'The most important issue - for both men and women- is to adapt to the culture of the business'
Florence Rollet, EMLYON Business School graduate, has had a fast-moving career, managed with great pragmatism and unfailing enthusiasm, while accepting greater pressure as her responsibilities increased. Since June 2013, she has been based in London as Vice President for Europe for the group Tiffany and Co., the second largest global jewellery brand. She had previously spent five and a half years at Parfums Christian Dior (LVMH group) as its Development Director, managing 22 European countries whilst also taking care of the process and management of the Retail network and Training.
You must have dealt with a certain number of challenges during your 25-year career?
This is what motivates me and makes me happy to go to work in the morning. The desire to learn, to discover different markets and new environments is a constant driving force which leads me to permanently reassess situations and motivates me to keep moving forward. At Tiffany I currently manage a network of 35 European sale points. I have financial responsibility for the region and its development in various European countries and I am also in charge of the strategy to guarantee optimum customer service at each point of sale. I think that in this luxury market, professionalism, combined with extremely well-known products, remains a precious ally during this complex economic period. Luxury brands remain a growth sector in the current economic environment because they satisfy customers' needs to escape from their everyday realities through unique shopping experiences.
You began your career a long way from fragrances, beauty products and jewellery
Yes, my early career was with Brasseries Kronenbourg (then a subsidiary of Danone). From 1987 to 1994, I worked in sales and marketing positions until I became Regional Head of Sales, responsible for the South East quarter of France. There was one significant period for me, a one-year stay in Greece in the early 1990s, as Assistant Sales and Marketing Director for Brasseries Henninger, which had just been bought by Danone. I immediately loved the country; I have learnt the language and go back there regularly. Expatriation is an experience all young people should be encouraged to have; it is very rewarding and makes us reassess and open up to other ways of thinking. We also learn tolerance when we come up against ways of life that are different to ours.
In 1994, I joined Pepsi Co France, where I helped create the French subsidiary. I then accepted an offer from Reckitt & Colman France to become Director of Category Management. After three years, I became Account Director and had the opportunity to discover many categories and brands, including Barbara Gould beauty products. This led to me moving to Coty France in 1999. In early 2005, I became Director General of Coty France.
Do you think it is now easier for women to take on managerial responsibilities or run businesses?
The world has changed a great deal in this respect over the last 20 years. Being a woman is neither a failure nor a quality, it is a fact! However for some men, the presence of a woman at the helm can still be a problem. We need to be able to overcome these negative reactions and remain professional. By remaining true to our convictions and approaching situations with a bit of perspective and a lot of humour, we can manage any kind of difficulty.
The most important thing - for both men and women- is to adapt to the business culture. I was one of the first female sales managers at Kronenbourg. I was also one of the first women to be Director General at Coty and that did not cause me any particular problems. But it is clear that people's mentalities are a key factor, and these vary considerably depending on the industry.
What I would like to tell young graduates, both men and women, that before applying for a position in a company they must make sure they are in line with the business and its values. Businesses must produce results; they have objectives to reach which must not be confused with brand positioning. Graduates must also learn to listen to their instincts, as it is only by interacting with the business world that we discover and get to know our own values.