Showing up at the studio in the chic style of a Frenchman, Pieter Claudel, Director of the cosmetic brand Yves Rocher in Vietnam, instantly attracted our curiosity regarding a gentleman who works in a world full of “roses”.
He made an impression with his combination of his smart but casual polo, which is typical of a fast-paced businessman. Pieter arrived at BusinessWoman Magazine’s studio with a friendly smile on his face and the tiny sparkles of excitement in his eyes as though his journey across the streets of Saigon was a thrilling adventure. Through our conversation, it is easily recognizable that the youthful director is not only adorned by many for his open-mindedness and amicable way of speaking, but also a talented leader who knows how to inspire his associates with the smallest of things.
Honestly speaking, I’ve always assumed that a woman should be the one running a cosmetic brand, for the field itself is part and parcel of being a woman, you know. What is it, then, that has brought you into this field?
Well, the first thing you need to know is that there are a number of French cosmetic brands, and some of the big ones were founded by men! It is, therefore, nothing of a surprise if we happen to be the executives of such brands. As for Yves Rocher, the brand was founded by Mr. Yves Rocher in 1959, bearing the philosophy of providing the safest cosmetic products to women, using naturally-inspired ingredients while maintaining a reasonable, consumer-friendly price.
I love what we do here and the values Yves Rocher brings, one of which is that the brand was founded upon a wish to contribute to society. The unemployment rate was high in this region of France at the time, and Mr.Rocher wanted to create more jobs through the production of a natural cosmetic brand. The idea met with eager support, branched out nationwide, and now extends its reach to other continents. So the brand develops natural products from the first day and has always been since then. The brand also established the Yves Rocher Foundation, an international greenery restoration fund that runs tree-planting campaigns every year. So far, we’ve planted 50 million trees, and are expecting to double that number in 2020. Moreover, each year, a project called “Terre de Femmes” (World of Ladies) rewards women who come up with brilliant ideas of incorporating business to the development of ecosystems. Any woman with a good idea about protecting our living environment can apply to an organizing board for a chance to realize their dream and receive the award and funds to concretely make it happen.
As you may see, a career that concerns beauty, by women and men for women in the respect of their skin and respect of environment, all these meaningful values are the reasons for my 13-year-long commitment to the brand.
There are currently several reputed natural cosmetic brands in Vietnam, some of which also originated from France bearing a similar idea to yours. How has Yves Rocher earned and kept its customers’ loyalty up until now?
I can assure you that you only need to try an Yves Rocher product once to convince you of its quality, price and convenience. The utmost priority for women when picking a new cosmetic line is its compatibility and safe use for the most sensitive types of skin. And then there are our reasonable and very competitive prices. And finally the product diversity at our shop where you can almost find anything you need: skin care for any skin type, body milk, shower cream, shampoo, make-up, perfume and even spa treatments. In the future, we’ll be boosting some campaigns to better acknowledge the customers of our brand values as well as offering them samples. As per our current development, I believe that we’re making an impact and we’ll continue to do so in the immediate future. The last thing which is important is the consumers’ preference for Yves Rocher products ahead of similar brands. We’ve managed to come up with natural cosmetic lines that employ eco-friendly ingredients, bio-degradable packaging and products which respect the environment. All of which, I believe, are the elements that call out the love and awareness for our products and brand from each customer, and by choosing our brand and products, they actively support the environment. If you also share the same ideology and belief as they do, I’m certain that you will go for us (Grinning).
“I appreciate women’s combination of strength and sensibility.”
How do you feel working in an environment surrounded by women?
All my life, I have been surrounded by women, in my family first of course and then at work. So, now, in my daily life, it’s normal and actually a pleasure to work with ladies. I appreciate their combination of strength and sensibility. Maybe it’s because I wish to satisfy every lady, professionally of course! (Laughing)
So, how difficult do you think it is to lead a crew mostly made up of women? What do you believe to be the key to good leadership?
I’m currently working with a team of about 300 staff members, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about how to help them get ahead in their career and find joy in what they do. I spend time listening to them in order to understand their personalities and way of thinking, which is, at times, quite necessary, especially when they’re facing serious problems in their life and work. Then you realize an interesting fact that they often have the solution to an existing problem, but it is not until they have someone to share that they see clearly what they need to do.
What’s more, you help them get on their own feet, have faith and entrust them with responsibility. From my personal point of view, one of the most important things a leader should be doing is to enlighten his team on what they want. Bring up talented staff members and make them realize how to use their abilities with confidence. Once they are aware of that, they’ll always do better. However, do not forget that as a leader, you’ve got to have a greater vision, to show the way, offering them some instructions on how to fully exploit their potential.
And finally, you take everyone’s contribution into consideration and handle bonuses and penalties properly. Take our recent sales target which we exceeded as an example; I’ve awarded a bonus to all employees, not only to the sales and customer services departments, but also to the administration and accounting departments, so that they understand that their contribution is no less essential for the company’s success. Another instance, when giving someone a rise, I always announce their achievements to the whole crew; on the other hand, however, I often prefer a face-to-face, private conversation with those being disciplined. Most importantly, I always try to guide them towards a brighter future.
In your opinion, what would you consider the ideal figure of a modern woman?
In terms of beauty, every woman is unique in their own way, but those who know how to rise to their natural beauty and elegance will definitely stand out. And many of those I’ve met are capable of doing so. On my arrival in Vietnam, I was impressed by the Vietnamese women, because they are truly competent and relentlessly exert their effort to both excel at work and maintain their family duties. It is quite an immense pressure that they’re carrying, especially in such a fiercely competitive and opportunistic environment. Maybe, the Vietnamese woman is one of my ideal figureheads of a modern woman.
Exclusive Interview and Photography by BusinessWoman Magazine
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