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When Jean-Christophe Bédos was head-hunted from his high flying job at Cartier to turn around jewellers to the royalty and stars, Boucheron, he thought: “it’s time to jump from the flight simulator to the real thing!” and quite a ride it has been…

White Water has worked with Jean-Christophe and his team from day one and was fortunate both to participate in and observe strategy in real time. Boucheron is a a 150 year-old luxury goods business based in Paris with a strong weighting to the French and Japanese markets. Its main craft is high-end jewellery and watches, but it is also famous for its perfumes and accessories. The Gucci Group acquired the family-owned business in 2000 and was not immediately successful in applying its fashion management methods to what is a very different business. Jean-Christophe was hired to turn the business around and expand it in the new emerging luxury markets of China and Russia.

“This was my first full P&L role and the L was certainly bigger that the P! So where do you start in a real-life case study? The best thing for me was that I was supported by the group board to take enough time to think and analyse before declaring my strategy, although we were in the middle of a financial crisis.” He continues: “I was also grateful to have a senior coach from White Water working with me from day one to help analyse situations objectively and prioritise actions.” The next 18 months were a whirlwind of activity from drastic cost-cutting to rebuilding the business on its core values of creativity, design and high-end quality. “I am not a turnaround artist, I am a business builder” muses Jean-Christophe, “so restoring top line growth was an absolute priority but you had to cut spend at the same time… a very interesting juggling act in an industry were sales are driven by marketing investment.”

Reflecting on lessons for aspiring leaders he offers: “There are things I could have done better – some roles should have been eliminated, but there are people who are popular or who are costly to move on. Procrastination just doesn’t work.” He learned that by far the best business advice is: “You really have only 100 days to formulate your strategy and take key decisions.”

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