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Profile: Edwin Bessant

Edwin Bessant is ceo of Ceuta Healthcare, an outsourcing health and beauty company. It is based in Bournemouth and has ten divisions with 150 employees.

In brief, what does Ceuta Healthcare do?

We are Europe’s leading health & beauty outsourcing business. We represent and manage global healthcare businesses, offering sales, marketing, logistics, invoicing and customer service. Our clients include Unilever, Bayer, Procter P&G, Heinz, Reckitts, Aventis and Pfizer. We have brand fostering agreements, where we have total management responsibilities for brands such as Ponds, Signal, Mentadent, Brut, Zantac and Enos. We also own two brands; Shield soap and Halos & Horns. Ceuta has won many high profile awards for its work, by consistently exceeding industry expectations.

How does Ceuta stay ahead of the game in a hugely competitive field?

We try to retain a good time-framed vision and employ excellent staff, implement best practices and good training programmes. We strive to excel for our clients. It is important to be transparent and realistic. We also encourage good leadership skills throughout the organisation.

Give us a rough guide to your career so far. What was the plan? When did you decide to work for yourself?

I started on a graduate placement scheme with Cadburys, 30 years ago. I then worked at Wilkinson Sword and Wyeth Labs, where I was a junior director and was sent on a European fastrack programme, working across all areas of the business. This gave me a good umbrella view of global corporate practice. At this time, the business was consolidating and pharmaceutical companies were merging and focusing on their own products. I identified an opportunity in the marketplace for an outsourcing business to help them cut overheads and improve profitability in the areas of sales and support. Ceuta was born.

You must travel a lot in your job; do you see any marked differences in the way different nationalities conduct business?

Definitely. You have to treat every market as a local market. This is often lost on companies. Each market has its own culture and customs and in our field of healthcare, regulatory issues are important. Each EU market is regulated separately and this can provide opportunities at a local level. France and Germany, in particular, will be interesting over the next two years.

Do you have any specific recruitment policies, what type of employees you look for?

It is balanced between employing proven industry candidates, who have demonstrated success in this field, and others who might add value to our business. We have graduate trainee schemes and have been accredited by the ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management), to run courses for other companies. It helped that when I first set up Ceuta, I had Annette D’Abreo as my business partner. She has been a catalyst for accelerated growth.

Business jargon; good or bad? Could you run a few prime pharmaceutical examples up the flagpole for us?

The pharmaceutical industry has many, and they tend to be technical. OTC: over the counter; medicines that can be sold in supermarkets or at any counter. P medicines, on the other hand, can only be sold behind the counter with a pharmacist present. A personal favourite is CPD; continual professional development.

Do you have any heroes/inspirations?

All ceos of successful companies. The usual suspects: Branson, Jack Welch, Bill Gates and JK Rowling.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Being ceo of the Ceuta Group, but I have many plans and ambitions, including making Ceuta Group a truly global company. These are currently underway and we will be announcing a major JV in the next few months.

How do you relax?

I play tennis at West Hants, where I am captain of a doubles team and also club chairman. I ski in Kitzbuhel and scuba dive anywhere warm. I still play six-aside football every week if available (or selected). It is important to keep active and take holidays; it keeps me healthy and mentally fresh. Obviously I encourage my staff to do the same.

What question would you like to be asked?

Any question is fine with me.


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