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2022 Star Women in Convenience winner: Elisa di Bello

Shining Star
Elisa di Bello SWIC2022

Director, trade marketing & operations

Imperial Tobacco Canada


How did you get into this industry?

In May 2006, I was a store manager for a cell phone company and one of my employees’ boyfriends had recently gotten a position at Imperial Tobacco Canada (now BAT Canada). They were launching their direct to store delivery service and had doubled their sales force within a three-month period. Every day, he told us stories of how incredible the company, the role and culture was. I applied and all three of us became sales reps for the company. Sixteen years later I’m still grateful for the push I got from them to take the leap and apply.

Favourite thing about your job?

Working in trade and operations comes with the pressure of making things happen quickly and being very agile. I don’t always know what’s coming my way, but I do know that I have the best team and I’m always learning something new.

Biggest challenge?

The transition from project manager to people manager. Working in trade for my whole career made me very goal- and task-oriented so my reflex was to just do it myself versus delivering through others. Now, I have a team of 30+ permanent employees and 60 contractual employees so I had to change how I worked. Once I learned how to deliver through others, I could spend my time crafting strategy, driving real change through simplification and spending more time supporting and developing my team.

Best advice received? 

“Feedback is a gift; what you do with it is up to you.” I’ve been blessed at BAT to be surrounded by managers and mentors who have always inspired me to reach higher, ask questions and get out of my comfort zone. I would not be where I am today had it not been for them giving me straight, honest – and sometimes hard to hear – feedback. If you’re lucky enough to find a manager who can be your coach and cheerleader, keep that person around as you progress in your career.

Career highlight?

Leading the project for TM&D to deliver Plain Packaging in Canada in 2019. It was a legislation change that brought massive disruptions across the board for consumers, retailers and our supply chain. However, my team and I supported our stock movements at retail with our supply chain team and minimize consumer out of stocks with our forecasting team. Our retailer transition tools were ranked #1 by retailers. We even got a shout-out from a retailer being interviewed by CTV news on how our tools were instrumental in helping him though the transition.

What are you most proud of during the last year? 

The leaps and bounds we’ve made as an organization to go digital first with all our B2B interactions. We established the first TM&D Digital Cell within BAT globally and have set the global benchmark with our new Extra Hub platform set to launch in July. Our platform will automate the retailer journey and improve their service levels. Digital is not just about technology; it’s a mindset. We have also begun the journey to embed this change across the board with both our field force and retailers.

What excites you most about the future of this channel? 

Convenience is just getting started on the road to automation and leveraging digital with some in-store media screens, but they have yet to scratch the surface with what can be done to further interact with the consumer and to automate their own internal processes. Shoppers are looking for a more connected experience, so I’m excited to see how that will elevate the in-store journey. 

Leadership style?

Keep things fun and engaging. Make sure my employees feel understood, seen and valued. I encourage open and honest communication amongst all team members in all forums to inspire trust and build strong relationships.

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Click here for the full list of 2022 Star Women in Convenience winners.

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