Friday, 27 January 2012

A few more minutes with Jean-Claude Biver

Jean Claude Biver was kind enough to share some thoughts following the announcement that he was stepping away from some of his current duties with the appointment of Ricardo Guadalupe as CEO.

And now, a few more minutes with Jean Claude Biver -

James Henderson: Retirement (albeit semi-retirement) is now upon you. Was there anything that triggered this decision at this time?

Jean Claude Biver: A successful entrepreneur has to achieve four quarter time. The first quarter is the Learning process (1975-1982 for me) the second one is the Action (1982-2012) the third one is the Transmission (which has just started for me and I hope it will last till 2016) and the fourth one is the Departure (this should take one year).

I had planned for about 18 months that 2012 should be the start of my third quarter time and should become my new challenge. Any entrepreneur who can go successfully complete the four quarter time can claim that he was successful during his career. I hope that this will also be the case for me.

JH - You are, in many ways, one of the last of the "Young Turks" who reinvented the mechanical watch industry in the 80s and 90s. You have had your hand on some of the most impressive brand revivals of any industry. Is Hublot really the last stop?

JCB - Yes, I believe that Hublot is the last stop, because I doubt I will find the energy to start one more adventure. I also believe that if you have had three successful experiences in your life you should rather say thank you and try to transmit you knowledge rather than trying to achieve a fourth success.

JH - You have achieved something without parallel with Hublot, taking what was essentially an marketing/assembler and turning it into one of the most important watch manufactures in the industry. So clearly, you understand what it takes not only to survive, but to thrive. Can the watch industry Swiss and otherwise, continue on in the same fashion?

JCB - Yes, the Swiss Watch Industry will continue to innovate, to be creative and to dominate the world market - provided they continue to master the quality and the quantities produced.

JH - With Mr. Guadalupe, it seems that Hublot is in very capable hands. We all know about the NOW, but let's go back. How did you two meet originally?

JCB - I met him during my Blancpain days when he was in the purchase and logistic department of Bulgari watches. I hired him for that job and after having handled purchasing with success along with logistics at Blancpain we also gave him the responsibility for Production, then also Marketing and finally also Sales, which made Ricardo a real Managing Director of Blancpain. He is one of the rare young managers who knows and understands all the departments of a watch brand.

JH - It is clear that you hold Ricardo Guadalupe in very high regard. I've written about "Biveresequa", but what is "Guadalupesequa"?

JCB - Give Ricardo a few years before you can identify the "Guadalupesequa".

JH- So now you are still, in many ways, the chief evangelist of Hublot - so what is the message? Has it changed?

JCB - I am still the "chief evangelist" of Hublot and will never lose this role as long as I am close to Hublot. The message of Hublot is not changing with the management. Management is there to communicate and defend the message, not to change the message.

JH - When I first interviewed you in 2010, I asked you about any instances in the past where things hadn't turned out the way that you'd hoped. I am sorry to press you now, but can you think of a specific instance where things went "pear shaped" and how you recovered?

JCB - No, I have no such example of anything that hadn't turned out the way I have hoped, except my health, which suddenly became more fragile in the last 9 months.

JH - Thinking back on all of your time in the industry, there must have been one - what is your baby - the favorite creation? Yes - you can only pick one!

JCB - My favorite creation is usually and most of the time the last one! But if one should be the most important, it would clearly be the hour and minute I saw the first prototype of the Big Bang in January 2005.

JH - What is wrong with the watch industry now?

JCB - Not much can be wrong, as the Swiss Watch Industry has never been so active, so innovative and so successful as today

JH - What is right with the watch industry now?

JCB - What is certainly a big asset today, is the huge innovation, R&D, and heavy industrialization and verticalization of our industry. What is also right are the number of apprentice we are welcoming every year in our industry and the numbers of kids that are attending the Watchmaking Schools.

JH - Looking back to when you started, do you have an "I wish I knew then what I know now" moment to share?

JCB - No, when I started I would have been happy and would have signed to achieve 10% of what I have achieved. Every defeat, every failure, every doubt, every deception only helped me to escalate the steps and come closer to success.

JH - What are your new duties with Hublot?

JCB - As Chairman I have to control and implement the global strategy of the Brand, the Product and R&D strategy and be the spokesperson or ambassador of the Brand

JH - So, "semi-retirement", what are some of the things you've been putting off that you will be picking up now?

JCB - I will travel less, but spend more time with people in the brand helping them to improve themselves and transmitting them my knowledge and my experience.

JH - I would ask for "final words" but judging from your previous track record - I might be profiling you again before the "ink" dries on this interview. Your success is not accidental, so again - what advice do you have for those out there hoping to emulate your success?

JCB - A part of my success is due to my passion. With passion you can climb over any summit. Another important part of my success is due to my team, which is a Dream Team and probably the best team of the watch industry. Another part of my success is my ethic behavior which is build on Sharing, Forgiving and Respecting.


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