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CEW Newsmaker Forum with Fabrizio Freda

Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., and Carlotta Jacobson, president, CEW, at Newsmaker Forum in New York City.

Posted: February 22, 2010

On Jan. 28, 2010, Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) featured Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies, at a sold-out Newsmaker Forum, held at New York City’s Harmonie Club. Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW, welcomed Freda and announced his presentation, “Leading Through The Changing Face of Beauty.” Freda, who assumed his current role at Lauder in July 2009, holds the position as the key architect of the company’s long-term strategic plan, and is responsible for developing and achieving its overall vision, strategy, financial objectives and investment priorities. He is also a member of the company’s board of directors.

Freda focuses on a strategic plan that includes prioritizing resources to the most promising opportunities, making further investments in consumer knowledge, driving innovation and creativity through products and services, and expanding geographic penetration. It also calls for greater integration across the company’s brands, regions and functions to create cost efficiencies and leverage scale.

Change and Diversity

Jill Scalamandre, moderator and CEW chair, introduced the discussion with a reference to Freda’s reputation as an “über change agent,” one who recognized the importance of change as the “essence of progress.” Freda noted that, “Any good change must focus on a few fundamental things, and that once change was defined and you have looked reality in the eyes, you can create a new vision.”

“I’ve been going around the globe, and I’ve tried to learn about the organization and tried to make any changes taking place very clear to everyone,” said Freda. “I believe incremental change is a way of changing that is relevant. Utilize reverse engineering, and ask yourself where you want to be in five years and figure out what you need to do it. The mix of these two approaches normally provides companies with a strong advantage.

“I learned that William Lauder always said ‘Semper Nobis,’ meaning always change—and I believe that an analogy of the frog who jumps from the boiling water illustrates this concept.” Freda explained that if a frog jumps in boiling water he will jump right out. On the other hand, if he gradually adjusts to the water, as it gets hotter and hotter, it will be too late for him to jump out. Clearly, his reference referred to the need for potentially disruptive change to achieve results.