Avon CEO likes to see with fresh eyes

A: If anybody had a crystal ball before, it's pretty much smashed now. No one can predict what will happen, whether it's U-shaped (recovery), V-shaped, or it's going to be two years, four years or 10 years of slow growth. It's going to be difficult for some time to come. Conserve cash; reinvest in ways that grow market share.

Q: Government has intervened heavily in this recession. What has it gotten right? What concerns you?

A: Without being a political pundit, each one of us who has come into a leadership role knows that the first 100 days will be looked at. President Obama's 100-day plan is pretty impressive. I think it's a Wow 100-plus days. The administration is not operating from fear, it is trying to drive change for the future, and that's a good thing.

Q: None of this change concerns you much — the intervention in the private sector, the ballooning deficit, tackling something huge like health care in a recession?

A: I certainly don't envy the challenge of those decisions. But there are clear, pressing issues that have been around a long time that have to be addressed. Finding the middle of the fairway is important, but clearly, we have to move forward. Health care is bold and complex. There's never a good time to make that kind of bold change, but I have a lot of confidence that they will figure it out.

Q: Is it smart in times of high unemployment to replace weaker employees with talented employees who are available?

A: I'm a huge believer that it's always about talent. I just got out of a meeting that was a lengthy talent development session. That's what I do with more than 25% of my time. But it's not simply capitalizing on the recession. Talent is the No. 1 priority for a CEO. You think it's about vision and strategy, but you have to get the right people first. It's less about who's on the market now. These times are here to stay for a while. You better have the best talent, whether it's promoting them within your house or trying to attract the best people, because these times require even better capabilities than were required awhile ago.

Key tips from Andrea Jung

•In difficult times, communication is key to maintaining employee morale.

•Leaders must reinvent themselves regularly. Fire yourself on Friday and come in on Monday as if it were Day 1.

•Conserve cash when it does not hurt market share.

•Resist making acquisitions due to fire sale prices. Make certain of strategic rationale.

•Prepare for a fundamental shift in consumer spending, and an economy that may not grow for years.

About Jung

•Born in Toronto. Skipped the first grade and began college at 16. Magna cum laude Princeton (literature '79).

•CEO of Avon Products November 1999.

•Abandoned dream of being a journalist when turned down for an internship at The Boston Globe.

•Plays piano, loves opera, but says she can't sing a note.

•Fluent in Mandarin. Father a Hong Kong-born architect, mother a Shanghai-born pianist and chemical engineer.

•Ex-husband Michael Gould is the CEO of Bloomingdale's. Brother Mark Jung, with a Stanford MBA, is former CEO of home-entertainment company Vudu.

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