Anémone Berès: adaptability and flexibility are what we need today
“I really like strategic analysis that brings you to build the business plan and make sense for it. If you’re lucky, it actually can be turned into reality.” With more than fifteen years experience of general management in retail and media, Anémone Berès has been teaching strategic courses at Sciences Po since 2012.
After graduating from INSEAD MBA, Anémone founded FNAC Junior (Oxybul today) and has been its CEO for three years. Afterwards she has been CEO of Éditions Larousse and Chairman of a menswear textile brand Gentleman Farmer successively. In the early stage of career, she has always been in the operational positions. As time passed by and experience accumulated, her preference has gradually changed. “I wanted to have a less operational job with more time for thinking.” So in 2006, Anémone founded AMSTRAM, a strategy consulting firm, and started to teach at Sciences Po. Currently she is also the Chairman of the board of ENVIE, a non-profit organization specializes in recycling.
Anémone’s first class at Sciences Po was Financial Strategy for master in French track. Later on she proposed the course Risk and Strategy, since “it’s a very important issue for a manager”. “In real life you have to take risks, also to avoid and to live with them, which is really different from what it was taught as strategic analysis. It’s interesting to use my life experience and to show that how hard it is to be a manager.” Now that Corporate Strategy course is also available for English track, Anémone also has the chance to interact with students from various backgrounds with career expectations. “No matter they are more business-oriented or not, all the students show earnest interest in strategy. It’s interesting to study strategic cases with these diverse points of views.”
At this moment when most of us are about to be drawn in job applications, we are dying to know the selection criteria. Anemone’s answer is “adaptability and flexibility”. “The capabilities to connect things that don’t seem to be so connected, and try to find the sense for them. Not to be too narrow-minded or have rigid certitudes. Be cautious for people who have a certain criteria. Be ready to be warm, to change your mind because you’ll get some interesting input. The second question is more about attitude, characters and loyalty.”
Coming from a more conservative Asian cultural background, I couldn’t help but often notice the contradiction between modesty and confidence. So I asked Anémone for advice about it. “Personally I appreciate modesty. But on the other hand, it doesn’t impose sufficient amount of confidence. I would not say that we don’t have to respect our managers, but this attitude is less in our culture. So at work, you will be expected to step in, to have something to say, and to show your capacity to contribute. Be confident but not arrogant, this is the subtle bottom line.”
Usually during the first class of each semester, the professors will ask students to introduce themselves by talking about their career plan. Some of us seem to be level headed, while some others are still on their way of exploration. How about Anémone during her course of schooling? “More than twenty years ago at the end of my MBA, we had a group work, in which we projected what we wanted to be. I haven’t kept the papers we had written down. But if I look at them now, it would be totally crazy. We were all strikingly ambitious. But when you are finishing your studies and ready to enter the world, it’s nice and good to be ambitious. There will be a lot of occasions in life that will not meet your ambitions. You have to narrow down. The situation will bring that down to you.”
“What’s good about the training here is that Sciences Po gives students the tools to be able to analyze the business world, and to be within the business. It’s ok to be ambitious and we should be. It needs a lot of energy to get things done and to be in the competition. But one should be ambitious and knowing his strengths at the same time. It’s important to know what you want to be. You have to be wanting a lot to be able to find your own way.”
Looking from another aspect, we are lucky enough to live in an era with endless possibilities. It feels unrealistic when I think about my parents or even earlier generations, most of whom maintained to stay in one position at the same company for many years or even their whole life. Yet at the same time the choices could be confusing for those who are not clear about their expectations and preferences on future careers. Anemone is able to soothe it out for us: “We’re all going to change several times in our life. This will be the rule for almost everyone especially the educated people. Later on you might come across a good idea by chance, you might meet someone, or you might just answer a job offer. Anyhow you must be aware to use all your educational talents to analyze who and where you are, what people expect from you, and then you might move to something else. It’s ok. Just grab one opportunity then move to the next one.”
Photo and text by Jinglan Su