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P&G head fights pressure with calmness

/ 11:40 PM December 10, 2011

SIDDIK Tetik poses with P&G products manufactured and sold in the Philippines.

In the fast moving consumer goods industry, pressure is a daily fare and stress in nothing out of the ordinary. Different brands fight over the Filipino consumers’ scarce cash on a daily basis and market leadership can change hands in the blink of an eye if a brand gets too complacent.

Despite its strong 76-year presence in the country, P&G Philippines, one of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies, experiences the same daily stress every day. But looking at president and general manager Siddik Tetik, one will not be able to tell that that is the case.

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With his calm demeanor and almost permanent smile, one would think he is a vacationing expat instead of the man at the helm of one of the country’s most successful companies. His secret: Calmness at all times.

“I’m balanced and calm. Even in tough situations, I keep my calmness and never show panic to my team. It allows me to think (in a healthy manner),” he tells SundayBiz. “My calmness—people appreciate this. Even when I face big issues, I don’t react severely. Sometimes people react without thinking, and that causes damage. If you’re a smart person, you will stop and think about the consequences of your actions before reacting and making decisions.”

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When he finds himself in particularly nasty situations, he relates that he usually writes his thoughts down, instead of directing venomous comments at a particular person. He holds back unbecoming retorts and contents himself with blowing off steam by writing e-mails that he never sends.

THE PRESIDENT and general manager of P&G Philippines teaches young schoolchildren the proper way to wash hands with soap for Global Handwashing Day.

After typing away on his computer and rereading what he has written, he says he has already calmed down enough to face the people that he has to face and to make whatever decision has to be made.

This is one trick that he says he shares with his people, knowing how stressful the environment P&G is operating in.

Work-life balance

Striking a healthy balance between work and personal life is another thing that he strives to achieve, and wants to impart to his people as well. For someone who is leading a consumer goods giant operating in a fiercely competitive environment, Siddik can hardly be described as a workaholic.

He usually wakes up at between 6:30 and 7 a.m. and uses the first few hours of his day to just relax and prepare his mind for the work day.

“I try not to think too much. I have my breakfast, I take my coffee or tea, and have some time for myself. There should be no discussion of major decisions before 10 a.m. People in the office know this, and even my wife knows this. Unless something is absolutely crucial, it has to wait after 10 a.m.,” he relates.

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By 6:30 p.m., he is usually out of the office and either out with friends or at home with his family.

TETIK volunteers with other P&G employees in packing school supplies for the company’s Handog Edukasyon program.

He is also not one for making plans as far as his personal time is concerned. He prefers to be spontaneous and do things when he feels like doing them. The simplicity of life in the Philippines, he says, suits his calm personality well.

“I don’t like programming my personal life. I like to be spontaneous. My wife likes to program our lives, like when we should take vacations, but I prefer surprises,” he says.

From rocks to razor blades

Even his being in the consumer goods industry was totally unplanned. A geology major and a son of a military man who had no idea whatsoever about business, Siddik literally had to learn his way to the top, starting from a job in sales at the time when Western brands were just making their way into Turkey.

He relates that after rendering mandatory military service in Northern Cyprus, he met some entrepreneurs in Turkey who offered him a job. Despite his lack of experience, he took the job and absorbed everything like a sponge.

Learning became a daily exercise for him back then—something that he says is still true for him today. For his work in sales, it also helped that he had a good command of the English language and he had a great personality fit for the job.

SIDDIK Tetik, wife Neslihan, daughter Bengi, and son Birkin

“But I never knew that. It’s really difficult to decide exactly what you would do in your work life while you’re still in university,” he says. “During my early days, I started working based on the trust of people and whatever skills I had that I wasn’t even aware of. I then built my capabilities on observing—I observed business models in Europe and East Asia and learned from our visitors. I did a lot of self-learning.”

There was even a point when he felt like giving up, but decided to push on anyway. The decision to stay could very well be one of the best ones he had ever made. After spending several years holding senior positions at Gillette, he became a key P&G executive when the latter acquired the former.

At P&G, his propensity to learn was put to the test once again, as it was a new culture that he had to familiarize himself and adapt with. As with all other aspects of his life, he did that a step at a time.

Even now, as head of one of P&G’s most important markets in Asia, he says he continues to learn, with his personal and career goals fixed on the short term rather than the long term.

“Life is interesting. If you plan too far ahead, it will be limiting. Have short goals rather than long ones. Build your treasures as you go. Being a CEO is a good dream to have, but you have to have shorter goals so you can better enjoy life and be happy,” he relates.

“Set two or three-year challenges. When you overcome those challenges, that will give you much needed confidence to move to another level and set new goals. Always assess yourself and extend your vision of your life based on that,” he further says.

The passion to grow and win should always be there, he says, as this fuels a person’s success. He also swears by his mantra of never ceasing to learn. This, on top of his calm and rational thinking, after all, is what has propelled him to where he is today.

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