The Visible Leader

Their ads have remained the same all these years. And this is why the brand intrigues me no end. The slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation” is placed on all of their ads. Just like their timepieces, which are considered the most admired and respected in the world of luxury watches; the idea transmitted through the ad is genius and perfectly translates the timeless character of the brand. The idea works this way. Since you are not going to buy a good watch every week, so if you want something for life (and longer), then Patek Philippe is the way to go. We can definitely agree with that! This is why I was thrilled no end upon knowing that I will get to have a private dinner with Thierry Stern, the young president of the company.

Flying to Geneva with the Ilocana and joining the father and son team of Ivan and Vohne Yao the four of us plus a few Singaporean watch dealer friends shared the dinner table with Thierry Stern and his commercial director Jerome Pernici. Charming to the core the president played host and kept us totally entertained. He talked about the brand, he talked about the company and the responsibility of running it but the one thing that he impressed upon me is his insistence to visit every major client of his all over the world not only to find out what their needs are but to enhance his relationship with them. This is why it came as no surprise when both Stern and Pernici visited the Philippines some time ago in an event hosted by Lucerne Jewellers. Pernuci who was sitting next to me whispered, “Mr. Sterns takes his private jet and flies all over the world visiting his clients because he knows that relationships are important in this business.”

Now isn’t that a lesson we all can learn? And as I think about this I am reminded of Alfred P. Sloan, when he built General Motors in the 1930’s defied the typical notion of a chairman because he liked to actually work with customers. Sloan would do a disappearing act from his Detroit headquarters and show up at a dealer’s lot in another city, introduced himself and ask the dealer’s permission to work as an assistant service manager, or as a salesman for a few days. The dealers would always said yes for how could they refuse a great man anyway. The next week, Sloan would be back in his office firing off memos on customer behavior and customer preferences on everything from dealers to auto styling. And this is possible because Sloan spotted more important trends than traditional customer research did and he spotted them earlier and would not be vulnerable to the sanitized and sterilized versions his underlings would bring him.

All successful leaders stay close to their customers. All strategic leaders spend more time away from their fancy offices and visit their branches or their stores.

Sam Walton was known to have traveled to the front lines of everyone of his Wal-Mart stores throughout his life. He even spent time on the lading docks in the middle of the night talking with the crews.

Ivan Yao makes random store visits every day to find out what’s happening and his brother Emmerson stays close to his clients sharing the latest information on watch trends and development. An executive from a leading bank visits even the most remotely located branch just to find out what’s happening and build up the morale of the people working there.

In other words great leaders do not lose touch with the front lines. And this could very well turn out to be the single most important factor in a company’s ability to deal with trends, change, competition and crisis.

And let me not forget one crucial thing. Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern exhibited humility and was so warm and easy to talk to. Maybe because he has nothing else to prove. Maybe because he is secure as a leader and maybe this is the reason why his watches and his company will remain strong for the future because he is merely looking after it for the next generation.

Their ads have remained the same all these years. And this is why the brand intrigues me no end. The slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation” is placed on all of their ads. Just like their timepieces, which are considered the most admired and respected in the world of luxury watches; the idea transmitted through the ad is genius and perfectly translates the timeless character of the brand. The idea works this way. Since you are not going to buy a good watch every week, so if you want something for life (and longer), then Patek Philippe is the way to go. We can definitely agree with that! This is why I was thrilled no end upon knowing that I will get to have a private dinner with Thierry Stern, the young president of the company.

Flying to Geneva with the Ilocana and joining the father and son team of Ivan and Vohne Yao the four of us plus a few Singaporean watch dealer friends shared the dinner table with Thierry Stern and his commercial director Jerome Pernici. Charming to the core the president played host and kept us totally entertained. He talked about the brand, he talked about the company and the responsibility of running it but the one thing that he impressed upon me is his insistence to visit every major client of his all over the world not only to find out what their needs are but to enhance his relationship with them. This is why it came as no surprise when both Stern and Pernici visited the Philippines some time ago in an event hosted by Lucerne Jewellers. Pernuci who was sitting next to me whispered, “Mr. Sterns takes his private jet and flies all over the world visiting his clients because he knows that relationships are important in this business.”

Now isn’t that a lesson we all can learn? And as I think about this I am reminded of Alfred P. Sloan, when he built General Motors in the 1930’s defied the typical notion of a chairman because he liked to actually work with customers. Sloan would do a disappearing act from his Detroit headquarters and show up at a dealer’s lot in another city, introduced himself and ask the dealer’s permission to work as an assistant service manager, or as a salesman for a few days. The dealers would always said yes for how could they refuse a great man anyway. The next week, Sloan would be back in his office firing off memos on customer behavior and customer preferences on everything from dealers to auto styling. And this is possible because Sloan spotted more important trends than traditional customer research did and he spotted them earlier and would not be vulnerable to the sanitized and sterilized versions his underlings would bring him.

All successful leaders stay close to their customers. All strategic leaders spend more time away from their fancy offices and visit their branches or their stores.

Sam Walton was known to have traveled to the front lines of everyone of his Wal-Mart stores throughout his life. He even spent time on the lading docks in the middle of the night talking with the crews.

Ivan Yao makes random store visits every day to find out what’s happening and his brother Emmerson stays close to his clients sharing the latest information on watch trends and development. An executive from a leading bank visits even the most remotely located branch just to find out what’s happening and build up the morale of the people working there.

In other words great leaders do not lose touch with the front lines. And this could very well turn out to be the single most important factor in a company’s ability to deal with trends, change, competition and crisis.

And let me not forget one crucial thing. Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern exhibited humility and was so warm and easy to talk to. Maybe because he has nothing else to prove. Maybe because he is secure as a leader and maybe this is the reason why his watches and his company will remain strong for the future because he is merely looking after it for the next generation.

3 thoughts on “The Visible Leader

  1. Sean

    Indeed you have to focus on the individual people if you want to change their hearts to follow you as a leader or if you want them to follow your brand or company in doing business with.

  2. akaTyra

    This article reminds me of the owner of Kamayan ( Saisaki / Dad’s). But I don’t know his name.. what he does instead is talk to his employees. He welcomes them to his office and they converse for hours. I saw this in one of the magazine shows when I was about 11 y.o. I am now 24y.o. Amazing how it stuck to my memory.

  3. Lisette Ori

    Thanks for this gr8 article. I found it through bing and i find it very interesting. i will look for more such interesting articles at this wordpress blog. 🙂

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