TAKE THE COURAGE TO MOVE FORWARD
Alain Visser, Senior Vice President Marketing, Sales, Services und PR Geely Auto
Senior Vice President Marketing, Sales, Services and PR bei Geely Auto
“Alain Visser wird man sehr selten mit schlechter Laune antreffen – er strahlt stets Fröhlichkeit und Zuversicht aus…” Das ist, was man so in der Online-Welt über Alain Visser liest.
Er war einer der Workshop Hosts der diesjährigen League of Leading Ladies Konferenz (LLL) mit dem Thema „Smash the Box – if you can dream it, you can do it“. Ich habe ihn an der LLL mit viel Humor und einem breitem Lachen im Gesicht erlebt.
Alain Visser ist in Belgien geboren, hat seine Karriere in der Autoindustrie in 1986 gestartet und sie dort weitergeführt. Im Oktober 2015 übernahm er die Position als Vice President Global Marketing, Sales, Services und PR für Geely, einer der grössten chinesischen Automobilhersteller. Davor war er Senior Vice Senior President Marketing, Sales und Customer Service bei Volvo.
Man kennt Alain Visser in der sehr konservativen Autoindustrie, als jemand, der den Status Quo ständig herausfordert und hinterfragt, jemand, der seit Jahren mutig anders denkt und für “ how to shake up a century old industry and smash the automotive box of legacy” steht. Dieses war auch sein Thema an der LLL. Er wurde von Forbes als einer der “Top 10” einflussreichsten Chief Marketing Officer der Welt in den letzten zwei Jahren ernannt.
Sein „anders Denken“ kam auch in einer spannenden Diskussion über das Thema Autoindustrie und Frauen hervor. Konkreter gesagt, wie die Autoindustrie Frauen als Werbeträger nutzt – da gehen gewisse Ethiken ja total verloren. Er denkt auch diesbezüglich anders und ist ein Gegner dieser sich eingenisteten Selbstverständlichkeit.
Ich freue mich sehr, dass ich mein Gespräch mit Alain Visser in der Reihe „Inspirierende Menschen“ mit Ihnen teilen kann. Ein grosses Dankeschön auf diesem Weg an Alain Visser für seine inspirierenden Gedanken.
(Das Interview ist auf Englisch geführt.)
How would someone who knows you best describe you?
I know what I would like to be described as but only my colleagues can judge how I really come across. Anyway, I will give it a try with the following description: positive, friendly, innovative and creative, somewhat chaotic and impatient. I have not at all achieved to be the leader I want to be yet, and I make mistakes every day, but I do not give up trying.
What does being courageous mean for you?
I think human beings are by nature herd animals. We like to follow the crowd as it is safer and risk is low. Being courageous for me is about escaping the herd, going against the flow, doing the unexpected, but also daring to go for your cause even if a majority does not believe in it. That also means that being courageous needs to go hand in hand with good judgment. If you decide to go your way despite a majority not supporting it, you better make sure your judgment is solid. Otherwise you end up like the car driver on the motorway listening to the radio and hearing that there's a ghost rider on his road and he reacts saying 'One ghost rider, I see hundreds of them.'
My experience is that there are always more reasons NOT to do a new thing then to go for it. If it is the right thing, that one killing argument can be enough. Then go for it. That is courage to me.
When did you last face up to a challenge, whereby you really needed courage?
For me it comes with the job and the industry. I try to innovate in an industry that has hardly moved for more then a century. The car industry is big, powerful, arrogant and somewhat disconnected from the new consumer trends. As someone trying to innovate, I hit walls all the time. It motivates me. I could quote so many examples but rather recently when I was in my Volvo period responsible for launching the XC90, we established a concept to launch the car on internet sales only, limit the offer to the best equipped car (so at high price level) , start selling before the car was even shown and not to launch it on a traditional motor show. Particularly selling the highest priced Volvo ever online only without being able to show the customer the car was perceived by the majority of my board colleagues as 'way too risky'. We went ahead anyway and it was probably the most successful launch Volvo ever had.
What happened? What did you do?
At the end of the day it all depends on getting the right people convinced, not all people. You need to sell your ideas, convince, not explain. If you are convinced of something, you should not give up. Strangely enough at any position you end up in a company, you always just lack that bit of responsibility to make all the calls you want to make. You have your colleagues (you cant work in isolated silo's) and you always have a boss. The VP marketing needs to convince his VP sales and marketing. The VP Sales and marketing needs to convince the CEO. And the CEO needs to convince the board and/or the shareholders. It is probably the biggest frustration in the careers of leaders, which is predominantly driven by an addictive desire for more power.
What advice, or which thoughts and inspiration would you give to people in a similar situation?
Do not be stubborn but be persistent. Sometimes, during your battle for your idea you get confronted with arguments that destroy your cause. If that happens, be professional and give up. In all other circumstances, stay on course. Build a case, get facts, create allies and if you do not have the talent to persuade others, engage others to do it for you. Do not ever forget, there are always more reasons not to do a great new idea then to go for it. Yet, if it is the right thing, it is your responsibility, it is your job to fight for it!