Managing Director, Accenture Strategy
Consumer Goods and Services
Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a far-reaching new approach focused on taking cost out of low value areas and reinvesting that money in the areas that create a competitive advantage.
In this video, Robert explains how two consumer goods companies are strategically managing their costs to drive growth. Retailers must take note as they, too, begin this journey.
Learn more about Robert Willems
You have an interesting background—born in Holland but living and working in Brazil for the past 18 years. Do you really speak four languages?
Five, actually: English, German, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. I was working in São Paulo, but I formally transferred to Accenture’s Miami office at the beginning of this year. Being in Miami keeps the Latin flavor I enjoy.
How has your diverse background given you an advantage working with global clients?I do think having worked in different cultures helps you understand the challenges of a multicultural environment—the way you manage teams, communicate, understanding the way people interpret a message. I encourage people on my team—and my kids—to get as much exposure as they can to other cultures.
Considering your world travel and your work in food and beverage, have you had any interesting culinary experiences?I try to eat local food wherever I go. The most interesting experience I had was in Mexico. One colleague offered to take me to a typical Mexican restaurant. We had some appetizers. One was tacos or fajitas—but they were filled with grasshoppers. It was served with the traditional spicy sauce and guacamole. It was good, but you don’t want to look at it when eating it.
What do you like about working in the food and beverage industry?I like it for two reasons. First, the products are very tangible. I see them and drink or eat them every day. Beer, soda, food—they are not just some abstract service or product you don’t see. You have it in your house. Second, the industry is very dynamic. It is fast changing and innovative. Decisions are made quickly, then you move on to the next challenge. I feel at home in that environment.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
In consumer goods, we are seeing industry consolidation, and there is bound to be more. Companies need to look at costs to be more competitive. They need strong products and strong brands. Warren Buffet’s takeover of Heinz made CEOs and CFOs of US food companies realize they must look at costs and get their house in order if they don’t want to be acquired. So now, a lot of companies have cost reduction at the top of the list of strategic priorities.