Thursday, December 16, 2010

HR in the Luxury Industry

Yesterday I attended a conference at IE Business School boasting a loud name of "Career Development and Management in Fashion, Cosmetics and Luxury Industries". The timing of the event could not have been worse: right in the middle of my exam week and one day before the most feared Advanced Financial Management exam. Still, as curious as I am, I decided to attend, and my expectations did not tumble short. Apart from an insight into an industry which I had not had much dealings with apart from being a loyal customer, it was a great networking opportunity. Thanks to coffee breaks, workshops, round tables and the cocktail party at the end, we got a chance to rub shoulders with CEOs and HR VPs of such companies as LV, Carrera y Carrera, Loewe, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and the like. Quite a fascinating crowd, really, and refreshing as well. I caught myself musing over the peculiar combination of business savvy with an appreciation for what is beautiful to the extent of being useless from the layman's perspective.

I will just share with you the main points that I took away from the conference, in no order of importance whatsoever:

  • You must be passionate about the world of luxury. People there work for the idea and the feeling of belonging to the domain of gods, not the money. Luxury pays poorly, worse than FMCG. Luxury brands compensate with a "psychological salary" of being proud for working for that particular brand.
  • Cognitive dissonance: selling goods worth thousands of euros while getting very modest wages: potential entrants need to be well-aware and prepared for this step.
  • What they are looking for: creativity, innovation management, strategic capacity, brand management, building shared vision.
  • Where will an MBA candidate most likely start? Retail. Fresh business school graduates should not expect doing big growth projects - otherwise current CEOs will be left without jobs.
  • What value will you create working in the Luxury industry? A dream. You will give your customers a dream they will be living.
Carlos Delso, General Director of Louis Vuitton for Spain, Portugal and Marocco shared his four rules for success in the industry:
  1. Set yourself stretched goals
  2. Innovate to achieve them
  3. Know yourself a bit better each day
  4. Love your neighbor
Those might sound trite and common sense, but they are particularly important in an environment where dreams are "made and used and wasted". Otherwise, how will you be better than the others in dream creation?

Thus, if you are considering to enter the world of glamor, think well about the the first question you are likely to be asked at the interview (any interview, in fact):
Why are you here?

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