Food for thought: my articles

Stop thinking that marketing means selling !

I am regularly upset when I hear a number of people talking about marketing as being, at best, a set of techniques aimed at selling as most stuff as possible or, at worst, as some kind of manipulative approach aimed at making as much money as possible. Each time, I need to explain  what a real marketing process is in this new century of creativity and innovation.

So, what should a real marketing process be ?

First of all, marketing is a process operated by businesses, organizations (among them many non profit associations) or even individuals in order to gain control over transactions and exchanges that are crucial for their current existence and their future.

Businesses as well as non-profit organizations can “last” only if they can achieve repeated “wealthy” transactions over the long term.

“Wealthy” refers to their ultimate mission, i.e., creating economic value in a socially controlled environment or creating social value while balancing costs and revenue over the long term.

 “Repeated wealthy transactions” can only occur if the marketing process succeeds in generating  satisfaction for the parties (1) during the transaction between seller and buyer, (2) during the utilization of the product / service by the user and (3) in the course of the long term relationship between all parties involved. If, as a buyer/user of a product, I feel happy and satisfied, i will be more inclined to buy again or to recommend the seller to my friends, leading to repeat business. Simple, isn’t it ? Just old common sense !

This leads us to THREE VISIONS OF MARKETING

Transaction marketing

During that phase, the supplier will of course try to convince the potential client to buy (that’s selling) but, more important (s)he will do its best to let the customer leave with a strong feeling of satisfaction (I made a good deal !). This process may include some negotiation.

Usage marketing

The supplier job is not finished. Now is the time to rely on product and service quality to hold the promises. It’s also time to imagine and manage a specific «user experience» aiming at delivering satisfaction  in a context of  immediate consumption or longer term utilization.  Value perceived through usage should lead to customer loyalty and/or  to diffusion of supplier reputation.

Relationship marketing

Customers want more than just a product or a service. They want interaction. They demand respect, attention and care ! It’s key for the supplier to build and maintain trustful long term relationships with its customers/partners/users in order to prepare the next sales. Experiential marketing may help enrich the emotions but more important, real empathy and active listening are keys to success here.

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Marketing is not selling. Marketing is about delivering satisfaction to a group of selected customers so they want to deal again with you. Period !

In order to do so, marketers need the help of all company players: backstage people are supplying the products/services (supply chain), product developers think about continuous improvement and innovation, frontstage employees interact with customers, management is supporting the customer culture.

It’s so important to induce this spirit of “customer first” because today ‘s customers are hard to please, they are less loyal and they are ready to leave you for a detail.

So, it’s good to have a great brand, it’s good to have great communication, it’s good to have super salespeople but, most importantly, you need to deliver !

Be inspired !


 

The value of moments: become an epicurean !

I was confronted with death of some great people recently and it made me think again at the value of life.

A number of young people I regularly meet are obsessed by happiness. “My goal is to be happy, i want to be happy at work, in my family, in love, with my friends….“. That’s what i hear day after day and when I ask my dear young buddies “but, what is happiness ?” , they tell me : “I don’t exactly know, I can’t really define it, it’s an ideal but it’s hard to determine,…”.

It’s true ! Happiness is a complex notion. Can one be happy and sick at the same time for example ? Can we feel happy and sad at the same time ? Is happiness a short term idea or a life long concept. I’d love to discuss that with my friend (and ex-student) Laurence VanhĂ©e, founder of Happyformance, a consulting practice in the field of happiness at work http://happyformance.com/en/ Laurence is also a trainer of CHO’s (Chief Happiness Officers) https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurencevanhee

But let’s forget about definitions of happiness and let me tell you about moments of life.

A few months ago, in a small post called Believe in the value of moments, I wrote this: I believe in the value of “moments” ! We need good moments, exciting moments, lazy moments and self care moments… https://profbaeyens.com/2016/04/17/believe-in-the-value-of-moments/

Actually, we sometimes feel life as some kind of wild “river of no return” taking us, isolated and defenseless individuals, from one point to another without any time for us to stop and enjoy our environment. In this hectic life journey, we feel out of control and, when we loose someone who is dear to us, we regret we didn’t pay enough attention, we swear that we will change in the next future and then…we’re back on the river again…

How to solve that ? What can we do ?

First of all, we should realize that we have not one life but several lives. One is work life. Taking most of our time or most of our worries.Then we have the family life. Generally important at certain times.These 2 lives, family and work, take most of our time and frequently conflict the one with the other. A number of generations have been conditioned by society to give them the highest priority.

Then comes the most private lives: love and relationship on one side, social on the other side. Not to forget our personal life: what we like to do alone, some personal interest, maybe a passion…

Most people talk about balancing work and personal life. But it’s more complex, it”s not about a 2 sides balance, it’s about juggling with 5 balls and harmonize the whole. If you want to succeed in that, you need to think about your life vision and your life purpose. To know more, read https://profbaeyens.com/2016/05/31/do-you-have-a-life-purpose/

Secondly, we need to have a clear sense of pleasure and pain ! “Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher as well as the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus

7880230.image.jpegLife is uncertain. The past is gone. The future is unknown, can be good, can be bad, can be non-existent. In that instance, the only right way to act is to enjoy right away any moment you feel good and make it great. As we cannot avoid bad moments, try to live through them as well as you can but never make it a drama. Just make bad moments shorter. One of the most famous and short sentence summarizing this philosophy is CARPE DIEM(latin from famous Roman writer Horace) meaning “Seize the day” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horacecarpe-diem.png

To be practical, the method I recommend to improve your life is to start with a review of a typical week. Not a review of your tasks, but a review of your feelings. Use your smartphone to record any good or bad emotion coming across your mind. It can positive (joy, excitement, smile…) or negative (sadness, weariness, irritation…). Link it to the life circumstance (work, family, …) It’s simple:

Monday – 10:30 am – upset – my boss

Tuesday – 9:30 pm – laugh – putting kid to bed

….

At the end of the week (full week, including weekend), just note the proportion of good and bad feelings. If you are over 75% good feelings, you’re ok. If you’re under 50% make an analysis, get an understanding of it, if possible with a mentor. If you’re neutral, think about why ! Again, a mentor may help here. https://profbaeyens.com/mentoring/

It’s time to stop managing your life based on time and tasks. Choose to promote feelings and emotions. Our time on earth is short. YOLO: You Only Live Once. Your happiness will bring happiness to others: the ones you love, the ones you appreciate, the ones who generate positive waves.

Reinforce the moments that bring you peace, serenity, joy and excitement. Don’t think of time productivity: it’s a zero sum game. Anyway, the more you will reinforce good moments, the more productive you will be at the end. The more serene you are, the better your judgment in dealing with tough problems and the better you will manage your team members.

So, you see, it’s all gain !

Be inspired !

 

 

What do they teach you at Harvard ?

I was on the Harvard campus a few days ago and I remembered so many people asking me again and again over my whole life: what did it bring you to go to Harvard ? Was it really useful ? Was it worth the money ? Did you really learn more than at Solvay ? Etc.

It’s always hard to answer all this because the experience is… quite an experience ! An experience appeals to all your senses and it’s never as good to tell the story of it. Actually, getting through a tough MBA program in a great university is a “parcours initiatique”(an initiatory journey). That journey that changes yourself completely. Let me tell you how !

The first challenge is to get selected and admitted to attend the program. You start learning at that initial point. Four key success factors here:

(1) having a life journey that shows real potential for leadership,

(2) working again and again on essays and tests,

(3) having a clear motivation to justify the investment,

(4) getting your application file reviewed by someone who knows what an MBA selection process is.

Most of candidates do not take the necessary time to go deep in this process. They do a quick superficial work. So, the first basic lesson is: if you don’t prepare your stuff thoroughly, you can’t succeed in any serious thing. Easy to say, not so easy to do, but the base of professionalism.

When you enter Harvard you get a feeling of proudness that will never disappear but it’s quite different on the first day than what you feel at the end. Proudness to be a student in the best university of the world, for sure. Proudness to have gone through the tough selection process. Proudness to sit there on the first class. It’s quite overwhelming. But you soon realize that the journey will be long and tougher than you thought. You face competition. Competition from your own self more than competition from your peers. You want to be “Ă  la hauteur” (at the top level). You thought you were brilliant and you discover that you’re just trying to survive. It takes some time to realize that the guys who are great talkers may not be great thinkers. It takes time to emerge and see where you stand in the group. And, gradually, you understand what your strong skills are. And, gradually, you become more and more confident in your own ablilites. Lesson two: let the so called “brilliant talkers” express their superficiallity. Listen and think, analyse, then talk scarcely but deeply. I’ve used this technique for years in meetings, conferences and business gatherings. It helps me judge very quickly who are the key people in meetings, they are rarely the ones who talk too much and want to get the light on them !

You enter for knowledge and what you get out with is a different mindset. Of course you learn a lot of things. But what you learn is not about techniques. It’s about ways to approach problem solving and decision making. I must admit that I’m not quick on making decisions. It’s my weakness. But I analyze quickly what is at stake. Working on business cases everyday during 2 full years trains your mind to get directly to the big picture. That’s what general management is about. You learn to forget about details and focus on the essentials. Analysis is the art to make links between elements of information in order to reach a clear understanding of a problem. Don’t misunderstand me: details are important, especially in the execution part of management. But lesson three is: getting bugged in details prevents you from understanding the core of a situation. Especially when you have to deal with complexity. One of my main frustrations in the academic world was to see so called intelligent people meeting and having endless discussions about details while letting the important unsolved. Maybe it’s coming from research methodologies. It’s just terrible for management !

It may seem surprizing to some of you but another thing that you learn at Harvard is to not take yourself seriously. Harvard guys and gals have the reputation to be hard nosed, competitive, serious and tough. It’s a caricature ! I’ve never had so many laughs in class than at the Harvard Business School. Laughing about jokes of others, laughing about profs remarks, laughing about myself. Business should not be considered seriously. It’s an adult game but it’s a game. And it’s a dangerous game too because it led to “monopoly behaviors” by some irresponsible guys on financial markets. Lesson four: laugh releases tension and stress. It should remind you that business, power and influence are minor problems in life compared with most people face in this world. I’m not sure that all my classmates remembered this but as far as I’m concerned, I did.4661119295_62ea7c5795.jpg

As a conclusion, you see that I didn’t answer my original question “What do they teach you at Harvard ?” by things like management techniques, marketing, finance or strategy. After all, techniques are changing continuously. Techniques you can learn in companies, in books and now on the internet. Being a better person, being curious of everything, being modest while self-confident and respectuous of others’opinions is what you learn in great schools.

Be inspired !

Marketing Ă  la Trump: no thank you !

Marketing the Trump way: no thank you !

With Donald Trump elected President of the United States, I’ve seen a number of posts and articles claiming that one of the reason for Trump’s successful election was that he run a better marketing campaign than Clinton. Even my eminent colleague John A. Quelch from Harvard Business School wrote a quick article which I do not consider to be his most excellent http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/donald-trump-s-winning-marketing-manual

I must say that I don’t agree at all with these views for the following reasons.

  1. Marketing is not about sales, it’s about customer satisfaction. At this point, the most we can say is that Trump convinced a number of citizens to cast a vote for him. This is most similar with a buying process. Not at all a “consumption” process. We will judge President Trump marketing performance when he will run for a second term. At that time, we will see if his current supporters are happy and satisfied with his policy or not.
  1. Trump did not win the highest market share. Let’s point out that Trump was not the best seller. He didn’t win the majority of voters. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2,000,000 votes. Actually, she got more market share than her competitor but she lost the election due to the Electoral College system so specific to the USA.
  1. Marketing is not about any kind of false promises to get people to buy your stuff. This sounds more like the hard selling techniques used by door to door salesmen of the past. They would confuse naĂŻve people with beautiful speeches in order to load them with useless products and then disappear forever from the neighborhood. Look at Donald Trump speech style and attitude: it’s exactly that !
  1. Ethical marketing communication practice forbids to denigrate competitors. In most countries of the world, it is specified in the law or at least in the codes of ethics of the marketing and communication profession. Nowhere now can responsible marketing people lie about competitors, about product integrity or about brand promises. In the case of Trump, that’s exactly what he did all along his campaign. In the most disgusting ways.

These facts are leading me to reject the simple fact that Trump so called marketing is any good marketing.

In any case, I don’t want that kind of attitude, the Trump attitude, to even be assimilated with the marketing discipline, a discipline that some of us, professors and practicioners, want to rehabilitate in the eyes of the public. Claiming that candidate Trump and his clique were good marketers just makes me vomit. Period !

Be inspired ! trmp_skywriting-800x430.jpg

 

 

5 ideas to stay informed of global trends

 

Last week I addressed a group of CEO’s and entrepreneurs in a key note called “the CEO Agenda”. One of the recommendations I gave them was to always stay abreast of new trends happening in the world as new trends are the waves on which you can build strategies.

One of them questioned me: “How can I do that ? I’m overloaded by work and I’m not a specialist of trend analysis”. He’s right. If you don’t save some time for watching trends, then you implicitly decide to live in the present instead of the future. And today, the present is already the past !

So, here are 5 ideas to pick up about staying on tune.

  1. Follow trends watching websites

There are a number of these out there on the internet. Trendwatching.com and faithpopcorn.com are famous ones for consumer behaviors, but you can find a number about economics, technology, industry, etc. Choose one or two of them and follow them each week. It’s better than shopping ideas around the internet with no precise goal. I also recommend to log in to TED regularly http://www.ted.com. Book one hour of your time every 2 weeks and follow a TED talk. It’s brilliant.

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  1. Read futurologists

John Naisbitt http://www.naisbitt.com was one of the first futurologists who wrote books about what he called “megatrends”. You need to hunt for this litterature or find reports edited by consulting firms. See examples like http://www.kpmg.com/Global/en/…/future…/future-state-2030-v3.pdf or http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/cpo/213016007

It’s enough to read one book each year or one report every three months about the future. It will give you a sense of the long term. It will help you detect waves on which to build your future strategies.

  1. Get interested in contemporary art

Contemporary art is a barometer of emerging trends. Postmodernism, a characteristic of today society, started as a broad movement that developed in the late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture
 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism). Choose an art that moves you (graphic art or music or else) and look for its newest expressions. Try to spot the most advanced artists, those who appear to be out of norms, and study their output. It will unsconsciously train your mind to avant-garde and make yourself more open to new ideas.

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  1. Visit the most trendy cities

Future happens in some places in the world. Silicon Valley for hightech and entrepreneurship, Boston, USA fo education, Milan, Italy for fashion, Singapore for media and communication industries, London for everything ! You can also travel to Seoul, Tokyo, Paris or Frankfurt. If you don’t have the chance or budget to travel these cities, get into them on line. Look at all new things happening in New York for example ! Be persistent ! Try to become a specialist ! What’s happening there at this moment will happen soon everywhere in the world.

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  1. Watch generations under you

One of the reasons I’m always in line with what’s new is that I’m always with younger people. It’s fabulous when you don’t consider new things as weird but as a subject of interest. When my children were teens, I was interested in their music. When meeting young students, I learn new words, new tools, new behaviors. So, don’t stay in your generation ghetto ! If you’re generation X, meet generation Y. If you’re generation Y, go for Z ! Toots Thielemans, a world famous jazz musician recently died at 90+ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toots_Thielemans). He was quoted to say: “Does it make any sense to always play the same music as 50 years ago ? People are not expecting that from me. My ears are turned on to the future. I’m not living in the past“.

All in all, it’s about curiosity. Trends are emerging everywhere every time in front of us. We live in the theater where the actors of future times are playing. Just have this routine to be always curious about everything new. Forget about your immediate work, people who are usually around you. Don’t work too much on details. And think !

Be inspired !

Share the good life with me ! But…what is a good life ?

 

This week i crossed a billboard with LG slogan Life’s good. Lg brand defines its identity as being Delightfully Smart http://www.lg.com/global/about-lg/brand-identity. It made me think of the meaning of “what is a good life ? ” after all.

I must say I thought about myself. Being selfish is sometimes good, especially if your main activity is about giving to others.

A French song gave some answers years ago already. La belle vie, from Sacha Distel, was translated into many languages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSAzwlJCPU

“The good life: no love, no worry, no trouble
The good life: to be free and explore the unknown…The good life: lets you hide all the sadness you feel
.”

 My vision of a good life is built around 7 principles.

  1. Love and be loved
  2. Have enough money to be comfortable but don’t be obsessed by money
  3. Forget about being successful, care about doing what makes you happy
  4. Don’t waste your precious life working for others “above you”, work for those “below you”
  5. Surround yourself with good people and get rid of bad ones
  6. Be curious about others, look for the good side in people, don’t judge lightly others’behaviors
  7. Enjoy pleasure: food, wine, friends, beauty and laziness

About love

It’s probably the most crucial element of a good life. Love is easy and cheap. It never divides, it multiplies. It’s interreactive: the more you love, the more you get loved. Love should not be made complicated. It should not be made a big thing. It’s just about putting it above all things. It can be about your family, friends or lovers. But it can be about anyone you can help. But don’t forget: you cannot love others fully if you don’t love yourself first !the-greatest-pleasure-of-life-is-love-quote-1.jpg

About money

It’s always a difficult point to talk about because it’s complex, goes deep in our roots and depends on each personal situation. Anyway, i beleive money shold not control our lives. In a very famous play called “L’avare” (The miser) written in the 17th century by French star writer, MoliĂšre, the main character, Harpagon, is feeling miserable because he can’t sleep at night. He’s so rich that he fears to be stolen at every minute. It’s of course a caricature and many of you will object that misery is worse, my point is that money should not be an obsession. It’s good when it allows you to enjoy a minimum standard of living of course. It’s still better when it brings you freedom. It’s fantastic when it allows you to be generous to others. But think deeply at the following question: ” Could I still be happy with much less money that I have now” .

About success

I can see a lot of posts on social media related to the dream of being successful. Success is very personal. For some it’s about being some kind of celebrity, for others it’s about having a good social position in life. Some are dreaming about becoming the next Jack Ma. Whatever your dream, I believe that success never comes out of a plan. Although I encourage my young friends to have a life strategy, I strongly recommend them to focus on the activities that make them truly happy. Or else, you may “look successful” but you’re not truly happy, as a doctor I met last week, a 41 year old super specialist in a subsection of cardiology. Recognized as one of the best in his profession, he confessed me that he thought he missed his vocation to be an business entrepreneur… So sad !

About working for others

Life is a perishable good. You only realized that when you see the end of the pack ! Besides that, it’s a luxury good. Don’t waste caviar. Eat it slowly and consiously ! Famous songwriter and singer Bob Dylan once wrote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZPh3hpxLKs :

“You could’ve done better, but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time”

I realized that wasting our precious time in trying to please some superiors who “use us” is terrible. Superiors can be your boss, your shareholders, your board or even your customers. You serve their interests but most of the time they let you go without any recognition. People under your responsibility are the one to work for. Elevate them, train them, mentor them, give them more responsibilites and credit for it. I remember seeing that on the wall of my first boss at Procter & Gamble. You will be more efficicient, the team will be more productive and they will never forget you!

About people around you

It takes sometimes long before realizing the impact of bad “toxic” people may have on you ! It takes a lot of your good energy to fight for no result at the end. You expect people to become good. You think you have the power to change them but no way, it just gets worse. Toxic people can hide behind an apparently nice personality. They may seem good to everyone and especially you. But at some point you realize they’re desctructive. When you’re feeling the symptoms, quit ! Don’t wait ! Go ! Even if it’s an admission of failure.

Good people is what you want to favor. They not only give you positive energy, they help you become better. It’s probable that you find that good people are very simple. They can be a neighbour, someone less educated than you or the security guard. They care for you even they don’t expect anything from you. They talk common sense ! I also like to work with people who are enthusiastic, forward looking, generous and openminded. When I’m working with them, i feel so good, so strong, so energetic ! Even if they’re not always the perfect specialist in what they do, they bring an extraordinary value. Do like me: find yours !

About being curious

Be curious about everything ! Life is so rich. Life is good when you pick up its fruits. So, look for the fruit trees ! Being music, food, cultures or books, I like to discover new things all the time. I like to try. I want to discover. It’s gorgeous. I’m also curious of people. Everyone has a story to tell. Or a hidden story I’d like to know. I envy famous Belgian born writer, now deceased, Georges Simenon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Simenon He travelled the world to discover human nature and wrote so deeply about it. When you’re constantly curious, you experience more, you look for the good side in people, you don’t judge lightly others’behaviors and your life is so much more exciting.

About enjoying pleasure 

Some learned to mistrust pleasure ! They were taught to prefer austerity. Some religions or philosophies preach it. Some others don’t. Whatever the reason, pleasure is the main ingredient of “the good life”. I personally love food, wine, friends, beauty and laziness 🙂 Food is a never ending source of felicity. Whether I’m cooking myself or I’m experimenting a great chef creativity, I’m feeling belssed. I shared meals with families in Vietnam which it left me speechless in delectation. All what is flattering my taste is also my pleasure: fine wine, special beers, a subtile gin tonic prepared with art and mastery.Unknown.jpeg

Sharing pleasure with friends makes it stronger. Beauty is also a pleasure I enjoy with no restriction. I taught my children to be alluring, to like a beautiful table, to care for the decoration of a plate. I like the beauty of architecture, objects and places. I love the beauty of the sky, the nobility of trees and the perfection of a British lawn. And I must admit I like the beauty of women too, the good thing about the beauty of human beings being that it’s not related to the perfection of the body but to the depth of the soul.

And finally, one of my ultimate pleasure is laziness. Lazy Sunday mornings in bed, lazy moments in a bathtub, lazy summer days with a good book. We’re overloaded with work and other activities. It’s killing our creativity. You need time to be alone with yourself with no other plan but stretching your body and yawning. Then, your brain will finally be the most productive engine of your entire self !

 

I was a bit long today, but I don’t care if you read only one of two things of this…

Be inspired !

 

 

 

 


 

Why you need a serious dose of inspiration

01 I9 Introduction.jpgInspiration: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. This is the definition given by the Oxford dictionary https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/inspiration

We’re living several lives at once. Work, family, couple, social, personal… We jump constantly from one to the other. We run, we move, we keep pace. In between all this, we answer our calls, reply our emails, chat a little and at the end of the day, we stand behind our screens.

Where do you get your inspiration ?

The danger of living a 360° busy life is that you get dry ! You give a lot of energy to others but you don’t receive enough. You can meditate, do yoga or run and it’s good for your personal balance but does it get new ideas out of this ? You can get your little dose of nice quotes on Facebook or on other social media but it’s like coffee, it gives you a little shot but it doesn’t nourish you.

You should read books or all the great working papers you download on internet but you never have time. You run after goal you never reach.

So, what should you do ?

First, think about this: inspiration is food for your intelligence. When your brain is empty, you need to replenish it. It’s not only about ideas comng from others, it’s about being able to generate your own ideas. The ones that will make you different and bring value to your life.

Secondly, remember that inspiration gives energy. And we need more energy than ever today. Life is tough. We take more challenges each day. A marathon runner needs regular training to be ready for the race. Well, your life is a marathon ! Your brain is as important as your body. Train it ! And the best way to get all this is to have a personal trainer.

A mentor is what you need !

A mentor will listen to you, understand your time constraints, know what to say and what to do according to your personality.

A mentor will bring the experience you have not.

A mentor will enlighten your personal and professional journey. Make you think about paths you wouldn’t think of.

The more responsibilites you have, the more you need a personal mentor. Look at sport stars: theyr’re the best in their field and they nevertheless always have a personal trainer.

Be ambitious. Be balanced and…

Be inspired !

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Why you should care about corporate governance

Last Friday, I was reading with interest a quite surprizing Financial Times article about John Stumpf, Wells Fargo CEO, hearings by the US senate banking committee. Wells Fargo (https://www.wellsfargo.com) is a US bank that built its recent reputation on a consumer friendly, no nonsense strategy of nationwide presence in every corner of the United States. “Main street” vs “Wall street”. They’re just doing normal retail banking. Nevertheless, they were caught in a scandal a few weeks ago. Their branch officers, under huge pressure of their Chief Operating Officer, did anything to reach their daily sales quotas and get their regular sales bonuses.

Selling, selling, selling ! So much pressure that they started opening millions of fake accounts for clients who were not even aware of it because they were not even informed. Crooks ! Conservative bankers became crooks ! Terrible ! Again ! More than that, the CEO, now under scrutiny, doesn’t even think of resigning. And he’s not ready to give up is personal bonus !

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This reminded me how important corporate governance is in our world. Corporate governance: a much discussed concept. Now a little forgotten. But so important. If you don’t remember, corporate governance is a system made of internal or external regulations or commonly agreed practices aimed at guaranteeing companies and institutions to be managed in a normal way. Normal means in a coherent and honest way, avoiding excessive power of top managers as well as incoherent decisions. The system also aims at protecting minority interests to be spoiled in any way.

Corporate governance is insisting on the role of the Board of Directors (BoD) as governing body. The BoD should not be confused with the Board of Management. Directors’ roles are to decide on the strategy, choose members of top management, give them a clear responsibility and control the execution. They are stimulators, decision makers and watchdogs. The BoD is elected by the shareholders assembly and typically regroups representatives of majority shareholders, minority shareholders and so called “independent directors” (means they are independent of shareholders and management). BoD work is now a professional work, at least in big corporations. I was personally involved in corporate governance thinking as an active founder of the Foundation of Board Directors some years ago.

I will write some other posts about corporate governance in the next future, especially in the case of entrepreneurial companies, but I’d like to draw your attention on the influence of a governance system on your own future. In the case of above mentioned Wells Fargo where management was not controlled adequately, the final victims were middle managers who were fired on ground of mismanagement and mishonesty. Top management was not ! It’s almost always the same. Guys at the top always go at worst with golden parachutes and enough money to pay for good lawyers. Middle managers are collateral victims.

It’s time for you to check the governance system of your company. It’s about strategy and execution. It’s about integrity and values. After all, common sense should guide us in management practice but the fact is that, most people care for their own interest, money and power. Don’t be the victim of some crooks who could be leading tour corporation !

Be inspired !

The power of elegance

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Yesterday I was talking with Kenn Smith, a good friend of mine who is a real gentleman https://www.facebook.com/MostInterestingTailorInSaigon/ . 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 whether you’re 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 disappeared. 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 him. 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.

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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 https://www.facebook.com/paths.to.success/

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. http://blog.euromonitor.com/2016/09/reconcile-conflicting-market-research-sources.html

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.