As it happens, today I had the pleasure of catching up with 15 people I worked with during the 1980’s at JWT. A couple of the folks there I hadn’t seen in three decades though it didn’t take much time to close the gap. As a whole, this was not a shy bunch — Thompson (as we called it back then) didn’t really attract many wallflowers. And though several had found new careers outside of marketing, nearly half of us are still fighting the good fight either at agencies or on the client side.
Having covered our families and current events, discussion turned to the challenges of being a modern marketer. At that moment, I thought about the collective wisdom, the incredible talent and associated power of this little network. No doubt this was a special group and several us vowed to get back in touch right after the holidays. Would we help each other personally or professionally if we could? No doubt. Would we make the time to keep the lines of communication fresh in 2016? Aye, there’s the rub. It takes a genuine commitment to maintain a network.
And now that you know how I spent my lunch hour, I want to introduce you to Emmanuel Laroche, CMO at Symrise, “globally recognized as a leading provider of fragrances, flavors, active ingredients and aroma chemicals.” Emmanuel and I met about five years ago through The CMO Club and I got to know him better when I wrote about his online community for FastCompany.com. Since then I have seen him at several events and wasn’t at all surprise when he won The CMO President’s Circle Award which “recognizes a marketing executive’s demonstrated dedication to the mission of the CMO Club by building relationships with peer members, collaborating and sharing with members and helping new CMOs to benefit from the peer-based community conversations.” Emmanuel is definitely a guy who can teach you a thing or two about the “give to get” nature of networking.
Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to doing your job well? Can you provide a specific example of some action you took as a result of your network?
I believe this is one critical aspect in business and in life in general which is often overlooked especially in the early stages of most carrier. I remember focusing on my education background and developing a rich professional experience were my main priorities. Now I spend time with my team members, with the new graduates interns and even with my children to encourage them to network early on. Funny enough I offer regularly the “Little Black Book of Connection” to every millennial I meet in business to emphasize the importance of building your network early on.
In 2015 I have reached out several times to my connections within THE CMO Club to extend my network to new members, to “use” them as soundboard in projects, for new hire or best practices especially as it relates to relationships with the members of the C-suite.
Drew: Have there been any unexpected benefits to your networking efforts?
I created real friendships throughout the years from business networking.
Drew: Making time for networking is always a challenge. How much time do you invest in peer-to-peer exchanges and how do you rationalize this investment?
I am trying as much as I can to reach out to five different people in my network every 3 weeks.
Drew: Effective networks are ones in which there is a lot of give and take and some would say, start with giving and the taking will follow. What’s your approach? Do you keep a mental scorecard?
True networking is about “give” and “take”. You need to give first if you want to receive. Correct? It is fun and it feels nice to give. I do not keep mental scorecard at all.
Drew: As you look back on your career, what was the biggest risk you took that worked and what emboldened you to take that risk?
Probably in 2001 when I played the American Lottery to get my visa without having any job opportunity. I was one of the lucky one as my name was selected and I had then a six months window to enter the country. Symrise understood my Life project and supported me in my business move to come from France to the US. It was a risk but I took the right decision 13 years ago!
Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?
To slow down time and to be able to meet new inspiring people and to discover places I haven’t been to. As travel is the only thing you buy that make you richer. Once a year go somewhere you never been before!