Wednesday, 8 December 2010

So Long...

Dear All,

it has been an exciting experience to go trhrough all these stories with you and I think you have found this blog unconventional and inspiring as the stories that it includes.
It has been a challenge for me to write a blog and as it was my first time, it is not perfect.
My only hope, really, is to have stimulated your imagination and your creativity.
We grow up and life gets tougher and more challenging but our imagination is one of life's most valuable gifts and, as we have seen, is often the trigger of a successfull business story.

Thank you all for reading my blog,

have an excellent life!


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Escaping from the City

I might sound naive and not very cool but this week I am going to post something which has taken my attention in the last week.The article I am posting, taken from the online edition of the financial times, it is connected to our topic, even though it is not directly a story of excellence.
I found it very interesting and inspiring and reflects a feeling that I have been cultivating inside me during my studies in the Uk.
It is a very nice consideration about the aims of young graduates and their future prospectives.
The author meets my idea of a productive world, filled with dedication and passion for what someone is doing and not merely passion for money.
Also, in times where everything it is becoming fast and leading to major problems (see the financial crisis and the subprime crunch) I think it would be good if young smart graduates moved back to create new product and services that make people feel and live better.
Creating a new company, creating new products and services is driven by energy and passion and not by greed.
Greed, together with trend is probably one of the major causes at the roots of the financial crisis.
The financial crisis has given us the chance to think and make serious reasoning about what really matters. I am not claiming that the whole financial system is wrong and I am not saying that financial services are not useful for the economy. Venture capitalists and banks can often be the trigger to transform outstanding entrepreneurial ideas into reality. What, in my opinion, has been underestimated is once again the persuasive power of money on the human nature. Human beings, as Francis Bacon used to say, are greedy and care mostly about their selves. After all, Smith and Marx, even if from different perspectives, had predicted this.
Education is at the basis and how young minds are formed and educated is crucial for our future.

I found really sad how in our society greed has been inspired and publicized; big Wall Street fish acting like divas, incompetent managers dropping their company in terrible conditions and pop out with millionaire bonuses are examples on how the social problem has been underestimated in the past.
But problems have to be solved at the beginning and that's why this article is very inspiring...

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A wise fellow recently gave me his explanation for the financial crisis: too many highly intelligent graduates went to work in the investment banks on Wall Street and in the City. I know what he means: such characters were too clever by half, pushing securitisation, derivatives, swaps and a plethora of financial instruments to such excess that they almost destroyed capitalism.
All that concentrated brainpower focused on one thing: making as much money as they could as quickly as possible. The legions of high-flyers with PhDs and MBAs queueing up to get jobs in financial markets had worked out a basic truth: the closer you are to the money, the easier it is to get rich.
They are right, of course. Doing tedious things such as inventing real products, manufacturing goods and providing genuine services for a profit is hard work and takes time. It requires travel to savage places with industrial estates, many miles from the money centres full of skyscrapers. Whereas if you just manipulate vast sums of money – via shares, bonds, options or even more complicated and obscure securities – you just have to shave off a tiny fraction from each trade, and pretty soon you’re raking in billions.
I hope ordinary citizens do not confuse such would-be financial geniuses with real entrepreneurs. I chaired a Prince’s Trust discussion last week with about 50 of the genuine article. They confirmed that they build companies because they have a dream, a desire to serve customers, see an idea become tangible, beat the competition and myriad other reasons – but that cash is rarely the chief driver. They are passionate and proud about the company – profit is a byproduct; they gain their fulfilment by seeing their creation grow.
But if you are an ambitious employee in the money business, how else do you measure success except with money? Moreover, if entrepreneurs speculate, they tend to use their own resources and suffer the consequences when it goes wrong. But when Stan O’Neal destroyed Merrill Lynch, Fred Goodwin blew up RBS, Joe Cassano obliterated AIG, and Dick Fuld led Lehmans to bankruptcy, it was taxpayers who had to fork out hundreds of billions to deal with the mess. A peculiar form of hubris must infect the bosses of major financial institutions. Let us hope that cohort of financial bosses is never replicated. Banks should not be left under the supervision of gunslingers whose sole objective is money; they should be managed by conservative stewards who are prudent rather than adventurous.
Having worked in the City of London for a few years in the 1980s, my experience was that financial services can get very boring. This is not a bad thing – too much excitement at a bank is dangerous. I suspect quite a few bankers are frustrated in their jobs and are almost ashamed of what they do; they comfort themselves with huge salaries and bonuses, grand houses and luxurious holidays. This is the compensation for working in giant, highly regulated corporations that have no end-product except money. Secretly, I’m sure many of the highly educated, cultured participants would rather be spending their career in something more constructive – perhaps making bridges or cars or writing software. But, sadly, real engineering does not pay as well as financial engineering.
We should all hope that the pendulum has now swung away from high finance, and that very few of our brightest degree holders want to apprentice at Goldman Sachs. No doubt the rewards are still better there, but the reputation of the Masters of the Universe is not as glorious as it was. Of course we still need banks and stock markets and the other elements of the financial system. I don’t want to demonise the Square Mile and Wall Street. But we must ensure that not too many of the best young talents end up there. There should be a wholesale rebalancing towards other occupations – mainstream industry, in particular – by the brightest from our top universities. Last week I hosted my old college reception, and was encouraged when I met final year students. Working in an investment bank is no longer seen by them as sexy. This is great news.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

An interview with Tamara Mellon


Tamara Mellon and her excellent intuition

Tamara Mellon and her excellent intuition

An intuition is sometimes the key to switch on the engine of a successful business story. The difficult part is probably to trust and follow the intuition and take risks.
Tamara Mellon, the founder and Chief Creative officer of Jimmy Choo, a fashion footwear and accessories brand, was chief editor of accessories at Vogue when, in 1996, found the shoemaker Jimmy Choo’s boutique in east London.
She thought that the creative potential of the shoemaker, mixed with her experience in the sector, could have led to the creation of a new icon brand for women.
Together they decided to launch a ready to wear shoes brand with production based in Italy and opened the first Jimmy Choo shop in Motocomb Street in London.
In 1998 Jimmy Choo opened stores in New York and L.A. and immediately started to appeal to young Hollywood stars such as Hilary Swank and Halle Berry.
Mrs. Mellon understood from the very early stages of her company that the link between her company and Hollywood had to be strong if she wanted to build a strong brand with high visibility.
To achieve this Jimmy Choo was one of the firsts brands that created customized items made to be wore at the Oscars Night.
Its strong presence in the market and in the mindsets of women was also established thanks to the cult American tv series “Sex & the City”.
All around the world women watching the comedy and aspiring to become like their idols saw the Jimmy Choo’s shoes at their “divas” feet and wanted to have them as well.
Growth however was not only achieved by responding to strong demand. Jimmy Choo during the years has been able to raise capital from various sources:
In 2001, when Equinox Luxury Holdings L.t.d., acquired Mr. Choo’s equity; in 2004 Lion Capital acquired a majority shareholding valuing the company £101 million; in 2007 Tower Brook Capital Partners bought the majority of Jimmy Choo’s shares for £185 Million.
With a mixture of capital injection and strong demand the company was able to achieve extensive growth during the years reaching its actual level of approximately 100 stores in 32 countries.

Below we report an interview with Tamara Mellon taken from the Financial Times “20 Questions”.

How would your PA describe you?
My last PA called me “the Buddha” because I always remain calm.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the variety of design – from an inspiration trip with my team to the concept development of new products – and the business management and brand direction with CEO Joshua Schulman.
And least?
I wish I could satisfy all the business requests and maintain a healthy balanced life being a great mother with enough time for my friends.
What time do you start and finish work?
I’m strict with my daily routine, waking early to ensure my daughter gets to school on time, maintaining exercise for a healthy mind and juggling work and meetings. The work day pauses when my daughter returns from school and resumes when she’s in bed.
When do you turn off your BlackBerry?
Holidays are a no-go zone.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
Some of my jobs have been pretty laborious – but the experience all contributes somehow to my business.
What is your smartest business idea?
Setting up Jimmy Choo.
What did your father teach you about business?
Trust my instincts.
Have you ever lied at work?
Only when I was young and came in late with a hangover.
If you hadn’t been in business, what would you have done?
I’ve always had an inclination to work in fashion, starting with my days selling at Portobello Market, but my hobby is psychology.
Tips for working with private equity investors?
After three private equity deals, that’s a book.
Is business sexist?
It is less prevalent now than when I was younger.
What did the board say about you posing nude for Interview magazine?
It was an amusement, a welcome break from the business numbers.
Does appearing in the gossip pages hinder or help your business?
Being in the public eye is integral to the business.
Have your looks been an advantage or disadvantage in business?
Being well-groomed is part of living the brand.
What did Sex and the City do for your business?
It allowed Jimmy Choo a platform for global recognition at a time when we were fast becoming a household name.
Has your job made your personal life suffer?
I adore my job but it is incredibly difficult to balance a personal life.
How important is money?
It’s about the passion for what you do. If you are passionate, money will follow. 
When do you want to retire?
I can’t quite envisage an end date, Jimmy Choo is such a personal involvement.
How do you want to be remembered?
For being an innovator in creating and marketing a global luxury lifestyle brand and hopefully an inspiration to women.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Interview With Richard Reed

Innocent Excellence

Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright
The fathers of Innocent

Would you ever give up your job to start a 500 pounds capital company that makes smoothies?
This is what, in 1998, Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright did, they started the Innocent drinks company.
Driven by the idea that people could live a healthier life and that companies could be respectful of the environment, they created, with a 500 pounds stock of fruit, a selection of smoothies that they started selling at a music festival in London. By that time they were still not sure about giving up their jobs to start their “innocent” adventure and with an excellent marketing move they as the company's history reminds us “ We put up a big sign saying 'Do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?' and put out a bin saying 'YES' and a bin saying 'NO' and asked people to put the empty bottle in the right bin. At the end of the weekend the 'YES' bin was full so we went in the next day and resigned”.
After having resigned they found a place in Sheperds Bush, London to base their headquarters, The Fruit Towers and started the company with the help of the american investor Maurice Pinto who invested 250000 pounds into the venture.
Since then, the company has been a continuous succes, experienced extensive growth and since 2002 to 2007 was the only company to appear in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 (the 100 fastest growing private companies in the UK) for five years consecutively.
The founders sold 58% of the shares to the Coca Cola Company raising around 90 million pounds.
The company has various challenges and aims and not small ones!
It aims to become the most sustainable company in the world but to do so there are a series of challenges that they have to face. In an interview Richard Reed states: They can’t grow in the UK (bananas ndr). They’re coming on a boat, which will be running primarily on diesel, which emits CO2. So what do I do? To truly take carbon out of the business system, fruit from Costa Rica would have to stop. But that would mean no bananas. No bananas, no smoothies. Am I going to make that decision? No, I’m not. Am I going to find a way to get them here more efficiently? Absolutely right. We can all talk abut the little things and that’s the right place to start. But what happens when you get through that? That’s the bit I don’t know.”
This statement points out some of the biggest challenges that “green companies” have to face: business against environment, often is the issue.
What are they trying to do at Innocent is to merge the two things, like the ingredients of a fruit smoothie.....