think it never went away because it’s such a competitive environment [00:25:30] and it’s such a pyramid, is that if you’re doing really well then you got promoted and then the whole thing starts all over again because then you entered a new group of peers and there always was the top 15% and the bottom 15%, and it’d start all over again.

And for me, it was…at one point I did switch from being concerned of not landing in the 15% and switched to being concerned about [00:26:00] not staying in the top 15%. That somewhat happened in, I think, probably in my second or third year in the U.S. when I realized like, “I’m not on the bottom, don’t worry about that. But now how do I get into the top and stay there?”

Ray: Were you intentional about the different roles? I mean, beyond maybe the ABM when you first got in and, you know, were just trying to fight for survival, maybe had this impostor syndrome like, “Oh my God, I’m gonna fake it until I [00:26:30] make it.” But past that stage, like…

Douwe: I didn’t say that. I was working really hard. It was not about faking, I was working really hard so that they would not find out. I had to work twice as hard as anybody else so they do realize that they still made a good hire.

Ray: My question is more around, because it looked like you jumped from various roles, right? So you were in trade, you’re, you know, in [00:27:00] the drug and dollar channels, you’re in snacks, you’re in Ahold and all that. And then you moved from the Netherlands to the mother ship in Cincinnati, like were you intentional about sort of planting those seeds to get into those positions and tried to do something different? Or did it just become opportunistic?

Douwe: Well, I was very intentional that I wanted to progress, whatever that meant. And when I started, I thought I would be brand assistant, assistant brand manager, brand manager, assistant marketing director, [00:27:30] etc., etc., but that was looking at the world as it existed at the time and going along with all your peers because, you know, peers can make each other crazy, it’s like, “Oh, you need to be brand manager in three years, and then you need to be a brand director in six years or,” etc., etc.

But once I started working, and I think when I was the brand manager over three or four brands, things started to turn because I don’t think I was really a good brand assistant [00:27:30] and assistant brand manager. On hindsight, I would not give myself a good grade for that. I think I really became a good brand manager once I had direct reports and more of a strategic role, rather than managing projects and tasks.

And the company started giving me more and more brands. I started out as the brand manager over one brand and then they’d add another brand and I ended up with four brands, and I was a junior brand manager with four relatively large brands for the Netherlands, and my successor was actually a director. So when I left [00:28:30] the job as a year and half brand manager, they gave it to somebody that was an experienced brand director. So that was a huge problem for me, like, “Wait a minute, you’re replacing me with this guy?” And this guy is like one or two levels up from me.

That was very intentional because it follows the standard Procter & Gamble career progression. But then it created a whole new world that didn’t exist when I joined the company, is what we now call “shopper marketing,” and so when they asked me like, “How [00:29:00] are you introducing this role?” The first 30 minutes of the conversation was explaining what the organization’s role is gonna be, because there was nothing.

And when they said that, what I’ve always known, even as a small kid is, and it’s the number one thing that has shown up in my career, any performance review, any conversation with friends or my parents, is two words, “change agents.” And that always attracted [00:29:30] me so when the company said, “Hey, we’re trying to build something completely new. We’re trying to reset and overhaul our relationship with retail customers and we need change agents to lead the way,” I was, “Sign me up.”

It was a complete surprise and it was something completely new, nobody saw it coming. I knew that in a world where I can start to help change things for the better, [00:30:00] that excited me. Because the alternative was doing another brand and doing the same thing again and doing the same approaches on different brands, different years, different things, and then you progress, and then you get bigger brands and more brands and more funds.

That was still attractive to me, but when it provoked this change in career, that was very attractive because I got to build something [00:30:30] within the safety of a Procter & Gamble environment. Because on the other hand, I’m very entrepreneurial, but I like the safety from a corporation.

Ray: Right. Right. What do you remember of those first 90 days when you were tasked with that shopper marketing role that didn’t even exist and you had to write your own playbook?

Douwe: Oh, yeah. It was like [inaudible 00:30:50]. It was a roller coaster, literally, because that was the first time in my life that I was supposed to do something [00:31:00] that my superiors had no clue on what to do. So when you’re in college, you know, you’ve always had students that are ahead of you or you have your professors, same with high school, elementary school, either your parents or your teachers or people are ahead of you. In the job, I vividly remember I had two bosses, I had a marketing boss and I had a sales boss. And I asked both of them, “What do you expect?” and both were like, “I don’t know. You go figure it out, you tell me.”

“Well, [00:31:30] what does my work over you? What are my projects? What’s my budget? What’s my…?” And they literally said, “Listen, we chose you because you’re entrepreneurial, you’re a change agent. You go figure it out and you let us know.” They also said, “And don’t worry, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always another job for you.” So I had a bit of a security in that work there. It was like, “Hey, listen, go out and if you fail, well, there’s a price to pay.” No, “Go figure it out because we actually [00:32:00] don’t know, but if anybody can figure it out, we believe it’s you. And if that doesn’t work out, you know, we’ll put you back on the brand.”

And that’s what we did. But there was a high level of… And then I went to sales and these guys were like, “We don’t actually know what you’re doing here. We’re doing pretty well, we don’t need some guy from marketing to help us out.” So my bosses didn’t know what to tell me, the sales folks were basically saying, “Hey, we didn’t ask for you. That was some idea that our general manager [00:32:30] thought of based on a model that we were already doing in the United States.” And then my marketing friends were saying, “Hey, you obviously failed in marketing, that’s why the shipped you off to sales. Good luck with you.” So that’s what my first 90 days.

And then basically education kicks in, right? Procter is good at starting with the most important thing first, who’s your consumer and what do you know about them? And that’s where I started. Like, I [00:33:00] just needed to go back to my foundational education, start with the consumer, and we call them “shoppers.” Start with the shopper, what is the biggest customer we have? And it was Ahold. Okay, now I need to know what the Ahold shopper is about. Who are they? What do they need, etc., etc.?

And then it’s like, okay, if that’s what they need, how do we…? And then you start following the brand building, praying that they tag you, that they apply to a retailer environment, which makes it more complicated because some of the retail equity comes into play. And then you start designing and [00:33:30] testing.

And I think I made a yearlong of mistakes, but the good thing was that nobody else knew what the better option was so we had to experiment and try stuff. The beauty was that the company had the patience. They gave me all the money that I asked for. They gave me the research and support that I asked for because we really wanted to figure it out. And I got a great support system. It took about two years before we really figured it out, but once we did, it started really working well. [00:34:00]

Ray: You mentioned mistakes, and you know, I think a lot of people, particularly I find the more senior you get, they don’t talk about career challenges or the low points, and especially when you’re at a company like P&G or Georgia-Pacific. And for you, I mean everything, I’ve read about you and if you look at your career on paper, it looks like this is up and to the right. But I’m curious, like, do you have stories of extreme challenges or low points in your career, your life [00:34:30] where you just thought, “Wow, how am I gonna get out of this?” and, “What am I gonna do about this problem that I have in front of me?” Are there stories that people are not aware of that you think could be valuable to share?

Douwe: Yeah, of course. But I do wanna make sure something is clear. There is a big difference between Procter & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific in many areas, but one of those is that, yes, you’re right, Procter & Gamble has a culture and an environment that is really focused on winning and really focused on making sure that the best of the best [00:35:00] progress and have this internal competition that naturally leads to an environment where you hardly ever highlight, mention or pay any attention to your mistakes and misses, although the company itself encourages you.

So if you would ask the CEOs and the leaders there, they said, “No, we learn from our mistakes.” The reality is when you’re in the mix of it, you don’t do it because if the mistake becomes too big a part of your story, you might then not end up in the top 15 and drop down to the bottom 15. So it’s [00:35:30] an unintended consequence of how they manage talent and careers. So you’re right, at Procter you will be hard pressed to find a culture where people are willingly sharing their mistakes at the lower and the mid levels. Georgia-Pacific is very different. It starts with the interview. I was really pleasantly surprised when they…during the interview process he already started asking about my mistakes and what I learned from them. [00:36:00] But they did preface it by saying, “Listen, we value that people make mistakes because if they don’t, they’re probably not innovative enough and they’re not entrepreneurial enough.”

So not making mistakes is a measure of the level of risk you’re willing to take. If you don’t take any risk, you don’t make any mistakes. Well, Georgia-Pacific doesn’t like people that do not take risks. On the other hand, they truly embrace the learning that comes from mistakes and [00:36:30] errors, so that’s very different. So you said like, hey, companies like Procter and Georgia-Pacific don’t like to talk about their mistakes, mostly true for the first, not at all true for the second.

Ray: Interesting.

Douwe: And that was one of the reasons that I’m so attracted to my current employer. Now, mistakes throughout my career, I mentioned that I think the, early in my career, I think the biggest mistake I made when I was a young assistant, brand assistant [00:37:00] and assistant brand manager at Procter, but I still see people doing here, is not embracing the power and the value of analytics and the power and value of data.

It took me about six to seven months to realize that like, “Oh, wait a minute, what is separating the good brand assistants from the not so good brand assistants?” And I noticed that those that really cranked the data and really had data-driven presentations and recommendations were progressing faster and better and getting their plans approved than I was. So that was for me, is like, [00:37:30] if I would recommend anything early in your career, embrace analytics, embrace technology, embrace the data because that will serve you a lifetime. Interesting enough, I actually love that stuff, because as I said earlier, math was one of my…

Ray: You love math.

Douwe: Yes. So once I got it, like, I just need to do more of what I already love to do, things started running. Because I thought as a marketer, you need to really prove yourself in the area of creativity and advertising developments, and it’s like, well, that was kind of a miss [00:38:00] on my side. Analytics and leveraging the technology and leveraging the data determines what the most valuable path forward is and then get management to agree to it, is more important than having a great ad. That will come later.

So that was early on my career that I underestimated the value, the power of analytics, and that carried a long time for me later on. I still have it, like if you asked my colleagues today like, “What [00:38:30] is Douwe talking about or what’s concerned about?” Analytics is probably my top three. So that was one.

And then throughout the years, I think in every job I had, I made some major mistakes. And I truly believe that if people do not make mistakes, that they’re not stretching it far enough, they’re not driving change, and they’re not looking at the experimentation. They’re not really entrepreneurial. And [00:39:00] so sometimes I do interviews where I ask them like, “What is the biggest mistake you made?” And they say like, “Oh, I don’t think I ever made a mistake.” I literally say, “Then there’s no role for you here.”

If you’ve never made a mistake, you never stretched yourself beyond what you’re capable of. You haven’t touched the border. In order to climb, you need to make mistakes. It’s impossible for you to succeed and reach your fullest potential without making any mistakes. [00:39:30]

Ray: Right. You talked a bit about management and that triggered another question which is, where there rookie mistakes that you made as a first time manager, the first time you were put into a leadership role?

Douwe: Yes. And after a while, they’re brave enough to share it with me. There were two things I missed as a first time manager. Ever since I was a kid, change was the thing that motivated me, that drove [00:40:00] me. If we were playing a game, I always figured out on how to change the game, like, “What if we do it like this?” Or, “What if we moved the field like this? What if we could make the goal bigger?” Or, “What if we do this?”

And it took me quite a while to realize that there’s actually more people that have a fear for change than embrace it. So as a first time manager, I was like, “Guys, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that,” and I only had two or three direct reports at the time and they were just freaking out and were like, “Can we just like…?” [00:40:30]

Ray: Do what’s predictable, yeah.

Douwe: “You’re freaking me out because you’re saying it. I don’t even know if I’m gonna have a job and I don’t even know how this project is gonna go.” That was one thing, the other is speed. I tend to think fast. I tend to talk fast and I tend to do things fast. And basically what they say, I vividly remember an assistant brand manager that worked for me and he later became highly successful, I think he’s a general manager or a vice-president for Procter & Gamble right now, [00:41:00] a great guy, and he said, “Douwe, you’re running so fast I always feel that I’m just running behind you and picking up all the pieces that you leave left and right. Sometimes you just need to slow down and make sure we’re still on board because sometimes you just go and then we both, we both [inaudible 00:41:16]. We both fell off somewhere in the beginning and you don’t even realize, and you’re just running and running and then you look around, like, ‘Hey, where are you guys?’ Well, we kind of fell off in the first minute.”

So it’s the understanding [00:41:30] that not everybody embraces change to the same level as you do, and also understanding that you need to sometimes slow down and engage with people and keep people on board with your plans and just not have a vision and go run with it, make sure that you keep the group together.

Ray: I imagine, I mean, that’s just part of your DNA, that you’re this high intensity guy who’s entrepreneurial and wants to push the boundaries. And so how did you evolve that style of leadership to, [00:42:00] you know, account for the fact that 99% of the people are not like you or are thinking like you? How did you adjust?

Douwe: Well, I’ve been blessed with people that cared enough to provide feedback in a way that resonated. But you always have the feedback, like, “Hey, listen, you need to take other people’s point of view more into account. Hey, listen, it’s not always your way or the highway.” You get a lot of, what at one point I said, “Well, these [00:42:30] are just cliché feedbacks.” But people really sit you down and say, “Listen, this is what you do. This is the consequence of your behavior. This is how it impacts others. It’s not always what you say, it’s not always what you do, it’s often how you make others feel. And if that’s important to you, you need to change your ways.”

And some of those conversation were some great supervisors I had or just great mentors and friends who took the time. And they would try to balance what’s inherently in you, it’s a part [00:43:00] of your DNA with being more considerate. And I think listening to people that care has been the most important part.

The number one for that was basically Caroline, my wife. That if I came back with stories at home without even being a part of the situation, she already knew, like, “You know you went wrong there, right?” Like, “What do you mean?” “Oh, you’re telling the story as if it was a great story.” I said, “Yeah, well, they were doing this, they were doing that.” [00:43:30] She was like, “And how did they feel?” “Who?” “Your direct reports.” “They love it.” “Are you sure?” And then I would ask the next day, it’s like, “Well, after you asked, I kind of felt left out,” or, “I kind of didn’t understand.”

And so it was my wife, it was my supervisor. So there’s a bunch of folks that really resonated and changed the ways. Now, what’s in you is very hard to change so you make a mistake quite often still. But I’m blessed with great [00:44:00] people here at Georgia-Pacific who would basically knock on my door and say, “Hey, slow down,” or, “Hey, listen better,” or, “Hey, that was just the wrong joke to make.” I know Humphries, who just joined me here, he’s from corporate communications, and he’s actually one of them. He says, “Hey, Douwe, I know you like to joke around but you do know that was an insensitive joke?” I’m like, “Okay, I got it,” you know?

You need to surround with people, but also make sure that they’re [00:44:30] comfortable enough to give you the feedback, “And you’re comfortable, right?” “Yes.” And sometimes I have direct reports that I say, “I don’t think you’re comfortable, but I’m giving you permission.” And sometimes that’s all it takes. And they ask, “Permission for what?” “Well, to criticize me and basically tell me that I’m wrong, or tell me that I was insensitive, or tell me that this job was inappropriate, or…just tell me.” And that helps a lot.

Ray: You brought up your wife earlier, and [00:45:00] I mean, just switching on to the personal side, I mean you’ve had to make a couple of, or maybe even more than two geographical moves, right, from the Netherlands to the U.S., and now you’re based in Atlanta. So, what impact has that had? I mean, each stage of those moves and probably different, but did it have on your personal life and on your partner?

Douwe: Yes. So I was working at Procter & Gamble in the Netherlands and my wife just started working [00:45:30] in her dental practice. And we were both early in our careers and then we got this phone call from Procter & Gamble United States that said, “Hey, listen, we have an opportunity here in the U.S. and we think you’re the perfect fit.” And my initial response was, “Yeah, we’re not gonna do that. I’m not ready and then Caroline has just started her dental career and she’s in the practice. She’s building up patients.” [00:46:00]

So I called her, I was like, “Hey, listen, this is what happened today, we’ll talk about it tonight.” And I think it was in the first or the second conversation, she said, “Yes, we’re going,” and I was like, “Honey, we need to think about it.” And she’s like, “No, we’re going.” And she was the one, the first move, she was the one that drove it, said, “Listen, I’ll take a sabbatical. Two years in the United States, it’s gonna be amazing. The Netherlands has a shortage in dentists anyway, so by the time I get back, it’s very easy to find a job.”

And actually her dental practice, the other dentist said, [00:46:30] “We are offering you your job back right now.” So I feel like I have no risk. And the first job I got at Procter was actually in Atlanta because that’s where Ahold had just opened their headquarters. And so my wife was like, “Hey, Atlanta, it’s the city where they had the last Olympics,” because we moved here in ’99 which was right after the ’96 Olympics. Atlanta was a top town, in the news a lot and it was booming. It [00:47:00] was a nice climate.

I was still working at Procter & Gamble so that was kind of a safe move. They would take care of the whole relocation. My wife was all over it and I was the one who was like, “I love staying but this is a big one.” But she said like, “Let’s go.” And then I got enthusiastic and we went here, we did a look at the scene and the rest is history.

When we moved to Atlanta, we both quickly found our way. We made friends quickly, etc., etc. The [00:47:30] move from Atlanta, interesting enough, was a harder one, because Atlanta is very much geared to people coming from the outside in. It’s a town that has a lot of newcomers. Cincinnati is a contrast. Is a very, I would say closed town, and you really have to break in. So that was a bit harder for us because everybody you met in Cincinnati, the neighbors who lived and the dentist, well, they all went to high school together, they went to like… What is it called? [00:48:00] The…

Ray: Yeah, the Eastside and the Westside, right?

Douwe: Oh, yeah, the Eastside. Well, we lived in the Eastside, and they all went to Miami University or Cincinnati U. It almost felt like we’re not actually waiting for new people, new friends in our lives, so we automatically ended up hanging out with other Procter & Gamble expats, which makes your world a little bit smaller. So it took a little bit longer before we found our grounding and our roots there.

Now, we lived there for [00:48:30] 12 years in total, and the first year would be, I’d say the hardest, but we have a really good time. And every time we go back, and we still go back at least once a quarter and we try to plan like four or five different couples that we then have dinner or breakfast or lunch with.

Ray: Yeah, it seems like you had an incredibly supportive wife. And I’ve interviewed a lot of people who’ve done incredibly well in their lives and that seems to be an important constant, of having a great partner who’s, you know, aligned with where you wanna [00:49:00] go. And maybe sometimes in your case, you know, even she’s thinking two steps ahead of you. But I’m curious, like were there mistakes that that you look back, that you look at and say, hey, those are rookie mistakes in the early days?

I was married too long ago and constantly making mistakes that my wife’s not happy with and how much time I’m not being at home and all that, or being present. But looking back, were there any rookie mistakes that you made on the personal side?

Douwe: Rookie mistakes are the first to say, you should interview [00:49:30] my wife, she probably could spend like two hours on that. Well, I would say, no, I’m the perfect husband. But I think she would say that the mistake that I made probably is not always taking the needs of the family into account. So first, let’s say prioritize what I needed for my career and me personally [00:50:00] and then see how the rest would fit, rather than say what is the best for us? And then see how the career would fit.

So that happened in the early days. The last time we moved, we made a strong reversal. I know one of your question is why did you leave Procter and join Georgia-Pacific, but that was the direct outcome of sitting together. It was like, “What do we want the rest of the next 10 years to look like?” [00:50:30] And when we did that, it was significantly different from the life we were leading.

And so the rookie mistake was, I would say, doing it too late. I think we could have done it earlier. So the first time we moved to Atlanta, it was really a joint decision. I think when we move from Atlanta to Cincinnati, to the Procter headquarter, I think that was more me prioritizing what was best for my career and me personally and then see how the rest would fit. And it worked out in Cincinnati, but on hindsight I’m not so sure that was the [00:51:00] best way to do it.

And of course, on the day-to-day, coming home at night and not giving a phone call, that still happens. Forgetting a birthday or forgetting an in-law’s birthday or those kinds of things. She still reminds me. She still sends me texts like, “Your brother has his birthday,” or, “Your sister has a birthday,” or, “This is so and so, it’s like…” The other day she said, “You know it’s Mother’s Day, right?” So I was like, “Oh, crap,” so I called my mother [00:51:30] and my mother was laughing like, [inaudible 00:51:31] so my wife kept the date home. So, yeah.

Ray: I mean, just going back to some other points you raised earlier, after spending 19, 20, like what was the main reason for leaving Procter and looking elsewhere? You mentioned a bit about the personal side, but what was it? What was that the main issue, the trigger that got you to think, “I gotta move elsewhere”?

Douwe: Yes, [00:52:00] so this was in, I would say in 2007, 2008, my wife and I started to become a little bit restless on how we were living our lives. And we always said that we wanna live outside and start a horse farm. As a kid, she grew up around horses, in Cincinnati she had her horses at a boarding facility. And ever since we got together, [00:52:30] and I met her the second day in college, but ever since we got together, we were clear that one day we were gonna live outside and have a horse property with a barn and an arena and pastures. We were gonna live the outside farm living after having lived a city life for a long time.

But that kept being delayed and delayed because, well, you’ll never know what Procter is gonna send us. And at one point we said, “This has to just stop. We’re getting older, it’s one of our biggest wishes [00:53:00] but we’re not taking any action on it.” And as we started looking for farms in Cincinnati, every time we got closer and closer to making a bid, my wife would ask me always one question like, “You know if we do this, we’re buying this property for at least 10 to 20 years, because otherwise, you’re not gonna buy or build a horse farm, for…it’s not a suburban home. Are you sure you’re gonna wanna work for the next 10, 20 years in Cincinnati [00:53:30] at Procter, and are you sure they want you for the next 10 or 20 years? That’s also an important one. And if you can’t say a loud yes, we shouldn’t be buying this.”

So we did it three times and then we said, “We need to step back,” and said, “We need to start working where we live instead of living where we work.” Okay, so where would we like to live? And we make a whole wish list and all the perfect things that we wanted to have and then we realized like, well, Cincinnati is in it. [00:54:00]

And then I said, “Well, so what is it?” We made a list, got some criteria and made a list and Atlanta as well as some other cities in the south kind of ended up high in the list. And I said, “Hey, you know what, we’ll start looking. It could take one year, two years, three years, we don’t know.” 2008, 2009 was a very bad period to start looking for a job and so it took a while because nobody was looking at the time.

But in 2010, late [00:54:30] 2010, we basically said, “Okay, what is it specifically we want?” And I vividly remember my wife and I said, “Okay, we wanna live in the Atlanta area, that’s our first choice.” We had alternatives, but let’s say Atlanta, we lived here before, there’s good horse country, the value for money is pretty good in the city. There’s enough companies for you to find a job, and even if that doesn’t work out, there’s other companies you might wanna hop to, while Cincinnati was kind of a one company town. The climate is great, Atlanta has won.

Then [00:55:00] she knew what she wanted is start this horse farm, and training, and developing, and probably breeding horses. And I wanted to be a…I also said, “I wanna make a career switch, I wanna switch to more of a capability… I wanna try to be what it’s like, for example, to be a vice-president of marketing or maybe even a CMO.”

We wrote it down. My wife is like, “You need to write this on paper because I know you say one thing and then Wednesday, something else comes up and you’re like, ‘Okay, that looks good too. We’ve got to move to Brazil.'” So [00:55:30] I wrote it down, and literally, three days later I get a phone call from my recruiter. Long story short, he asked, “What has to be true for you to consider leaving Procter & Gamble?” And I joked and said, “Well, I actually wrote it down with my wife last Sunday and if you have a CMO job in Atlanta, I’m all in.”

And he’s laughing he said, “Are you kidding me?” He’s like, “Well, Georgia-Pacific is looking for a CMO and actually I wondered if you’re interested.” And then [00:56:00] I was like, “Jim, is that you?” I thought my wife asked one of my friends to trick me to say that I could just stay to the story or I think this was a joke or something. He is like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “No, you’re kidding, right?” He said, “No, seriously. Georgia-Pacific is looking for CMO and I got the project. And your old boss told me to give you a call, so that’s what I’m doing.”

And I say, “Well, when can I come?” He said, “Well, what about next Wednesday?” So a week later, I happened to have a vacation planned so I said, “Hey, [00:56:30] I’ll delay my vacation with a day, I’ll fly down to meet with the recruiter.” And he says, “Hey, come back,” and three months later, I start at Georgia-Pacific.

And once we set our mind to it, it went really fast. And then eight months later, we found the perfect farm and that’s how it fell in place. I was moving more towards something than away from P&G, but it was made easy because the opportunities at P&G were getting less and less. [00:57:00] The company wasn’t acquiring as much as they used to, so there was this whole generation of brand directors that were sitting there waiting for the next big step, but there were not a whole lot of opportunities.

Now, here’s the thing. A lot of people think I left Procter because they sold snacks, because I was the brand director of Pringles at the time. I left Procter & Gamble the last day of February in 2011 and I started at Georgia-Pacific March 1. On April 1, Procter announced they sold up Pringles. I had no [00:57:30] clue that was gonna happen, which a lot of my direct reports called me and said, “Listen, dude, you could have just told me.”

Ray: I know. Like, “You knew this was coming.”

Douwe: Because you know [inaudible 00:57:40]. I said, “No, I didn’t.” I asked my general manager, the guy we reported to, I don’t think he even knew. And I called him and said, “Did you know?” He said, “Of course, this is done at the CEO and CFO level.” And finance boss knew but I heard at about the same time as you read. I got a day’s heads up. [00:58:00] I was like, “Oh, well, can you tell the folks that we didn’t know?”

But that was interesting, because on paper it looks like, “Oh, you left in March, you left because you knew they were gonna sell it.” No, that was…for me it was a coincidence. On hindsight, I think some of my management at Procter knew and probably felt, “Hey, that worked out very nice.” But I was in February. Had I known, I would have not had that much of…because I had a bit of a heartburn leaving after 20 years and I had so many friends and I [00:58:30] really enjoyed it. And I was like, “Wow, had I known, I would not have any of the heartburn because I was gonna be sold off anyway had I stayed.” But that was in hindsight.

Ray: Wow, it’s funny how the stars align, though, at different times. I’m curious, when you talk about heartburn, did you have heartburn when you arrived at Georgia-Pacific, given that you were at one company for the majority of your career?

Douwe: Oh, yeah. It was two big changes, right? This was the first time I was outside of Procter. I joined Procter out of [00:59:00] the college and that’s everything I knew and I knew everybody. I knew all the systems, the processes, I knew how to get things done formally, informally, globally, locally. It was in my block. And somewhere in the questionnaire you sent, you said, “It looks like you’re gonna be a lifer,” and that’s how I felt for the majority of the time. Like, “I’m gonna retire here.”

So that was one, the newness of a new company. Then this was a privately-held company, which is very different from a public. [00:59:30] They have a very strong management philosophy with very strong guiding principles, so some of those made me nervous because one of the guiding principles is humility. And I don’t know there’s a lot of people at Procter that are really humble, because that’s not how you progress. And I actually mentioned in my interviews like, “Of the 10 guiding principles, I think I’ll meet most of 10 of them, but there’s 1 that sticks out that I don’t know if I have it in me, and that’s a risk you’re gonna take, [01:00:00] which is humility.”

And my boss, the president at the time, who was hiring me, he said, “The fact that you are self-aware and that you mentioned it, is already big for me, and we’ll see. You know, thanks for the heads up and then it’s my job to make sure that we teach you some humility and that we help you.” It is actually that one that also got me into trouble through the years at Georgia-Pacific because if there was anything from a feedback, humility is the one that every now pops up as I listened because that [inaudible 01:00:30].

And then obviously the… That was from a cultural perspective, so some of the things that really attracted me were some of the things that also concerned me because the strong management philosophy, their principles, their values, how they look at the world, those were really attractive but they were very different from what I was used to.

On the flip side, marketing and brand building was not a big priority when I [01:01:00] came, and they hired me because they had the intention to make it a big priority. But there’s always this interpretation between you need to significantly improve our marketing. Well, is that from a one to a two or is it from a one to a nine? So that was a part. And I learned that the expectation they had was not as big as I thought. When they said, “We need change,” I learned pretty quick, when they said “change” it was [01:01:30] a smaller change than I had in mind. But to the credit of the company, it’s been six years, and although it could have been slower, one area or the other, I don’t think there’s a single thing I try to do and I asked for that I didn’t get support for. It’s quite amazing

If I talk to my peers in the industry, it’s like a lot of my peers complain about their relationship with their supervisor and how they don’t appreciate marketing and don’t value marketing, [01:02:00] or their relationship with sales or their relationship with their CFO. And I’m sitting there like, these are some of my biggest supporters. Like, I’m really close to the sales leader and our CFO and our president and the general managers. And there’s a lot of challenge and pushback, don’t get me wrong, but even though the initial expectations might have been different, which made me nervous, if I look back for the last six years, we’ve [01:02:30] done some amazing stuff together that I thought that will never happen. I was like, oops, that just happened. And that’s the culture that I was hoping to find and actually did.

Ray: And Douwe, I wanna be respectful of time, so I got a couple of questions remaining and some more so let’s tackle them. I know that you’ve gone through the experience of moving from Procter to another company, at Georgia-Pacific, looking back, would you have made a change [01:03:00] earlier, or would you have tried doing something differently earlier?

Douwe: I struggle with that question because if I had made the change earlier, I would not have become the CMO of Georgia-Pacific, I know that. And I think this is the job, probably one of the best jobs I can imagine. And I just made a presentation at the Salesforce Summit, and earlier in the year at the ANA Masters of Marketing. And the [01:03:30] opening joke is kind of about the same in both. It basically goes about like this, “Most marketers wanna work at a company that is really big…” and you fill in the blank, whether it’s for Procter and Gamble, Unilever and some of these.

Or is really cool, where it’s like yesterday I mentioned Pandora or Expedia because they were talking, speaking as well. Or like a Google or a Facebook. And they really liked the ones that are big and cool like Google, but nobody [01:04:00] says, “I wanna work in a company that’s not big and not cool,” or not knowing, and that’s where I landed. And I loved it because it gave so much freedom and opportunity because of the management philosophy we have, where we really embrace experimentation, change and innovation that I don’t think I would have been able to experience the things that I have experienced here at any of these cool and/or big companies that I just mentioned. And I truly believe that.

So [01:04:30] had I left earlier, I don’t think I would have been able to land a CMO job. I probably would have landed another brand director role at another company, in CPG. Or I would have done something very different, but that’s not who I am. I’ll probably continue to leverage my expertise and leverage my individual capabilities that I’ve developed through the years. And I probably would have landed at a larger, known CPG company that was [01:05:00] looking for a brand director to lead brand A or B.

And I might have slowly worked my way up, but I’m guessing I might have ended up in a general management position in any of these companies. And on hindsight, it’s hard to assess, but I really like where I landed. And I’m highly motivated and passionate about it. So it’s hard to answer, that question.

Now, that’s for me, personal. If somebody [01:05:30] would ask me, would you recommend staying at the same company for 20 years, or actually would you recommend me staying at Procter for 20 years? I’d probably say, “Listen, it’s a personal choice, but I would switch earlier.”

So I’m separating the individual situation that I went through from what I see in the marketplace, and [01:06:00] some of these companies, I think they’re holding talent back these days because they don’t have the growth opportunities and I see a lot of high potential talent being wasted in the large corporations. And they’re hold them there with nice benefits and stock options and stuff to keep them in place, but I think some of the folks have more potential out there and I would recommend to them, say, “Hey listen, spread your wings earlier,” not that I’m a [01:06:30] good example, but I would recommend others to do that.

Ray: Yeah. I really have 20 more questions but we don’t have time. My final question for you is, I ask you…go ahead.

Douwe: No, if needed, I can stay longer, but…

Ray: I’ll probably to squeeze in a couple more. But I’m curious, you know, I’ve asked you a bunch of things, but is there something about you or the choices or the learnings that you’ve had in your career that I haven’t uncovered that you [01:07:00] think would be valuable for people to know or to be aware of?

Douwe: Oh, that’s a broad question.

Ray: Mm-hmm, intentionally.

Douwe: There’s a few things that make me tick. My wife and I ran into this metaphor many years ago, it’s by a guy called Paul Stolz. I had some corporate [01:07:30] training where he was the speaker and I came back and shared the metaphor with my wife and she said, “Well, that’s exactly what resonates with me.” And we’ve been talking about this ever since. And it’s a simple metaphor that in life, there’s climbers, campers and quitters.

And the metaphor speaks for itself, is that those people that continue to climb will have the highest level of fulfillment and progress. [01:08:00] So the two of us always said, we wanna climb. And we wanna continue to climb, she in her field and me in my field, and then we have some joint interests. But as you’re climbing, it’s very easy to fall in the trap and then you’re camping, and sometimes you don’t realize it. And I would recommend people always, obviously, to never quit but beware, are you really climbing or you’re camping and you’re telling yourself you’re climbing?

And that’s what happened to us when we were in Cincinnati [01:08:30] because we always talked about our dreams and aspirations, but we didn’t do a lot about it and we’re not getting younger. And my wife, at one point was like, “I don’t think we’ll ever have a horse farm. I think you’ll just retire at Procter and we’ll be living at Cincinnati forever.” And like no, that’s not climbing, that’s camping.

And then we looked at each other like, maybe that’s what we’re doing. Maybe that’s what this is, we are camping. So when the president here interviewed me, his first question was, “Why are you here?” [01:09:00] And my answer to him was like, “I wanna climb again,” and he looked at me like, “What?” I said, “I wanna climb again,” he said, “Huh, I’m intrigued. Tell me more.” And I gave him the whole metaphor, he is like, “Wow, you know why you’re here.” And he became a great boss and we worked well together in the years that he was here. But that was my very first answer, and it was really heartfelt.

So I really recommend people to make sure you continue to climb and be aware that you’re not camping because sometimes it feels like you’re climbing, but you’re actually camping. [01:09:30] And that’s the philosophy that we, the two of us always focused on, like are you really climbing?

Now, climbing is also hard because people that are around you that are camping, they don’t want you to climb so they start sabotaging and helping you go the other direction and to say, hey, why are you doing this and why are you doing this? So you have to be very much committed to it and persevere and [01:10:00] have a drive to do it because climbing is very tiring, as one of my friends once said. Like, “This climbing thing is really exhausting.”

Ray: Quitting is easier.

Douwe: Yeah. Well, camping I think is easier for most people. Quitting is very, you know you’re quitting because then there’s a lot of negatives, you lose stuff. With camping, you don’t lose stuff, you just maintain the status quo, while climbing you continue to progress towards your dreams or your purpose.

Ray: Yeah. Yeah, you’ve [01:10:30] been very intentional all your life, what do you still have left to do? What’s on that bucket list, whether it’s for work, career or personally?

Douwe: I would say for personal, things are looking really good for both of us. And from a career thing, I’ve probably accomplished more than I ever thought I would experience as a kid or even like…

Ray: From the projects to this, I guess it’s unbelievable, yeah. [01:11:00]

Douwe: Yeah, and then living in the United States. I just became an American four weeks ago, that was weird because I lost my Dutch citizenship. So there’s a lot of good stuff happening. But I sometimes wonder if I’m giving back enough to society and enough to the United States, and it so happened that I found a way to give back and contribute [01:11:30] that is really resonating with my wife and myself, but also really resonated with the business and the company I’m in.

So you probably, if you look at my LinkedIn post on some of the work, I’m very much involved, as well as my vice-president of marketing, in an initiative that focuses on portraying women accurately in media and in content. And I’m expanding to say, hey, how can I help? How can I [01:12:00] contribute to help women progress and reach their fullest potential? And that is, for me, a real big thing that we’re as a company, are focusing on. I’m so happy that we are actually pilot in many areas, that we highlight it as a pilot.

My leadership team that I work with and the people that I work for and the people that are around us are extremely supportive. Anna is nodding [01:12:30] here and saying, “Yap.” She knows exactly what I mean, it’s called the #SeeHer Initiative, but the #SeeHer and what we’re doing with the ANA is one big pillar where we’re expanding to do things more internally.

And for me, I’m guessing if there’s any retirement career, it will be in that space, because I do spend a lot of time in mentoring and supporting, especially young women. Today it’s a lot of daughters of friends, I’m at the age that all my friends have daughters that are graduating [01:13:00] and I spend a lot of time in helping them with their resumes and preparing for their interviews or just thinking through how to do their careers. And the interesting thing is that you might say the exact same thing as their dad, but it’s sounds so much better if it’s not coming from your dad.

Ray: Yeah. Yeah.

Douwe: And since I don’t have kids, a lot of the dads say, “Hey, Douwe, can you come spend time with my daughter? Or can you spend some time with so and so? Or, can you help them find an internship? Or, can you help her with her thesis? Or, I don’t think [01:13:30] her resume is any good, but she thinks I have no clue what I’m talking about.” And I really enjoy that.

So that is something that when you asked me, is there anything left to do, I was like, “Yes, payback to society.” And I already found a field where I think I can make a difference because some of the struggles that young women struggle with are very similar to a poor immigrant kid, whilst coming from a guy I know this makes [01:14:00] a difference, because for women it always feels self-serving when they try to push this purpose and push this cause, and when more men get involved, it feels more as a societal opportunity rather than one group trying to do their own mission.

And I kind of fell into that through the work that we do with the ANA and the work that we’re doing on our brands. Some of the work [01:14:30] we’ve done in Angel Soft and Brawny was right in that field and we just saw how it resonates with consumers, we saw how it resonates with our employees, it resonate with friends and family who see it. And like, there is something here that we all can do more for. I’m just so happy that it’s something that I’m personally committed to and it also happens to be a valuable for the business and the business is committed to. Long answer to a simple question, but I think that there’s still a lot left to do.

Ray: Yeah, [01:15:00] that’s awesome. This is a bit of a random question, I mean, you’re a pretty intense guy, I take it, and you move at 100 miles an hour, but do you have a routine that you follow to keep you stable and calm and patient, like you meditate? Do you work out? Are there things that you do that you stick with?

Douwe: Come to our farm for a day and then ask the same question. Yes, almost every day, and my wife probably would argue, but always every day, [01:15:30] there’s a moment I’m scooping some horse manure into a bucket. And it is so grounding to be around these animals on the farm. And basically I come home, take off my work outfit, get into some cut-offs and help her around where there’s any water blockage or walking the horses out or literally fill up the buckets with manure and help her out in the farm [01:16:00] as much as I can in the weekdays, but especially in the weekends. I move hay around, I move bags of pellets and horse food, etc., etc. It’s really very physical, very close to nature. And I think that is my alternative to meditating and grounding. Everybody has their thing. I know a lot of my friends play golf or they spend time with their kids. I guess this is my thing and it’s very grounding. I always joke, CMO by day [01:16:30] and farmer by night.

Ray: Awesome. Awesome. Douwe, I really, really enjoyed this. This was a lot of fun. You know, I know our listeners are gonna really enjoy listening to this. But thank you so much for doing this. I remember the first time Jack Neff from AdAge was the one who had recommended you in the beginning. And we both were talking about you at the ANA conference and as I was like, “I really think this guy would have a great story,” and you certainly proved that right, so thank you so much, again, [01:17:00] for taking the time to do this. And, you know, I’m certainly excited to share this story with everyone else.

Douwe: All right. Well, thank you, Ray, it was a pleasure doing it.

Ray: Good, all right. Hopefully, we’ll connect in person at some point in time.

Douwe: Yeah, looking forward to that.

Ray: All right, take care. Bye.

Douwe: Take care, bye.

Daniel: Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed what you heard, felt like you learned something, please just take a minute to go into iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcast and write us [01:17:30] a review. It helps us reach more people like yourself and helps us share the knowledge with others. So please check out iTunes, write a review, tell us what you think. And look forward to talking to you in our next episode. [01:18:00]