Inspirational Woman: Fiona Hope | CEO, Lintbells

Meet Fiona Hope

CEO, Lintbells

In this piece, we talk to Fiona Hope, CEO of Lintbells – a leading pet supplement brand.

She speaks to us about her career journey, her passion for progressive work policies and shares advice to her younger self.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My current role is CEO for Lintbells, a UK based high growth, private equity backed pet supplements business. Our mission is to keep pets active for life and we employ 160 people in the UK and US who do just that every day. I have a background in sales, marketing and general management and have worked across consumer sectors in businesses such as the Coca-Cola Company, Greene King, Whirlpool and the then Private Equity backed Sodastream which was subsequently sold to PepsiCo.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No never – but I was always interested in consumer behaviour.  So, I got a job as a graduate recruit with Safeway Stores in the insight team and then moved into the marketing team, testing new consumer products for big blue chip brands.  That’s how my career started, and it fuelled my interest in and passion for marketing.  I went on to work at Diageo and it was there I learnt from some of the best marketers in the world. 

It became clear to me that the more commercial you were as a marketer, the more useful to a business.  This means caring as much about the commercial impact as the brand-building activity, which many marketers get swept away with. Continuously broadening my experiences of other business functions i.e operations, sales, supply chain and HR meant I had a strong sense of how each cog operated in the business wheel. For example, as General Manager at Sodastream, I built a much more developed understanding of the whole business. Experiences such as these have helped me to make the leap to CEO.  I relish being in charge and the accountability that comes with the role.

My guiding goals have been consistent though; to have a challenging and varied role, to work on brands I can build value into which have quality products at their heart and colleagues I enjoy working with and who do the right thing.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes of course. Like many people, I suffer from time to time with the old imposter syndrome. I can say though that those really tough experiences definitely make you and they are usually worth seeing through for that reason. I’ve also had roles in the past which haven’t satisfied me and have felt my values have been compromised occasionally over the years. Earlier in my career I’ve faced into casual sexism and misogyny.

When I worked at The Coca-Cola Company, I had both my children and they had a very progressive maternity policy, and I was inspired by that culture.  I’m always pleased to see how policies are evolving to give everyone more flex and at Lintbells we are passionate about equality and I hope we lead by example.  We offer a range of balance opportunities including compressed hours, Friday afternoons off over the Summer and the flexibility to ensure employees can enjoy family experiences without feeling guilty.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Probably both of my private equity experiences – here at Lintbells, where the business has quadrupled in size since I joined and previously at SodaStream. Both were and are ambitious purpose driven businesses. Whether reducing plastic bottle waste at SodaStream or at Lintbells helping millions of pets live an active life for their whole life. Scale-ups suit me, for the excitement, the opportunity to build teams often from scratch and for the combination of strategic and tactical application.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Drive and work ethic from my parents and three sisters. My mum had her own textile retail business, which she expanded herself into ten shops. My dad left his job to join my mum’s business, which he had always been a supportive partner in.  My sisters have all made strong choices in their careers and I think we have all benefited from being part of a family with strong parental role models who demonstrated the value of hard work and self-belief. 

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Businesses need to be more insistent on ensuring positive action measures on their candidate shortlists, especially at higher levels. There should be female representation on shortlists, and this should also motivate current female employees in their own career progression. We WANT the best person for the job – and that’s why the talent pool search needs to be widened.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

More conviction, less compromise. Decide first whose opinions really matter to you rather than trying to please everyone.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m an ambitious leader so I’d like to quadruple the size of the business again over next three years because by doing this we are making a life-changing difference to pet health around the world. It would make us one of the biggest pet healthcare companies in the world.

I also want to foster an environment that creates leadership opportunities and training accross a diverse cohort in order that they have strong chances to become business leaders of the future. I aim to lessen self-limiting beliefs so that everyone feels truly enabled to progress to the level they want.

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