The power of elegance


Yesterday I was talking with Kenn Smith, a good friend of mine who is a real gentleman . We discussed about a number of things and we came to the effectiveness of elegance as a business style. Elegance is not only a way to dress. It’s a way to behave. Elegance is applicable whaether your a woman or a man. It’s the heritage of knights, “chevaliers” in French, “caballeros” in Spanish. It was deep rooted in the attitudes of the gentry. But it dissapeared. However, in a brutal world, elegance is a virtue and it brings results !

Three examples:

  • A few days ago, I was invited by one my Vietnamese ex-student. This gentleman invited me to lunch in a simple place but he cared for being in French restaurant, probably to make me comfortable with the food. He’s a young and successful businessman. He came nevertheless with a quite humble and respecful attitude. Elegantly dressed with no excess. He’s thinking of doing some business with our university but didn’t show it too much. At the end of the meal, I was ready to introduce him to whomever could decide on some mutual interest. His approach was subtle and intelligent. And I liked that.
  • Carla Bruni is a famous ex model, currently singer and composer and wife of former French President Sarkozy. As such she’s hated by a number of my friends. However, her elegance helped her escape from the image of her husband. She’s as elegant as he’s vulgar, as cultivated as he’s non intellectual, as subtle as he’s brutal. In diplomacy, she was his secret arm. As French first lady, she would represent the French touch much better than he. She got an incredible hidden power.
  • I happen to know a Swiss businessman who is partner in a strong financial group. They are tough people, they know how to negociate a penny. Howerver he’s a real gentleman. I know because i experienced it in a professional relationship. He didn’t take advantage of a favourable balance of power to be brutal in any way. When we meet , we talk about values and philosophy of business. I’m sure his sober attitude gives him a definite leverage when negociatng. I have a lot of respect for him and I would trust him right away although my long experience taught me to be very careful in business.


What can we get out of this ?

Elegance is an instrument of power. It’s not something you can get out of money. I know extremely elegant people coming from even poor families. It comes out of education. Family, school and some sports or cultural activities. And it can be reinforced by techniques like the ones my friend Kenn Smith can teach

I believe elegance is more effective in life than vulgarity. Look at great leaders: J.F. Kennedy, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Charles de Gaulle. Now Jack Ma, Bill gates, Barak Obama, Christine Lagarde (head of IMF) . Their charisma is tinted with elegance as is the way they talk, they dress, they behave. And they’re not weak people. They’re tough and have a strong voice.


So, be elegant ! We say in French “Avoir de l’allure” (be alluring).


Be inspired !

An example of what “critical mind” means

I found this interesting article on Euromonitor blog today.

It’s a good example of what “critical mind” means. I’m amazed at how easily my students can be lured by so called market reports they never check by themselves. I think most marketing professionals do the same. They see some data report or infography published on any website and take it as granted.

Read this article. it’s short, practical, to the point ! Thanks to  for writing this. 

A lot of operators feed us with content today but careful about the content you read. It may be reliable, it may be shit !

Be inspired.

Why we should admire extreme people

I’m the greatest, Muhammad Ali

We’re more famous than Jesus Christ, John Lennon speaking of the Beatles

I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals, Brigitte Bardot

There are, there were other “extreme” people on this planet and they are fascinating. We love them or we hate them. They dare to say things we wouldn’t dare to say. They do things we wouldn’t dare to do. We say: “Wow, (s)he’s cheeky !” We think: “Oups, I’d like be like them”.  Actually, we need them to make things move. Because they’re cheeky, they speak out louder and make the world change.

I was thinking of all that last Sunday when I heard of Muhammad Ali’s, alias Cassius Clay, death. This man was extreme as I like: he was fighting like a street savvy guy on the ring but was smart and could be sophisticated when talking about his values. He was courageous when he refused to join the US army and make war to North Vietnam. He was as important as Martin Luther King to make the black community fully recognized in their own country. His extremeness made him an icon and he could then disseminate his ideas.


John Lennon, one of the world famous former member of The Beatles, is another example.  Lennon did incredible things in the 60’s and 70’s. The younger generations know about his song “Imagine” but they don’t know about the incredible things he did. With his wife Yoko Ono, he held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one in Amsterdam and one at Montreal, each of which were intended to be non-violent protests against wars, and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace. It was an incredible scandal. But it created a huge global anti-war movement. We would like to have people like this today !


A last example is Brigitte Bardot. Most of you don’t know her because she quite low key in people press now. Actually, Bardot was one of the most beautiful woman and sexiest star of the 60’s-70’s. She was so extreme in her sexiness that it allowed young women of that time to make them free of men stereotypes. Actually, she was not a great actress but she was a great icon. After an incredible career in cinema and several marriages, she stopped that life to devote her fame and energy to the well being of animals. She created a foundation Bardot fighting for animal rights for years, a very trendy opinion movement now. Bardot is now an old lady, still moving, still fighting, criticized  by some for her right wing thoughts but she made things change, we can’t deny that ! Respect !    long-bangs-brigitte-bardot.jpg

It’s strange, reviewing this post, that my all three examples are from the 60’s. Maybe the society today doesn’t let extreme people express themselves.Or maybe it’s because I was struck by these characters when I was a teen. Or maybe some are around that I don’t see. Tomorrow, I’m going to look around for the extreme people of today !

Be inspired !

7 steps to lift up your personal image

May is back and with it a need to change some things in your life ! Well, maybe it’s time to lift up your personal image !

“Esse est percipi” — “to be is to be perceived” said Irish philosopher George Berkeley 200 years ago already ( This is more than ever true today. In our society perception is more important than reality, each of us is getting about 5,000 info per day and our average span of attention 8-10 seconds (Hugues Rey, HAVAS group). So, how about you ? How do people perceive you ? What is your personal image ? As seen by others and…as seen by yourself !

The issue is not limited to business situations. It’s also related to your personal life. A number of studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life. See for example American psychologist Barbara Fredrickson ( there is a strong connection between how people perceive us and how we perceive ourself (self-image).

Anyway, it’s all about perceptions !

But let’s be practical: how should you go about working on your personal image. Actually, it’s about marketing yourself. YOU are the product. Now YOU need a brand ! So here are 7 phases you should go through.

  1. Start by  a vision.  A vision is how you project yourself in the future. Write a scenario.Imagine you’re in a movie. The title is: “Me in 10 years”. Close your eyes and dream. Forget about constraints of day to day life like money, family, your boss or else. Imagine, then write ! You can imagine various scenarios. In strategy, we call that “scenario planning”. It’s important to write it down. Let it sleep for a few days, then come back to it and choose one. You can keep is secret. It’s between you and you. Or You’d like to share it. Whatever, it will be your driving force, it will give you a sense of direction and scope your ambition.
  2. Know who you are.What are your points of excellence ? Don’t spend time on your shortcomings, you’re never selling a defective product ! If you’re not sure, survey the market 🙂 Ask some friends or colleagues to mention 3 of your skills, or 3 words that come to your mind when they think of you. It’s full of interest. it will give you some insights on how you’re actually perceived now.
  3. Define your targets. If you’re in a business setting, it can be your management, peers or the team you’re managing. It can be your customers. It can be your funds providers. In life, it can be a social group you’re part of. People you want to seduce. Avoid it with real close friends: they like the real you ! Define your target(s) based on your long term vision. Set priorities: it’s never effective to communicate to several targets at the same time. So, go step by step.
  4. Have a brand. This is a tricky choice and most of you could be shy about it but it’s actually a great advantage for getting recognized. I have a Vietnamese friend called Huong. There are many people called Huong in Vietnam. But she’s different: she calls herself Bailey. Everyone knows her under that name, actually a brand name of a coffee liquor. It fits her personality. People remember ! So, think about a special name. Or stick an adjective to your name (Smart John, for example) but HAVE A BRAND. And why not a logo ?
  5. Choose your brand positioning. A brand is to be remembered but you will be more remembered if it means something valuable for others. Brand positioning is a classical strategic marketing tool. You can use the Unilever brand key model if you’re a sophisticated marketeer 🙂 Or just think about what you want people to think about you and write YOUR positioning statement. (!positexemple/c7uy on how to do that)
  6. Be different. A the end, the most important is to know how different you are and how to promote your difference. It may be a unique competency (I’m the most creative accountant in my city) or a specialty (I’m the most specialized accountant for sports clubs) or something about yourself (I’m the most funny accountant to work with) but something should be unique about you and consistent overtime.
  7. Dress as how you want to be looked at. Dress for success is not a new statement but it’s consistently overlooked. Big companies seem to like employees who all look the same. Like kind of robots ! But we are humans ! Our way to dress, to speak, to appear sends signals ! It can be little things. I have been teaching a lot and for years I didn’t know what to wear so that I could feel relaxed and appear serious at the same time. Then I decided to signal my identity of “marketing prof” by wearing colored watches. Strangely enough, years after my classes, people don’t remember my teaching content but they remember the watches. Recently, I discovered an American couturier living in Saigon. He taught me how to think about my style after he asked me questions about my personal objectives. I became his client. He’s a master in business attire strategy (

Don’t forget this, as written in a Forbes article, developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader (

After all, you’re the most important person on earth, aren’t you ?images-1.jpeg




Why you should fail from time to time

I met a friend of mine yesterday. Salma is a story teller and a content strategist. She told me: “Perfection creates no emotion !” I like that sentence. In my post: 5 reasons why you should stop trying to be perfect, I already evoked the fact that trying to reach perfection should not become a stress or an obsession. I’m more radical today. I advise you to fail !

There is no learning without failure. Scientists know that progress comes from analysis of failure. Look at a little kid trying to walk for the first time. Is (s)he running right from the beginning ? No. S(he) will fall a number of time before adapting the technique to reach an acceptable performance. Same when you learn a language or struggle with accounting for the first time.

It’s the same in business. Did you hear about the concept of “learning organization” ? Trial and error ? Lean marketing ? See . All is about testing, checking, understanding, relaunching and so one.

I know a US company giving bonuses to their employees who fail ! Better reward those who dare and fail than those who do not dare!  Encourage your team to fail. Encourage your kids to fail. Encourage yourself to fail ! Do something, stop hesitating, move forward ! The train of life is not waiting for you. It’s already gone. Jump on it !5.jpg


Be jazzy this week !

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Do you know the difference between jazz and classical music ?

Well, classical music is about having a strict agenda and always be the best professional, the best interpreter, with the hope to work under the direction of a great director : no place for improvisation here !

On the opposite side, jazz is about having a clear theme and being able to play around it… A jazz band can play the same tune each night but in fact it’s never the same. You can recognize the theme, musicians know what they are getting to but they innovate at every moment.

Today business is like music, but the environment is so changing that a classical way leads to nothing significant. You should be jazzy : have a clear strategy (strategic choices are your themes) but be subtle and flexible in the execution (that’s the interpretation). Playing that way, you will delight your customers, surprise your competitors and have a clear direction at the same time.

If you’re not sure about what I’m saying, go to a jazz club for 3 nights in a row to listen to the same band. There are a number of them in every city in the world !

Be inspired !




5 reasons why you should stop trying to be perfect

Perfection is what we all thrive for. We’ve been educated with perfection in mind. At school, at home, everywhere, always we were told to be perfect. Perfect child, perfect scholar, perfect girl, perfect boy. We’re also asked to be perfect daughter & son, then perfect mom & dad, perfect sister, brother, friend and life partner. At work it’s the same. Be a perfect employee, perfect colleague, perfect boss ! We all know it’s impossible but we’re running after perfection all our life.

Well ! It’s not impossible, it’s counter productive. Today, being perfect is a handicap !

Trying to be perfect in all is dysfunctional. We focus our limited resources on behaviors that we will never be good at instead of focusing on our strengths. So we become average in all.

Trying to be perfect brings a continuous stress. We’re always struggling to reach a goal with no hope of being successful at it. We run to catch an ever flying bird ! But we go on and on…

Trying to be perfect gets us to care about non important things. We plunge into details to reassure us that we’re good. It makes us loose “the big picture”. In business, it’s a real pity. Thousands of people forget about the important to focus on some stupid details.

Trying to be perfect kills our creativity. Today, creativity is vital. No company or organization will survive without a good deal of idea generation. But more than generate ideas, we need to implement them. Imagine, implement, fail, understand and try again. That’s how we should learn today. By the way, this is how little kids learn to walk !

Finally,  trying to be perfect is boring ! How many days of our life have we spent at school with boring teachers trying to make us good in everything. The more bored we are, the less we learn and the worst we are.


Forget about your shortcomings and focus on what you’re good at. This is true for people but it’s also true for businesses and any organization.

Be inspired !