As the founder of her company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee and a champion of kinder workplace cultures, Pamela Bishop fits the bill of a game-changing leader to a tee. Currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Blooms the Chemist, I chat to Pamela about driving sustainability, leading with purpose and the importance of ethical and responsible procurement. Oh, and the adjustments this year and the pandemic has thrust upon us all. A jam-packed episode for you, folks!
You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast with your host and Anna Sheppard.
Anna Sheppard 0:22
Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including, and not limited to, leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work, and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes.
Today on Project Good Boss, we will be with Pamela Bishop, a senior executive and experienced leader across retail merchandise brand marketing and communications. She holds the position of Chief Marketing Officer at Blooms The Chemist where she’s heavily involved in the strategic planning, leads her team to drive a comprehensive marketing and comms plan with a customer centric approach. She sits on the company leadership team, and she heads up the CSR committee. She’s been privileged to travel extensively throughout her career, and views travel as a wonderful learning opportunity to discover different markets, businesses and culture. Pamela believes her purpose is to make a difference. She says her core values are authenticity, humility, and kindness and these define who she is. She believes it’s important to give back and aims to do this in both her personal and her work life. As an avid supporter of female empowerment in the workplace, each month she facilitates a development programme she founded which encourages others to reach their full potential. She also holds a number of the mentoring positions, aiming to help develop the next generation of marketers. Passionate about holistic healthcare, corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven business, she’s driven to develop in a winning workplace culture underpinned by shared values and collaboration. And the work she’s most proud of, is the work that influences change, inspires, and leaves a positive impact. We’re really proud to have one of our key partners for the year ahead, and massive game changer, Pamela Bishop.
Hello, Pamela and welcome to Project Good Boss. I’m so excited to have you here today, and we’re so proud to have you as one of our key partners for the year ahead. I’ve known you for a little while now, and as each day goes by, we’re getting to know each other a little bit better. You’re a really great example of a game changing leader and how they can use their influence to take a business on a journey. But, I’d love to know a little bit more about you, Pamela, because there’s always a few questions I’ve got in my mind and, you know, you dribble them out and you get to know people. But, tell us a little bit about you, help everybody understand who Pamela is, and what brought you to Australia in the first place?
Pamela Bishop 3:07
Yeah, I’m Irish. I first arrived here in Australia back in 2006. So this month actually, it’s been 14 years, but it’s just flown by. My plan – I think my story is a lot like a lot of other people’s. So my plan originally was to come for one year on a working holiday visa. But, yeah, I just fell in love with Australia and decided to stay. I was really fortunate to receive an opportunity to be sponsored, and you know, really just loved it here. I think it’s really the weather, the lifestyle and the people, and it’s just a fantastic way of life. So, I’ve been an Australian citizen for a few years now and I’m also married to an Aussie so I’m definitely settled here. On the work front, I am Chief Marketing Officer at Blooms The Chemist. I lead the marketing and communications departments to really align all of our activities with our brand, vision and goals. I also lead our corporate social responsibility committee, and part of the company leadership team. So I do get to spend a lot of time on brand strategy and really excited to be working with Bambuddha Group this year on the Corporate Social Responsibility side of things.
Anna Sheppard 4:12
Amazing! So the story of many immigrants coming over to Australia – did you do fruit picking? That’s the main question.
Pamela Bishop 4:19
No, I actually didn’t, I escaped without having to do that because I got sponsored within a few months of arriving, so yeah, I got pretty lucky. I’m not sure if my story would have maybe panned out a bit differently if I had to do that. I can’t picture myself out there picking all the bananas and I’ve heard horror stories, about snakes coming down from trees and stuff. So yeah, luckily, I didn’t have to do that.
Anna Sheppard 4:41
I know, we are going to be touching upon modern slavery a little bit later. That does remind me, and it is something that you know, a lot of people don’t realise when people come over to meet the criteria of certain visas. You do have to extend your visa route doing all sorts of random things like fruit picking, so I’m glad you didn’t have to go through that, and you didn’t die, thank goodness. So what is it? Because you know, you’re excellent at what you’re doing. I’ve been observing you since we’ve been working together, and you really are a different kind of leader with regards to what you’re trying to create from a brand perspective, from a marketing perspective, but also around how you’re embedding that sense of purpose throughout the whole organisation at Blooms The Chemist. But what is it that drives and motivates you to run a business and support social issues in the first place? Because I definitely sensed, in working with you for this short period, that it is more than just a CSR agenda to you. So tell me a little bit more about your career story and what moments have led you to make the decision to tip Blooms The Chemist on a deeper dive with this kind of CSR development piece?
Pamela Bishop 5:49
Yeah, I think there’s two parts to it. So I guess there’s the – the personal side of me and I’m just one of those people who thinks you just need to be a good human and try and make an effort to do decent things and be a good person. And then obviously, if you can translate your passion and your values into your work, that’s great. So my career story, when I first started out in a corporate role, I started out in operations and sales in retail pharmacies. But when I moved into a corporate role, it was actually on the merchandise side of things. So I was responsible for everything to do with really the supply chain, but products, brands, pricing, all the supplier negotiations. Yeah, I was quite deeply involved in that supply chain side of things. I’ve actually always had an interest in ethical and responsible procurement, which, of course, is a very important part of CSR. But I also always worked very closely with the marketing team, and it’s a retail business. So the buying and marketing teams really collaborate quite a lot to bring product promotions to life and launch new plans. Over time, my career progressed, I was promoted to General Manager of merchandise and marketing. So at that stage, I was leading the buying and the marketing teams and I was getting a lot more involved in marketing, working on more of the big picture and strategic projects, which I really loved. Time continued to go on, and I guess I just continued to grow in my role. And as a team, we had some really great success. And then earlier this year, I was appointed to the Chief Marketing Officer role, so I’m now head of marketing, communications and brand strategy. So I’m only six months into this role and my first few months have been a bit crazy thanks to COVID-19. It’s been such a strange year, but I’m really enjoying it. I’ve got a fantastic team who are just really talented and I think I’m lucky that I work for such a great wonderful brand. Blooms The Chemist does a lot of good in the communities across Australia and I think we have a great opportunity to use marketing for good as well. So I am driven and motivated to support social issues through my work and as a person and as a leader. I do care about driving sustainability and leading with purpose and I’m big on CSR. I just think it’s really important that businesses give back. I think everyone should do their best and give back where they can, but particularly businesses, and I’m fortunate to work for a company that does take it seriously too. Blooms has been on a bit of a journey with CSR. So a quick summary. First of all, Bloom The Chemist is a community pharmacy brand, our pharmacies and pharmacists are part of their local communities. They support local community initiatives, and they honestly have really meaningful relationships with their customers. They know them all by name, they know all of their health history, they know their kids names. The business is 40 years old, and that strong community connection is really part of the company DNA.
So in 2016 – I’ll just recap the last five years. Our cause-related strategy back then, which was an Encino corporate partnership with Make A Wish Australia and since then we’ve donated almost $900,000 to Make A Wish, which we’re very proud of. We’re really keen to hit that million dollar milestone and we’ll have a big celebration. As a network of 100 pharmacies, we actually support countless charity and community initiatives across Australia. And then last year, we went global, and we actually built a much needed maternity ward and women’s shelter in Zambia in Africa. Being involved in that project was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my career so far, it was just amazing to be part of that. At the beginning of this year – it feels like years ago, but it was only this year – when we had the bushfire crisis, our entire business came together and collectively donated $100,000 to provide frontline support to communities in those fire-affected areas. I think we’ve just been ramping up our efforts and CSR over the last five years. I would say really, up until this point, it has mainly been focused on charitable initiatives and community engagement, which is really important, and I think we’ve done a really good job there. But of course, CSR is a lot broader than that. So now we’re really ready to tackle all of the different elements. Earlier this year, I established a CSR committee at Blooms, and the purpose of that committee is to broaden our CSR efforts and really to develop and deliver a sustainable CSR programme. So that’s part of our ongoing commitment to support communities in Australia and beyond and just do what we can to give back as a business and be a good corporate citizen. So I think we’re already doing fantastic work, our pharmacists, in particular, in supporting their local communities. By bringing all of the existing community and charity initiatives together under one brand umbrella, hopefully we’ll be able to consolidate our efforts and do more to give back and provide even better support where it’s needed. I think, for me, it’s such an important thing that we need to be doing as a business but we’ve got over 2500 employees in the brand and I really believe that by by doing this work, and by having a sustainable CSR programme on pace, our entire team will just be really proud to be part of a company that’s actively working to do good and make a difference.
Anna Sheppard 10:57
Yeah, amazing! I think just you’ve organically been supporting the community with the charities that you’ve been supporting. But the fact that you’re now in this beautiful place where you can see, okay, this affects every element of this business. You built the dream team in that CSR committee of skill sets. I think we definitely notice a trend that the businesses that do get the whole of the leadership team involved the CEO signing off on this, they’re endorsing this in its full entity. They do it in the most authentic way and the way they actually can create that change rather than that ‘corporate tick box exercise’’ when no one’s really bought into it. And what I was – because I had the pleasure of being with Blooms The Chemist on your strategy this year, and one of the things that I really got, when I’d left there was like, “Wow, these people actually really, really care,” and you could see the emotional and also business buying in the room. Because it is good for business now to be doing the right thing, and that’s what we’re here for, is to be proving that. You’re an excellent marketer, you know that marketing and brand go hand in hand with purpose now, and it really is the only way our businesses can move forward. So why do you think it’s essential right now for brands to be creating a more positive impact in the world, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 12:25
When you say all of that, the days we had together and our full leadership team and other key stakeholders in the business are absolutely so bought in and it seems so simple when you describe it like that. I’m not sure why everyone’s not doing it. But yeah, I’m just so glad that we’ve got everyone on board and everyone’s really excited to get started. I do think it’s essential. There’s a lot of research on this topic. We know that more and more consumers not just want, but they actually expect brands to be doing good things in the world and making an effort to positively affect social change. So, we know there’s been a lot of good stuff happening in this space. I think the real challenge for brands is to make a positive impact in a way that is real and authentic. Like you said, it’s not just about ticking a box, and it’s not just something to do for a marketing ploy. It’s really to do it for the right reasons. There are lots of opportunities for brands to create a positive impact. I think right now, especially. We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we keep hearing about. Unprecedented, a once in a century crisis, and it’s brought a lot of uncertainty and has raised potential for an economic downturn as well. But during this crisis, brands have an opportunity to make an even bigger and more positive impact. Some brands are doing a great job at it. Brands are able to support frontline staff, support vulnerable people in the community, and hero stories about positivity and acts of kindness. So we are seeing that and I think – I hope – we’ll see more and more brands and businesses just be more purposeful and looking to make a positive difference in the world. I think it’s really important.
Anna Sheppard 14:06
And I think leading by example is an amazing thing. I did notice that you brought the [inaudible] with you when we were chatting – A Different Kind of Leader – and that’s very much the people that we partner with at Bambuddha Group. But being a different kind of leader comes with a lot of pressure and a lot of challenges, because it is about moving forward, and it is about being progressive as a business. Like the likes of Blooms The Chemist, you’re in an industry, which has been saturated with all kinds of ethical challenges over the years. So how do you deal with the pressure and the challenges in such a fast paced industry? How do you envisage moving forward as a leader, you know, with an agenda that is about authenticity and kindness. What advice have you got? What’s your secret recipe around how you do deal with the pressures and challenges and keep focused on your purpose and your agenda, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 15:07
I think I’ve got some pretty good coping mechanisms. This year, with COVID-19, it’s been a very challenging time for, I think, everybody. And I’ve certainly faced various pressures. I suppose, particularly this year, I really have learned a lot, and I’ve learned a lot about kindness and empathy as a leader. When you’ve got, you know, you’re working with a remote team, and people are used to being together and trying to keep that culture alive. It’s really important to just – it’s very simple- be kind and show empathy to people and it goes a long way. I think those coping mechanisms, things like leaders really do need to be agile and adaptable and flexible when they’re facing challenges or working through a crisis like we all are right now. Building your own resilience is really important for senior leadership roles because leaders need to have that resilience that they can actually cope with the stress and adapt in stressful situations and, of course, continue to take care of their team and motivate them. For me, I think knowing that leaders don’t have to have all the answers is a really big one. It’s more about having the right team of people around you to help you come up with the answers, and you also don’t need to make all the calls. It’s really important to empower others to make decisions. I found people actually feel a lot more comfortable in managing a difficult time or a challenge or a crisis when they’ve actually been part of the decision making process. So it’s sort of bringing everyone on the journey and having everyone be part of it and have ownership over it. And I think one of the biggest learnings for me this year in particular, during the pandemic, is simply that open and honest communication is just critical. Transparency really does build trust. So for me, it’s about being real about the situation and what’s going on. And rather than trying to sugarcoat it, I just sometimes [think] that being clear and honest is the best thing you can do. That helps you, you know, get your team behind you and everyone rowing in the same direction.
Anna Sheppard 17:06
Amazing! I think you’ve made some really great commitments this year, especially around the work and the stuff that you’re doing. With the people and culture piece, you know, you’ve got a great culture that’s very authentic already. So I’m looking forward to unpacking that even further. But, you’ve committed to investigating a better understanding of the supply chain this year. And this one is a scary one for a lot of businesses. You know, the reality of it is, it’s very rare that you can find a business that once you get under the lid with regards to the supply chain, it’s all you know, as ethical as they would hope it would be. So it takes baby steps to get there. But the modern slavery act is just coming into play. Why is it important for your business now, above and beyond the fact that there’s legislation in place, for you to understand that supply chain, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 18:00
Yeah, I think for me personally, it just keeps coming back to doing the right thing wherever you can. And you know, as a business, we know that ethical and responsible procurement is such an important part of CSR. The modern slavery issues, unfortunately, is happening all around the world. We as a business have decided to take it really seriously. So we want to promote manufacturing, transparency and sustainability. We are ready to do some, and it’s going to be some serious work, in this space, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Yeah, there’s a big body of work that we’ve agreed to take on as a business. It is a bit scary, because you’re right, you don’t know what you’re going to find when you look under the hood. But I think it’s about just taking that step to agree to actually commit and do it and do the work. Out of that we’ll be looking to establish a code of conduct and formulate an ethics policy, and just make sure that we can identify any problem and risk areas. And really drive awareness about it because I think a lot of people aren’t actually aware of what a big issue this is. So we’ll be looking at a detailed training plan, making sure all of our key stakeholders are on the journey with us. And hopefully that will help us promote this sort of culture and awareness through our whole supply chain. We have to bring all of our suppliers on the journey as well. So it’s a very big task, but yeah, we’re ready to get into it.
Anna Sheppard 19:19
But you’re ready because you’re a different kind of leader, Pamela! You’re ready for this. I’m so, so thrilled and I’m so happy to hear that. A lot of leaders are going to be following in your footsteps, so there are a lot of resources. Anyone that’s listening to this out there, this is one of the biggest and most beautiful things you can do for the world is to understand your supply chain because there’s a lot of people out the other end of supply chains that really are not having a good time. I’m so proud to be working with a business like Blooms The Chemist who are going to take responsibility and accountability. And it’s almost impossible, to some extent, to get right into every single element of a supply chain because you can only go so far so deep and then it’s about all sorts of undercover investigations after that. So it’s all very “secret squirrels”, but having that accountability to be able to report each year. “Look, this is how much of our supply chain we can currently trace.” And “this is the commitment we’re making moving forward,” I just think is such a respectable thing to be doing. Yourself and the team should be so proud that you’re going on that journey. Anyway, that was pretty heavy, so let’s do a quick fire round. We’ll do something a little bit fun if you’re up for it. I’ll put you in the Working Kind Hot Seat. So, what is the one thing you would change in this world if you could?
Pamela Bishop 20:43
You’ll like this because I know you’re all about this, I think it would have to be inequality. If we had equality and you know, status, rights, opportunities, I just think that would solve so many of the world’s problems. So yeah, inequality.
Anna Sheppard 20:56
I loved that answer in every possible way! What do you see as the most predominant trend for marketing and brand leaders at the moment?
Pamela Bishop 21:07
So I would say the three biggest trends are probably purpose, which we’re talking about. Taking a stance, and then, sort of a broader space, the Mar Tech, marketing technology. Purpose is becoming a lot more prevalent. I think a lot more businesses and brands are starting to answer that question, “Why do we exist?” And that then becomes their point of difference and they base all their decisions on that, it actually should be aligning with their purpose. And also, businesses are increasingly aware that younger customers in particular want and expect brands to have a purpose. I think younger customers also want brands to take a stance on important issues. So we’re seeing more and more businesses actively taking a stand against social issues. They’re doing it through their corporate messaging, marketing, their actions, and we’ve seen many examples this year alone, with a lot of big brands taking a stand and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. So I think moving forward we’re just going to see more and more of that. And it’s sort of becoming apparent that brands can’t just remain on the sidelines on these big issues. And then Mar Tech. So this intersection of marketing and technology, it’s been around for some time now. But because of the year that we’re in – the year of COVID-19, and social distancing – I think Mar Tech has played a really important role. And I just think it’s going to continue to do so as we move forward.
Anna Sheppard 22:26
Yeah, somebody told me the other day that technology has come on in the space of a couple of months, what would have been seven years for businesses, to be going at the speed and the line into the technology. So it’s super interesting. It’s really uncertain times at the moment and everybody’s feeling a little bit wobbly. How do you keep your people motivated in such uncertain times, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 22:49
Yeah, it’s been a really strange year and it definitely feels like uncertain times. Through the pandemic I have found it really important personally for me to maintain a positive mindset so that I could motivate my team. I think one of the worst things you can do is, you know, have that, that negative outlook on everything, because that just affects everyone around you. So definitely positivity and calmness has been a critical attribute for leading during a crisis. Everyone has their moments when it’s all getting a bit too much, but I think you definitely need a leader though, that can just keep everything calm and under control. And I touched on it earlier, but having an open and honest communication is just so important. I think you’ve just got to be real, and be genuine about what’s going on around us. People appreciate that authenticity, and I find the transparency has really helped to empower and motivate my team. So it’s clarity in any form of communication has just been key. We’ve done a number of things as well. I’ve put plans and virtual initiatives in place while everyone’s working remotely just to keep us all connected and have the team feeling well supported and feeling like they are part of a team. So every day my team and I have a 30 minute video call first thing. And it’s not really about work, the purpose is really just to see everyone’s faces and check in on each other. And we’ll often give ourselves a rating out of 10 in terms of how we’re feeling that day, our well being. We’ve done – we’ve run some knowledge-sharing sessions as a team. So we’ve sort of embraced the opportunity to learn some new skills while working remotely. And we’ve done team walks while we have a chat on the phone. We’ve been doing virtual drinks on a Friday to celebrate the wins from the week. So it’s – I think it’s lots of little things that you need to do to really keep everyone engaged and motivated at the moment and just keep that culture and sense of being part of a team alive as well.
Anna Sheppard 24:33
Wonderful, I think just having a bit of fun as well, so important at this time. And what is the most fun part of being a CMO?
Pamela Bishop 24:43
Oh, look, I think every day I’m surrounded by talented and passionate people, so they really motivate me and they energise me. So I’m really lucky to have such a fantastic team around me. I thrive on collaboration. It’s my favourite thing in my role, I collaborate with them. Every department in the business and I also get to work across sort of organisational boundaries in different ways. So, for example, actively collaborating with our suppliers or various business partners, sharing information assisting each other where we can, particularly through this year as well. At Blooms The Chemist, we have a fantastic culture that celebrates collaboration. That’s definitely my favourite thing about both my role and where I work. I’m customer centric, and a key part of the CMO role is to ensure that the customer comes first, you know, You understand the customer and meet their needs and wants and constantly work to improve that customer experience as well. I also really enjoy change management, obviously. [inaudible] I love working on the big picture. So for me, I think in the CMO role, it’s really about starting up that strategy formation, which I love and then seeing it come to life to the execution is really cool. Of course, I’m looking at the results sort of as a scorecard strategy. So it’s all fun
Anna Sheppard 26:00
There’s going to be a lot of emerging leaders in the marketing space that will have been [inaudible] writing a lot of those things down. So I think, you know, great example, there is a lot of fun to be had, especially when we’re talking about the storytelling piece. Because I’m a fellow marketer myself, storytelling just makes my heart sing, especially when the outcome of that is about making the world a slightly better place. But what should we expect to see from you in the future, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 26:30
Definitely over the next couple of years, you’re going to be seeing us do a lot more in the CSR space. We’re really looking at aligning to the Sustainable Development Goals. And we’re really lucky that we’re working with you and you’re going to help us along that journey, and hopefully just become a business that’s known for driving positive impact. We’re doing a lot of work, we’re developing our brand purpose. We have a lot to do and we are taking it really seriously and hopefully, the outcome is we want to do even more good work in communities across Australia and beyond, just be a good corporate citizen.
Anna Sheppard 27:03
Amazing. And finally, what is your favourite quote, Pamela?
Pamela Bishop 27:10
I really struggle to remember quotes and stuff, but definitely the one that always comes to mind is “Que Sera, Sera” from the song by Doris Day. My Gran used to sing it all the time. So it’s fun memories, but it means whatever will be will be. And I just think it’s a really good way to look at life. You know, try not to get hung up on things you can’t control and instead just believe that what is supposed to happen will. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. So yeah, “Que Sera, Sera” is sort of my mantra,
Anna Sheppard 27:39
A bit like “Hakuna Matata,” one of my favourite films [Lion King]. And, you know, it’s been brilliant having you here today. I’m loving working with you. If you are a leader, a game-changing leader that’s in a position of influence and is ready to actually take the next steps, we’d love to hear from you. And you know, Pamela’s around as well. She’s always about for chit-chats with some of our members and wider community. But we will be giving you updates throughout the year on how we’re going with Blooms The Chemist and Pamela and so on and so forth. So, thank you for everything you’re doing, Pamela. Thank you for leading the way because it’s really important that we have brave leaders that are working hard at working kind, and everybody else sooner or later will get the memo. That really this is the only way we can do business moving forward. Thank you for showing up today, and thank you for continuing to show up for people, planet and purpose.
Pamela Bishop 28:37
Thanks for having me, I’m really excited about working together over the next year as well.
Anna Sheppard 28:43
Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss. Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game-changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you. Visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you to Sonic Union for editing this episode, Laura Roberts for writing and performing Project Good Boss, and design by Flare Creative. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next time.