Pierre Cabane (Kibio) : "English-speaking countries are more focused on growth and have a more modern strategic vision"

Mar 01, 2018

After 25 years as a senior executive at L'Oréal, then CEO of Bioderma / Esthederm, Pierre Cabane (class of ‘82) founded his cosmetics brand, Kibio in 2005. 5 years later, he sold Kibio to Clarins. In 2012, he embarked on a new adventure: PMT Conseils, a company specialising in strategic consulting, brand building and governance in SMEs and midcaps. Cabane also teaches political Sciences at Paris-Dauphine University. He is motivated by "The desire to pass on knowledge."

Why did you create PMT Conseils?

I personally believe that a company’s growth depends primarily on just that: growth, and not cost reduction.  With PMT Conseils, I help companies to develop and build their brand and to establish themselves internationally. In order to achieve this, talents must be nurtured the charisma and leadership of the company’s directed must be perfected. The idea has matured with my past experiences. When you’re 20 years old, human resources aren’t all that interesting. Now, I want to share my knowledge and my vision.

What do you think of the French way of managing?

Most of the time, employees are told what is wrong. This is the total opposite of what we should be doing. To engage and retain employees, it is necessary to stimulate and inspire them. The world of work has changed profoundly, it is no longer possible to motivate millennials and the next generation with old concepts. Young people don’t believe in climbing the career ladder and are not sure they want to stay in the same company for 40 years anyway.

We have entered an era of "slashers":  people now tend to have several projects on the go at once. For some, this is a way of supplementing their income, for others, it is a way of paying the pills while actually doing something they enjoy on the side. Pleasure is very important for the so-called Y and Z generations.

What do you recommend to improve working conditions?

I invented the acronym RIRE (‘laugh’ in French), which stands for: Remuneration, Interesting work, Recognition and Evolution. If companies started implementing this in a sincere and serious way, they would succeed in motivating their teams. Unfortunately, in France, executives are poorly trained in management, the concept of fun is often foreign to them and they are themselves under pressure from those above them.

What did you take away from your education emlyon?

The wide range of subjects taught. We were lucky enough to tackle a range of disciplines and develop complex thinking. The fact that the school is international is also a real plus. I also remember an educational approach based on teamwork and play. You’ll have guessed by now that, for me, taking pleasure is key to personal development.

Before PMT Conseils, you set up your cosmetics business, had you dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur for a long time?

No, I didn’t always want that. In fact, I was 45 years old when I became an entrepreneur, but I can see that entrepreneurship brings great joy. Designing your own products is quite something.

What would you say to a student who wants to get started?

Go for it! At 20, when you are still in school, the risks are minimal. And even if you fail, you should keep this quote from Nelson Mandela in mind: “I never lose. Either I win or I learn. ” I would also advise them to get acquainted with the international environment, and to learn other ways of working. I have worked a lot with English-speaking countries; they have a more entrepreneurial and perhaps less intellectual vision than France. They are also more focused on growth and have a more modern strategic vision.

Things still seem to evolve in France though…

That is true. France is one of the easiest countries in which to become an entrepreneur,  but while relatively easy  to achieve a turnover of 2 or 3 million euros, significant growth seems more difficult. Banks are not always helpful and are more likely to lend to large companies than to small ones. It's a shame, it makes it harder to develop  big companies.

Do you have a particular memory of emlyon?

Henri Savall, a professor who worked on the notion of the immaterial, once told me that if given two choices, pick the one you are most enthusiastic about. In other words: put passion before reason. I never forgot this advice and I pass it on to younger generations: have fun, do what you really like, don’t be a social climber for the sake of it.

Is there a figure that inspires you?

Churchill, for his courage. This is an important quality. Sometimes you have to be brave enough to go against the grain, and have the strength to impose what you think is right.

Do you think you’ll set up another company?

Maybe in the hotel and catering sector. It is a creative sector, based on passing down knowledge and bringing pleasure. Perhaps a high-end venue that caters to the spirit’s well-being. Maybe a cultural hotel ...


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