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Leader possesses a clear vision

Lisa Fawcett is an executive at CooperVision, which employs 1,200 in local operations. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

Most 14-year-olds do not listen to a professional selling skills tape after school or discuss Eastman Kodak Co.’s marketing strategies over dinner, but that routine was a typical one for Lisa Fawcett.

That early training has helped her career take off. She is vice president of global strategy and life cycle management for one of the area’s largest employers, CooperVision Inc., a unit of the Cooper Cos. Inc.

Locally there are 1,200 employees at CooperVision out of the firm’s 8,000 staffers worldwide. It has locations in Perinton, West Henrietta and Scottsville. For fiscal 2014 ended Oct. 31, the company logged revenues of $1.4 billion, up 10 percent.

Fawcett, 45, is from a long line of Rochesterians. She was born here but left for Rochester, Mich., for nearly six years, returning to Monroe County during high school. “There’s something about Rochester I can’t shake,” she says.

Her father worked for Kodak’s marketing department.

“My dad had a huge influence on me,” Fawcett says. “I remember vividly as a kid I needed help with math and my dad had started in sales, and so long before we got to math we had a whole conversation about how do you ask somebody to help you and what would be in it for them. So then the conversation started to become, ‘Well Dad, do you do math in your job for work?’

“It wasn’t totally unusual for him to come home and he would have campaigns laid out on the kitchen table,” she adds.

She graduated from Fairport High School and went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration with marketing and information technology concentrations from SUNY Buffalo in 1991.

Upon graduating Fawcett went into sales, working for Wallace Laboratories LLC as a medical and specialty sales representative before transitioning to Fisons Pharmaceuticals PLC in 1994, where she became a sales training manager.

“When I was looking for my first job, my dad said, ‘A really good marketing person has walked in the shoes of a salesperson,’” Fawcett says.

Bausch & Lomb work

Two years later she joined Bausch & Lomb Inc., where she held a variety of roles including vice president of North American vision care for contact lens marketing.

“I started there in customer marketing, so my job was to say what did the marketing team work on and then how do I make that appropriate for customers and tailor that. Then I moved into classic marketing where I had certain product lines that were on my docket,” Fawcett says. “I felt like it was a bit of a price of entry—if you’re going to really be good at this you’re going to make sure you understand what the full complement of the team is going through.”

Fourteen years ago, Lou Applebaum met Fawcett while working together at Bausch & Lomb. The colleagues have remained friends.

“She had an amazing aptitude for a couple of things. One is organization,” says Applebaum, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Constellation Brands Inc. “She’s very clear and had very creative approaches to try to organize not only herself but also to get her folks organized.”

Fawcett’s empathy for employees was a main differentiator from other leaders, Applebaum says.

“She had this amazing amount of empathy for people,” he says. “She knew exactly when things started to feel overwhelming for me. It was amazing—the view she had—the positive view about life and about work and about things that she could feel—areas that start to become stressful—and try to really jump on those and diffuse them as quickly as possible.

“She’s not a cutthroat winner. She really wants to win, but she doesn’t want to win for herself. She wants to win for the people around her,” he adds.

While there Fawcett led a $215 million contact lens business and drove a profit growth of 26 percent.

“The marketing field specifically is the idea of really tying together all of the elements that make a business run,” Fawcett says. “So now it’s about where is that product going. Is it hitting the right target in terms of the consumer that we want, and is it priced appropriately, and seeing all those things come together. And sometimes you’ve got to find the answers in places or people or customers that you wouldn’t typically go and find.”

Jeffrey Nardoci supervised Fawcett at Bausch & Lomb before she became a vice president in 2005. He now serves as senior vice president and chief strategy and marketing officer at Phoenix-based Banner Health.

He could see her potential back at Bausch & Lomb, Nardoci says.

“She was one of those professionals that you get to deal with (who was) very good at developing her own team’s personal talent, good at judging talent and bringing the right talent in and then developing it to go on,” he says. “She was always looking at ways to constantly improve the company.”

Making a move
After over a decade at Bausch & Lomb, Fawcett joined its competitor CooperVision as a senior director of global marketing in torics and multifocals.

She was promoted through the ranks and has been at her current position since 2009.

“CooperVision has been growing and growing so fast—it’s been exciting. You can feel the energy …  of how it’s moving,” Fawcett says. “It’s really growth based on new products and based on the adoption of those products in the marketplace, and so it was a very exciting time to come in not only from a product and growth perspective but really trying to set the stage from a global strategic initiative.”

In her first 18 months on the job, she led a companywide CooperVision master brand initiative that aligned the company under one identity. She had to find the tools to tell the story of the company, she says. CooperVision makes up close to 85 percent of the parent company Cooper Cos.

Uniting a billion-dollar company that employs 8,000 people worldwide is not an easy task.

The brand initiative created six new watermarks serving as logos and conducted research across 15 countries from doctors, consumers, analysts and employees to better understand the firm’s market position.

“We said this is not about a new tagline or a new look. We really wanted to make sure what was truly our differentiated value to the marketplace. Our customers, what did they say? Consumers, what did they say?” Fawcett says. “At the end it was a watershed event. It was one of those things that really people just took and ran with because I think that they felt like, ‘Yeah, this is who we are.’

“That was really fun and very gratifying because you kind of say, ‘Hey, there’s 8,000 of us around the world that are now … all pointing in the same direction,’” she adds.

In marketing, the focus is on finding unmet needs. Fawcett led CooperVision’s marketing team to listen to the market in unusual ways.

“We talked with people, from hard-core college students that would stay up all night and study all night and we watched one kid put his lenses in the refrigerator,” Fawcett says. “We’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ (And) he says, ‘Well, this helps me wake up in the morning.’

“(The focus is) how do we take the things that people are doing in their environments and then start to map out and pressure test in the marketplace,” she adds.

Last year, CooperVision closed on an estimated $1.2 billion acquisition of Sauflon Pharmaceuticals Ltd.—the manufacturer and distributor of soft contact lenses and solutions based in the United Kingdom. With the acquisition CooperVision grew from 7,000 to 8,000 employees. The deal expanded CooperVision’s range of daily disposable contact lens options to eye-care practitioners and wearers worldwide, officials say.

“I am a big test and learn person,” Fawcett says. “I’m also not a ‘camp at the farm’ (person), so sometimes you’re going to lay down a bet and we laid down a bet on Sauflon, and it was fact-based. We did a lot of work—we knew these product portfolios not just today but what they would be over the future.”

In a job that requires constant decision making, Fawcett has found taking action to be the most successful way to go about it.

Johnson & Johnson is the market share leader on a global basis with share in the low-40s percent. Alcon Inc. is next with mid-20s percent. CooperVision has 20 percent market share, and Bausch & Lomb’s contact lens share is roughly 10 percent, Fawcett says.

“Back … probably in early ’90s, CooperVision was a smaller $20 million U.S. business. It was a really small U.S.-focused business in the late ’80s, early ’90s, and over the span of 20 years has grown fairly significantly,” she says.

“The acquisition of Sauflon and those one-day lenses in particular, given those are where the market trends are, we definitely see ourselves as being able to eclipse or become No. 2 if not put some pressure on the No. 1 player.”

CooperVision has caught up to its competitors and is ready for the next decade.

“CooperVision had always been in a position where it was following in the market—it was always playing catch-up,” Fawcett says. “I led the whole rebranding initiative that went on and we did research across the globe 15 different countries … the feedback was CooperVision is not always first but always worth waiting for.

“Our nose was always to the grindstone about catching up to that next and maybe bettering it a little bit,” she adds. “Then we looked up a few years ago and said we’ve caught up and now we have to plan.”

The trends today in vision often center around the focus of comfort, ease or convenience of use, and quality of sight.

“A classic soft lens of the early days were hydrogel lenses, and now you’ll hear silicon hydrogel lenses. And the advent of that was really bringing more oxygen into the eye and the outputs of that were people were having better comfortable wearing experiences,” Fawcett says. “The other advent that’s been really happening is the advent of disposables. If you talk about people what they’re looking for really the idea of can I get the vision that I used to have? How close can I get to that in terms of what I’m wearing?”

The United States lags other countries in the one-day or single-use disposable market, Fawcett says. It is only starting to gain traction in that segment of products. The largest part of the market is two-week and monthly disposables.

“The Japan market is already a little bit more than half of our daily disposable wearers and the European market is 30 to 40 percent,” she says. “The U.S. market is now starting to move in that direction.”

Monroe County has a deep history in optics and in contact lenses.

“There’s really only four major competitors in this marketplace, and two of them are in Rochester,” she says.

That fact comforts Fawcett.

“I’m very proud to be at CooperVision,” Fawcett says. “I think Rochester has a ton to offer. I know that it’s a smaller city, but what’s nice about that is the capability of raising a family, getting across town in 20 minutes (and still having) access to a lot of things … in theater and the arts. It’s a nice balance.

“I think it’s the responsibility of the company; those (optics) roots are here. And because those roots are here … it’s our responsibility to carry it forward. It’s a great town for that and our job to keep making sure it’s a great town for that,” she adds.

Jane Hasselkus works with Fawcett as senior director of global strategy and life cycle management.

“She’s an exceptional leader,” Hasselkus says. “I completely enjoy working for her. She’s very smart, very practical, very committed to getting things done. She creates an environment where you’re very empowered and enthusiastic and feel like you’re part of something.

“She’s really good about articulating that vision and getting you excited about it so that you jump on board and are right there with her. I would follow her anywhere; she’s just a real pleasure to work for.”

Contact lenses make sense to people, Fawcett says. It is helpful being a consumer of the product herself.

“I’ve been a contact lens wearer since I was about 12,” she says. “So I’ve been a consumer for a long time and you know what it’s like when they don’t work for you. (Contacts) really become part of who you are.

“What we are trying to do is make sure that we get a deeper penetration of people into contact lenses,” she adds.

Family history
When she has free time, Fawcett dedicates it to her family. She enjoys spending time with her two teenage daughters and her husband. The family lives in Pittsford.

She also likes to bring her family’s history to life. Fawcett is working on writing her family’s genealogy.

“It’s important to me to get it down on paper. I think all these individuals gave up so much, not for them but for the next generation, and if I’m that next generation that it’s important to me to make sure I document all the things that they did,” Fawcett says.

“All my family is from here. They all came over, from the boat they all made their way to Rochester; I can do a lot of my genealogy work at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery,” she adds.

She gives back to the community through organizations such as the American Heart Association. She has been involved with the Rochester Heart Walk for the last three years. 

Fawcett has been on the executive leadership team for the Heart Walk since she started with the organization. She is chairman of the Executive Challenge, a team that has raised more than $650,000 each year to prevent heart disease in Rochester. 

Her father suffered a heart attack several years ago, making the commitment a personal one for Fawcett.

“He was fit and active but had high cholesterol, and thanks to some quick-acting doctors and nurses he survived and is healthy and going strong,” Fawcett says. “We are lucky that he is still with us and making us smile. I want to make sure we get the message out to our community about the risk factors of heart disease. It is mostly preventable and we want our loved ones around making us smile for years to come.”

Throughout her career through challenges or failures, Fawcett remembers advice from her parents. The path has not always been smooth.

“My dad has always been extremely optimistic; he always looks for the good in everything,” Fawcett says. “(And he said) there are going to be challenges but as you go through those challenging times make sure that you also recognize the good times and take that optimistic aspect.”

Fawcett has found that the unexpected yields the best insight.

“My mom had always said when I was early in my career, ‘You think getting from point A to point B is a straight line and it’s not,’” she says. “‘Those curved lines you will learn things along the way and that will make you better and stronger to the next point.’”

A tight-knit familial unit has been the cornerstone of Fawcett’s success.

“What has been truly key in my career is I’ve had a very supportive family,” Fawcett says. “With that you get to do things in life when you know you’ve got a family that’s there to support you along the way.”

Lisa Fawcett

Position: Vice president of global strategy and life cycle management, CooperVision Inc.
Age: 45
Education: B.S. in business administration with concentrations in marketing and information technology, SUNY Buffalo, 1991
Family: Husband, Ned; daughters, Kara, 17 and Kristen, 14
Residence: Pittsford
Interests: Family, travel, boating and genealogy
Quote: “CooperVision had always been in a position where it was following in the market—it was always playing catch-up. The feedback was CooperVision is not always first but always worth waiting for. Our nose was always to the grindstone about catching up to that … then we looked up a few years ago and said we’ve caught up and now we have to plan.”

3/27/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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