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Jean-Marc Gallot, CEO of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin “Listen to your intuition!”

Published on 10 January 2022 by NEOMA

  • conferences
  • Entrepreneurship

For the past three years, the NEOMA humanities conferences have offered students the opportunity to learn about the future responsibilities that will soon be theirs and to communicate with major executives. This past November, Jean-Marc Gallot, CEO of champagne Veuve Clicquot and Class of ’88 MiM graduate, answered students’ questions in Reims. It was very stimulating!

If you could sum up your career in four words, what would they be?

I would first say, “luck,” which can materialise through an internship or an encounter. I would then say “instinct.” When I was working at Cartier where everything was on the up and up, I decided to join the Christofle company, which at the time was on the verge of insolvency. I went to work there because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to prove that I could have an impact on the results of the business. I’ve never regretted it. The third word would be “mentor.” Choose your boss! Your manager is much more important than your position. The person whom you are going to work with is going to help you develop, inspire you, and propel you forward. This is vital. Lastly, I would say “agility.” I decided to leave behind a comfortable situation for the U.S. so I could take stock in where I was going and face new challenges. Being agile allows you to create new opportunities.

Concerning your experience in the United States, is international experience a prerequisite for becoming a CEO?

No, it’s not indispensible. But my time abroad provided a way to shift my perspective, analyse things and learn from other cultures. I would not be the same person today if I had not spent seven extraordinary years in the US. The outlook I have today of performance and efficiency is directly inspired by my experience in North America. We all know the expression “straight to the point,” but we don’t all apply it in the same way. I am very committed to this intense demand for efficiency and you can find that in my managerial practices. At Veuve Clicquot, for example, we prefer short meetings of about forty-five minutes, which force us to get to the point. It’s very stimulating.

 Veuve Clicquot puts a lot of emphasis on gender equality, as seen in the scholarship programme for ten female students from NEOMA that your company finances. More specifically, your champagne house highlights women in entrepreneurship. Why are you committed to this cause?

Because the spirit of Madame Clicquot is found in the heat and soul of the house. Everything done today at Veuve Clicquot is inspired by the honour paid to this woman who was focused and charismatic throughout her entire life. She was the first major company executive at a time where it was nearly impossible for a woman to lead a company. Even legally, you needed to be a widow! Today, we want to continue this heritage by placing emphasis on inspiring women leading companies in all sectors. A survey has shown that ninety-three per cent of women who want to create or lead business ventures need a model, but only fourteen per cent of them can mention the name of a female entrepreneur.

What is the place for women at the core of the Veuve Clicquot house?

Our executive committee is currently made up of three women and five men versus one woman and seven men when I arrived. And sixty per cent of the executives are women. I think that quotas could be a good idea when a company has a long way to go and you need to spur on profound change. I would not be opposed to having more women in engineering schools for example, which today are “full of men.” Technology and algorithms are creating the world of tomorrow, so shouldn’t we have more women participating in that?

You’ve returned to NEOMA, the school that educated you. What have you taken away from those years?

First of all, I would like to say that it has been an immensely pleasurable experience to come back to my school. From NEOMA, I recall encounters and life-long friends. I also remember the spirit of the school that pushed us to be more mature, contemplative people who can join a company as someone that you can count on. NEOMA’s trademark is educating responsible people in every sense of the term responsibility. I also remember the time we spent working in groups. We were never alone. After two years of preparatory classes, I learned that interaction was fundamental for success in business, and that you learn a great deal by engaging with points of view that are different from your own. At NEOMA, I advise you to put together working groups that are as diverse as possible, which will help you learn faster and better. For your future professional life, I would advise you to join teams that are also very diverse, which will help you to develop a wide-ranging outlook.

What advice would you like to give students?

Believe in your lucky star, pay close attention to your intuition, do internships to learn what you want to do as well as what you do not. And no matter what happens, show respect to others!

What students took away

Cléophée: “I saw that anything is possible at NEOMA!”

Eloïse: “I found it to be very inspiring! It’s encouraging to see how some companies support women and value their ambition. I also thought it was very motivating to hear major NEOMA alumni speak. These impressive professional paths really invigorate us!”

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