Denise Novey didn’t panic when she finally saw the exact numbers. Although she was new to Tupperware Brands, the company’s challenges were known, and Novey understood throughout the hiring process the work she had to do to build a new corporate tax strategy. The company was in a leadership limbo. And there was a big need for the brand to make a change in how it does business to attract today’s consumers.
A number of factors sent Tupperware stock plummeting 40 percent, but Novey remained unfazed. After nearly thirty years in tax and accounting, she had seen it all before. As Tupperware’s new vice president of tax and government affairs, she was ready to help the iconic company rebound.
Six weeks after Novey started, Tupperware launched into a full-blown reboot. The board of the direct sales company named an interim CEO, board member Chris O’Leary, while the company performed a search for a permanent new CEO.
In April 2020, the board hired former Herbalife CEO Richard Goudis as executive vice chairman and hired past Avon President Miguel Fernandez to lead a turnaround as CEO and president. With the beginnings of a new executive management team in place, Novey was asked to create a tax strategy to help the global company rightsize and chart a new path.
As the team huddled to develop new strategies, an emerging pandemic added to its problems. Tupperware relies on a network of two hundred thousand active sales members in North America and another three hundred thousand active worldwide to host the famous in-person Tupperware parties.
Novey and her colleagues immediately recognized the need to adapt and pivot. “We knew Tupperware was bigger than the results we were seeing, so we set out to strengthen our foundation and to do something new,” she explains.
Together, they decided to lead the way to expand consumer access to the Tupperware brand. First, the focus was on Tupperware’s passionate salesforce around the world and providing the innovative products and new digital tools its sellers need to build their personal businesses and succeed in the COVID era and beyond. Second, the team began plans to extend the brand’s reach through new channels and new categories. Novey and her team worked with supply chain partners to ensure that the strategies the company was developing would cut down lead times and get products into customers’ hand faster while being financially efficient and driving value through the bottom line.
Her counterparts in IT and marketing helped promote virtual Tupperware parties. With more people cooking and eating at home, the company saw sales of its food storage containers and other products trend upward.
As engineers, designers, researchers, and marketers came together to modernize the brand, they decided to emphasize one important corporate value that appeals to today’s consumer—sustainability. “We’re already helping customers transport food and reduce waste, but we wanted to take that even further by really leading in this space and doing more to limit the use of single-use waste and provide alternative, durable, long-lasting options,” Novey says.
In 2019, the company had started using polymers from recycled material to launch a product line called ECO+. In 2021, Tupperware became the first reusable plastic storage brand to partner with Loop, the zero-waste shopping platform.
As Tupperware evolves, Novey is resetting her tax strategy to align with the business. “A hands-on tax executive has to bring value through the bottom line for the company and its shareholders,” she says. “We have to retain funds we can reinvest in the business and still be good corporate citizens by doing our part and paying taxes.”
It’s a balancing act, and one that Novey has mastered. She started as a tax analyst at Deloitte before moving to L3Harris. She spent more than twenty years helping the aerospace and defense company formerly known as the Harris Corporation grow into a global behemoth with fifty thousand employees and $18 billion in annual revenue. That’s where Novey learned how to build partnerships and thrive in uncertainty as she worked her way through numerous mergers and developed a mindset based on personal growth and constant improvement.
Partnerships are critical to success at Tupperware, and Novey had to rebuild her tax team from the ground up. Before Novey’s time at Tupperware, the tax department saw a period of time with no leader of the department. That, combined with the company’s challenges, led to talent turnover in the department prior to her arrival and created a decentralized team. Novey recruited regional leads, made hires in other key positions, and upskilled existing teams to give individuals the skills, support, and tools they need to be successful.
With the foundation of a world-class tax function back in place, she worked with finance, supply chain, and commercial business partners to roll out a new tax strategy and execute her part of Tupperware’s turnaround plan. Measures also included upgrading controls and implementing new, modern tools.
“We can leverage technology to manage the daily work that happens in any organization of this size so we can be free to focus on value creation and strategy,” she says.
Part of that strategy lies in ensuring Tupperware is located and incorporated in the right parts of the world. After lengthy evaluations and months of talks with local governments, Novey advised the board to move its European headquarters to Lucerne, Switzerland. The move preserves Tupperware’s tax strategy, puts it close to the Zürich airport, and unlocks global talent pools.
It’s been two years since Novey arrived, and the numbers are looking much different. She’s reduced the company’s effective tax rate from 88 percent to 47 percent—and they aren’t stopping there, with plans for this year and next to be even more tax efficient as other pieces of the strategy plans are completed. At the height of the pandemic, the company sold $146 million in North America alone and celebrated its best quarter in nearly twenty years. That momentum continued into the second quarter of 2021, when net sales increased 17 percent to $464.7 million and the tax rate was reported at a year to date of 35 percent.
By any measure, the Tupperware turnaround thus far has been a resounding success. The company continues to bring strategies to life to put the Tupperware brand in the hands of more consumers around the world to help them save time, money, and waste.
True Partners Consulting LLC:
“I want to work with someone who is smart, fair and trusting—that’s Denise—and I really appreciate those qualities in her. Denise manages a complex department, large internal team and many outside consultants; all with grace. She is very deserving of this recognition—congratulations Denise!”
—Ron Tambasco, Managing Director