Louise Baxter, CEO Starlight Foundation believes that one needs to be passionate, be challenged and inspired by what you do. “If you’re not leaping out of bed fueled with energy each morning regarding your work, there’s an issue” she says. For Louise, it meant leaving a thriving career in FMCG and advertising and using her skills to give back to society – to make a difference. As she puts it, “I simply wasn’t excited anymore to sell shampoo and chips after 20 years in marketing and advertising”. Leaders in Heels speak to Louise about her career and what it’s like to be the CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Everyone needs to continually feel passionate, challenged and inspired about what they do – it just wasn’t happening to me anymore in corporate
Q. Tell us about a life transforming event that led to where you are now.
It was more of a process than an actual event that made realise that I no longer had the passion for marketing FMCG goods in which I’d spent 20 years. I felt I must be able to do something more worthwhile with my skills and give back to the community than what I was doing. Everyone needs to continually feel passionate, challenged and inspired about what they do – it just wasn’t happening to me anymore in corporate. Although I did consider working for an organisation which focused on triple bottom line – on the way I took on a short term contract working for Starlight and it changed me and my life forever! I did go back to the corporate world briefly but then I got the position of CEO at Starlight, I haven’t looked back since.
Q. How do you define success?
I believe success is something we all define for ourselves. For me it’s achieving or overachieving goals I’ve set for myself. It’s about complete alignment and positive experiences with everyone you meet. Success to me also means transparency, a highly ethical environment and purity.
Q. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
I need to maintain a balance and provide the energy to continually inspire the team. I feel energised when I’m doing different things but it’s different for everyone and I think you need to recognise it – if driving yourself hard is your thing than by all means work that way but know when you need time out. It all comes down to personal preference and limits.
Q. What made you branch out on your own after leaving Leo Burnett?
I left Leo Burnett after I had my second child and went into partnership with two other people who I enjoyed working with. It gave me added flexibility because that’s what I needed at the time with two children under four.
Q. An important lesson you learnt while running the partnership?
Cash is king; you always have to manage your cash flow. Running your own business also means you have to understand the sales model, the pipeline and develop skills in cold calling and pitching. Always under promise and over deliver – I used to always think what else can I do to enhance the client’s experience?
Q. Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
I find a whole range of people inspiring in different ways. For example, Richard Branson who I met recently really inspired me with his amazing positive energy. He was generous with his time and really listened to people who were pitching him ideas at the time. Richard’s managed to balance his brand and not lose his entrepreneurial spirit. A phrase that popped into my mind when he first spoke to me, “he’s really focused and in moment”.
Q. How do you keep your Starlight volunteers motivated?
The first page of our strategy document states we always operate in the spirit of dependency and not self-sufficiency. Our volunteers are an integral part of our Starlight team and we work extremely hard to ensure they are clear and aligned to our strategic direction. We do this by giving them regular updates and being transparent. Starlight Children’s Foundation was awarded AON Hewitt’s best employer in 2012. It’s the first time a charity has been awarded this accreditation. Our engagement level was measured at 83% which was well above the industry average 49% for non-profit and 79% for best of corporate. I believe this is due to the clarity of our communications; volunteers are our DNA, we simply couldn’t exist without them. In fact 65% of our workforce is Gen Y and 70% comprises of women.
Get to know Louise…
3 things you enjoy doing outside of work?
I’m a sports enthusiast – I love watching and playing sports – particularly netball which I play competitively in a team of women with ages ranging from 20 years upwards. I love dining and entertaining – especially sharing meals with family and friends. Taking holidays with my family is another thing I like doing outside of work – sun, surf or ski usually!
About the Starlight Children’s Foundation
Established in Australia in 1988, the Starlight Children’s Foundation transforms the experience of hospitalisation and treatment for seriously ill children and their families, around Australia. Now in its 25th year, Starlight’s innovative programs are integral to the total care of seriously ill children. While health professionals focus on treating the illness, Starlight is there to help care for the child, and support the longer term wellbeing and resilience of the child and their family. Starlight’s programs support more than 130,000 sick and hospitalised Australian kids every year.
To support Starlight visit www.starlight.org.au