Revlon CEO, Debbie Perelman On Seizing Opportunities

Debbie Perelman is President and Chief Executive Officer of Revlon and a member of its Board of Directors. Debbie is breaking paradigms to compete in today's digital and consumer-first environment. She is recognized as a thoughtful, team-oriented, and decisive leader and for her global perspective and holistic approach to brands, consumers, and technology. When Debbie was appointed to her current role in 2018, she became the first female CEO of a large, global beauty company and the first female CEO in Revlon's history. She began her career at Revlon, completing its management training program and later serving in roles across all facets of the business. She has worked closely with Revlon for 20 years. Prior to rejoining Revlon as COO in 2017, Ms. Perelman served as a senior executive at MacAndrews & Forbes Inc, a company that acquires and manages a diversified portfolio of public and private companies. In the following conversation, she shares how she seized opportunities to increase her knowledge base and further her career.

You've had an incredible career culminating in your historic appointment as Revlon's CEO. Can you share more about your approach to designing or navigating your career?

I always dreamed of being in the seat I'm in today. I went into my first position, my first job right out of college, intending to learn how products were created. I am a product junkie. I love beauty. I wake up every day thinking about beauty products. Ever since high school, I've loved the way it makes me feel, the way it makes consumers feel.

Going into my first position, I focused on turning concepts into products and getting them into consumers' hands. It's been the same throughout my entire career. It's evolved but stayed the same. Now that I know how to get products out the door I'm learning about the new dynamics of the consumer. Much of my career focused on engaging the consumer. Where is the consumer is today? And how can we see around the corner to where they're going to be?

Who you surround yourself with plays a major role in your career trajectory. Surrounding yourself with mentors that can help guide you and answer tough questions is extremely important. Following your heart and following your passion is equally as important in terms of understanding how to design your career. If we can incorporate that in any way, we're really lucky.

Who you surround yourself with plays a major role in your career trajectory. Surrounding yourself with mentors that can help guide you and answer tough questions is extremely important.

You are the first female CEO of Revlon in an industry where women are the primary consumers. What is the disconnect that's affecting the ability of women to ascend to leadership roles?

I stand on the shoulders of so many people before me. Today particularly in beauty, and probably some in fashion as well, there are many smaller brands and indie brands led by women who broke the rulebook. They broke the rulebook in terms of how they developed products or went after the consumer. If you think about what I am doing at Revlon, I wouldn't be able to do that if they hadn't done what they did. So in many ways, I'm trying to catch up to what they modeled a couple of years ago. The way I view it is, yes, I am the first at Revlon a global multi-billion-dollar company, but it's because of everything that came before me. I'm energized every day by the opportunity that's in front of me, and I'm also very humbled because of what has come before me and what will come after me.

With regards to the question of disconnect, I don't know. But I'm looking forward to the point where gender is not highlighted. At Revlon, I try to showcase that women are in leadership positions. My leadership team is 50% female, and our board is 50% female. The goal is to keep bringing women through the ranks at Revlon and give them opportunities to move up and across the ladder.

How did you go about building trust amongst your new team, and driving a new strategy?

Trust doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey that takes time and effort. For me it was, first and foremost, getting to know people. It was listening to people, listening to their experiences, understanding where they wanted to go in their career, being very open and forthright with asking those types of questions, and understanding who they are on a personal level.

That was step one, which is ongoing. As part of coming into the role, step two was working with the team to redefine our strategy. Together, we came up with values that resonated with us: empowerment, agility, and accountability.

A big challenge every company is navigating is "the great resignation". What are you seeing at Revlon when it comes to retention? How are you navigating that and keeping your team satisfied and motivated?

I don't think anybody's immune to that, big companies, small companies, it's happening everywhere. At Revlon, our brands exist because of people. We wouldn't have a business if we didn't have people in product development, R&D, marketing and sales, manufacturing and distribution. People are our greatest asset.