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Lessons In Leadership: Emilie Gariel

Your daily decisions have an immediate and decisive impact, and can lead to failure or success (or yet to be determined!)”

Emilie Gariel was born and educated in France before commencing her international career in Australia. Emilie went on to join Rexel, worldwide leader in B2B distribution, before working for a top tier consulting company. Emilie has since founded two startups, the latest being Brennus Analytics where she leads the marketing and operations, Brennus Analytics provides an AI-Powered Price Optimization software for industrial and distribution companies.

Q: What attracted you to international business, and how did you adapt to the new environments you worked in both as an Intern and later with global consulting companies?

A: As an Internal Audit Manager with Rexel, I got the opportunity to travel to more than 15 different countries. After more than 4 years travelling the world, I settled in Milan, Italy, before coming back to France. And no sooner was I back that I joined McKinsey, where I also spent a large chunk of my time abroad! And my first startup operated in the tourism industry. Needless to say, International has always been at the core of my career.  

I have always been attracted to international business, mostly because I love discovering new people and new culture, as much as I love tackling new business problems. Daily routine is not something that reassures me. In travelling I found opportunities to grow my network and to enrich my vision. I got the chance to live incredible and intense moments, sometimes tough, sometimes fun, connecting with my teammates or business partners and creating bonds with people that endure. Who would not want to enjoy the beauty of bodysurfing in Australia, while working hard in the mornings and evenings? Not to mention that time I met Iggy Pop at SWSX, where I had landed almost by accident during a 1-month project in Texas…

To be honest though, there are two types of international business. The one where you get to spend time abroad and start to “feel” the culture and people. And the one where you travel quickly, moving from Airport hotel lobbies to dull business centers meeting rooms, not catching much of what is around you. The first one is exhilarating, yet complex to combine with a personal life back home (if there is such a thing as home). The second one is more manageable, but not that much fun. I still love the work-travel combo; but I am no longer willing to take 5am flights twice a week, if I don’t have a chance to enjoy the destination even a tiny bit.

 Q: Based on your experiences, what advice would you give yourself if you were just starting out again on your career?

A: I am happy with where I stand now. I hold absolutely no regrets for any decision I have made, because all those brought me to where and who I am today. Reflecting on the past thinking “what if…” is not something I linger on.

 One thing I came to realize though, is how my intuition is always right. On people. On career opportunities. So the advice I have been and will continue following is to trust my feelings when it comes to making decisions.

The second advice is a form of reassurance and trust in what the future holds: no matter what happens, whether you get your decisions wrong or right, there is a way out, a way to land on your feet. And if you work hard, do things right and care for others, just keep an open mind because you will get tons of opportunities.

 Q: As an entrepreneur yourself, and working in that fast-paced innovative space, what have been your key challenges?

A: The easy answer would be: navigating in permanent uncertainty. But truth be told, I like it much better than navigating in plain certainty.

There are two challenges I can think of:

1)    Money. When you had a solid career, with a safe and significant salary, opting out is not easy. As an entrepreneur in France, you have to let go some of the comfort you had, at least in the first years. It is a double-edged sword though, for it creates a form of emergency that pushes you to go faster, try and fail or succeed rapidly.

2)    People. In a startup, people are not a key success factor, they are THE key success factor. There is no process or no existing business to rely on. Recruiting the right people and building a trust-based relationship with your co-founders is a task that absorbs a lot of effort and time, yet can absolutely not be cast aside.

 Q:  What is it about new business start up that excited you the most, and why?

A: Building something from scratch is very exciting, for three main reasons:

– Your daily decisions have an immediate and decisive impact, and can lead to failure or success (or yet to be determined!).

– No time wasted in politics, which can be a burden in corporate environments. Because you have little time and resources, you work on things that matter and that bring value to the company – and what brings value to the company brings value to you, so everything’s perfectly aligned.

– Wearing multiple hats: there is no limit to what you can bring to the company. You are not imprisoned in a pre-defined function or role. This is paramount in my being excited by the startup environment. At Brennus Analytics, I can get to work on a financial business plan one day, have a tough client conversation the following, and end up my week being a speaker at a conference

Q: Can you share something amusing that has happened in your career, or share a funny story about business, entrepreneurship or maybe an experience overseas that helped ‘defuse’ a stressful situation?

A: A birth certificate found in the basket of a city bike: this is the story of how I joined McKinsey & Cie.

I was actively looking for a new career opportunity at the time, and was being chased by a few Strategy Consulting firms (competitors of McKinsey). One day, I found a birth certificate, alongside various personal items, on a city bike. I looked for their owner, which happened to be a partner with McKinsey. I offered to bring the stuff back, and kindly asked that person for advice on which firm to join – nothing else on my mind at the time! One thing led to another, and I ended up being recruited by McKinsey. Nothing stressful about that situation, but I like this story because it started from a “free” gesture, which created an opportunity which I seized. As naïve as it sounds, doing good brings you good! 

Emilie was talking with Rowena McAllister