Heineken chief aims to put the fizz back into beer sales
Mayo-born Maggie Timoney has taken over the brewing giant’s Irish operation at a difficult time for the drinks industry
Maggie Timoney: “Heineken is a family company and we have family values. Those values are very important to every single employee at Heineken. We think it’s uncool to be drunk – at any age.” Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Imagine a job interview during which you are asked to hold hands with your potential boss. Later that boss/interviewer faints and you are called on to revive them. This may sound like a nightmare, but it was actually a recruitment policy adopted by Heineken when looking for an intern for its events and sponsorship team.
Having received 1,734 applications for an internship vacancy, the drinks company took extreme measures to create an application process that no amount of interview preparation could possibly anticipate, putting the interviewees in Amsterdam through a series of extraordinary circumstances.
Thankfully Heineken Ireland doesn’t employ such drastic tactics when determining how interview candidates will react under real pressure. However, Maggie Timoney – the newly-appointed managing director of the company’s Irish operations – still asks some tough questions.
“Anytime I’m interviewing someone, I ask them what three songs they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert island, and why they’d bring those songs. Music tells a lot about a person.”
“In the beginning I might have cared if they picked a song I hated. It’s human tendency to want people like you. Now I see diversity of thought as a positive addition, important if not critical to success. If you hire everyone that thinks like you, you’re not going to move the needle in any way. You don’t want to hire mirror images of yourself always.”
Timoney, who was appointed managing director of Heineken Ireland earlier this month, strives to hire good people. “You can have the greatest strategy in the world but if you don’t have the right people to execute it, you’re going to fail.”
As the former chief people officer/head of human resources for Heineken USA, having good people and teams is something she believes is key to the company’s success. That’s more important now than ever, with falling beer sales in Eastern Europe, Brazil and large African markets.
Heineken, which is the world’s third largest brewer by volume, lowered its guidance for full-year profit earlier this week, after beer sales slipped – it now expects net profit growth before one-offs to fall by a low single-digit percentage this year on a like-for-like basis.
Mayo-born Timoney believes the increase in excise duty on beer, announced by the Government this month as part of Budget 2014, will put further pressure on sales.
“Last week, the Government hit us with an 18 per cent increase in excise. We now have the third highest excise in Europe after Finland and the UK. The average drink price in Ireland is now 62 per cent higher than the average Europe price.
“We need to look for a reversal of the 18 per cent excise increase. It’s tough for the pub owners. A thousand pubs closed in Ireland in the last five years. Per capita consumption has decreased by a third since 2000.”
She believes pub closures and declining consumption will not be helped by the minimum pricing structure for alcohol, which the Government is currently considering.