To Have an Impact, You Need to Get People InvolvedTHIS IS THE SECRET OF CAMILLO PANE'S SUCCESS. A BOCCONI ALUMNUS, SINCE 2016 HE HAS BEEN MANAGING COTY, THE PERSONAL BEAUTY MULTINATIONAL, FOCUSING ON AN INFORMAL APPROACH WITH EMPLOYEES AND STRONG VALUES TO MOTIVATE THEM
He has replaced corporate etiquette with a more relaxed approach, where you are always on first-name terms with company managers; he has turned his office into an open space, to enable his team to report directly to him without filters. This is Camillo Pane, Bocconi alumnus and Coty's managing director since 2016. Coty is one of the largest players in the beauty industry. After acquiring Procter & Gamble’s 41 beauty brands, it has now a turnover of over $9 billion dollars (€7.3 billion). Pane is a modern CEO and has a managerial style that, in some ways, recalls that of big names in the tech industry.
Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos: have they transformed the concept of business leader?
Yes, but also because society has changed: today it is no longer enough to have a vision, a strategy and an executive role; it is necessary to have a purpose, that is, to succeed in having a positive impact on society and the life of people. The purpose of Facebook, for example, is to connect individuals from all over the world; Amazon’s mission is to ameliorate the lives of users through an exceptional system of shopping and shipping convenience. At Coty, our purpose is equally strong and distinctive: to celebrate and liberate the diversity of beauty, which means offering a more realistic representation of beauty through our brands, among which are big names such as Gucci, Rimmel, Wella.
How do you do it?
On multiple levels. On the one hand, we involve people from different backgrounds in our advertising campaigns, as well as targeting age groups that are under-represented in other cosmetics brands; on the other, we have activated a social partnership with Global Citizen, an NGO that connects over 35 million people worldwide through its digital platform: our employees have joined a global movement to combat prejudice and discrimination. These are just two examples of how we try to change the lives of people around the world and convey to our employees values that to go beyond profit.
What was the response?
Absolutely positive: our business teams and individual employees have become more inspired; they feel they are working for a company that wants to have an impact on society, and this adds value to their work and to the company itself. Younger generations are particularly sensitive to this, because they want to feel part of something significant, and this approach also helps attracting talent.
What skills does it take to manage a company?
First of all, you must have a clear and inspirational vision capable of transmitting financial and psychological stability with respect to market volatility. Therefore a good dose of resilience is indispensable, but also agility and quickness, because situations or contexts that remain unchanged over time don’t exist anymore.
How do you acquire such flexibility?
There is no ready-made formula, I learned it by working in countries having different cultures and mores: every time I had to learn a different language, lifestyle, and relational habit. In short, I had to develop an ability to adapt to various contexts.
In business leadership, what does not change compared to the past?
We must continue to have a decision-making attitude, but the rapidity at which decisions are made has increased exponentially, and so has the speed of execution.
Does empathy have a role to play?
It is very important, a good leader must know how to be close and listen to his team. At the end of last year, I toured Coty’s offices in seven countries and met with very mixed groups of people, with the aim of discussing our corporate culture and establishing an open and constructive dialogue. This experience allowed me to establish a close relationship with our teams all over the world, in a very spontaneous way.
Is the top-down approach still valid or is the peer-to-peer model taking over?
A mix of both is required. Employees must feel the presence of a strong leader, especially when markets are not solid; at the same time, it is essential to have a strong ability to listen. I do not have a personal office, I work in a meeting room overlooking an open space. This management of office space allows accessibility and informality, and speeds up the decision-making process, too: there are many instances when it is not necessary to schedule formal meetings.
What advice do you want to give to those who aspire to a career like yours?
Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, which means creating opportunities to improve oneself and challenge one's limits. Experiences abroad are a good way: to learn about different languages and cultures also allows us to develop a flexible approach to leadership, because it is not possible to apply the same model anywhere.
A Class of 1993 Bocconi graduate in Business Administration, he has been leading Coty since 2016. "Bocconi opened my mind and all I did afterwards was influenced by my university experience. It was there I began to develop a taste for working abroad: when I was 28, I got a job in the United States, but already during the university I spent summers abroad with my Bocconi friends, instead of returning to Calabria to visit my parents.” His thesis was on the role of the consumer, the purchasing process. and the use of Internet data: "The field of investigation was the real estate industry, but I have since refined that methodology and applied to other sectors, such as the beauty industry."
by Ilaria De Bartolomeis