People to Watch 2019: Nick Cronje
Company: Beiersdorf Inc.
Title: Director, Revenue Growth Management
Education: University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (bachelor’s, biological sciences)
A native of South Africa, Nick Cronje began his career at Unilever with roles in account management and category operations. Three years later, he joined Beiersdorf to run one of South Africa’s biggest drug channel customers and manage its distributor in the neighboring country of Namibia.
Then in 2015, he made a move within Beiersdorf into customer insights and joined the North American affiliate in Bentonville, Arkansas, working on the Walmart team. Transitioning over to the Target team in the same capacity, Cronje moved yet again, but this time to the New York City area.
Now serving as the company’s director of revenue growth management, Cronje reflects on his schooling in South Africa (biological sciences) as a basis for what he does today. “Although the technical knowledge of the degree itself may not be hugely valuable in commerce,” he says, “the foundation of the sciences relies on strong analytical thinking, objective reasoning and a curious mindset – all of which, I believe, are critical to successfully growing a business.”
He points to two individuals who have had a strong influence on his career thus far. “The first is, without a doubt, my first manager at Unilever who I continued to work for in several roles at both Unilever and Beiersdorf,” Cronje says. “He had vision and courage and continuously pushed me to get better and move forward.” Cronje’s leadership skills today are reflective of the example this manager set for him, he says. “The second would be my 2-year-old son Harry, who successfully manages to put everything else into perspective.”
Cronje says his team’s overarching ambition is to become the Commercial Center of Excellence at Beiersdorf, leading the investment strategy and growth agenda in North America. To achieve that, he notes, the revenue growth team prioritizes pack and price architecture, promotional excellence and trade fund management. “We work to deliver this as one team with an integrated network of cross-functional support.”
He is most proud of the fact that his career and company have enabled him and his family to move across the world, meet some amazing people and experience different countries and cultures. But this is where they now want to stay. “I would like to continue gaining experience in leading teams in sales and/or marketing functions here in the USA,” Cronje says.
Revenue growth is an exciting function because team members are able to get involved in so many different business processes. “But if the necessary structures are not maintained, then you can easily drown in the short-term tactics and never really get to the longer-term strategy development – where the biggest value can be found,” he says. “It’s this constant tension that is only increasing as the market moves faster and faster.” Additionally, the rise and prominence of e-commerce is unsettling traditional market dynamics, he notes, particularly as it relates to pricing and promotion, and navigating this new reality is an exciting challenge.
Cronje believes e-commerce will become even more predictive, more personalized and supporting more aspects of all of our lives. “As more and more shopping decisions are being made from the living room, it’s quickly changing the historical levers used to drive a brand,” he says. “Our biggest challenge is how to win disproportionately in this space while improving profitability.” He predicts continued consolidation across the physical store environment, with those retailers that are best able to blend their e-commerce platforms with their existing market strengths and loyal shopper base – becoming the outright winners.