Florence Chataignier Mars (H.99)
Why so serious?

New York. Florence welcomed us at Bonpoint’s offices in New York. She pretends she was very not funny and un-cool when she was 20. Should we understand she is now? Only you can tell. However we are sure that you will find her story interesting, with great insight on TV production, luxury retail and immature decisions.

Read full transcript…

HU: Hello Florence! To get to know you better we will start with a Proust questionnaire. So, if you were … a color?

FM: Black

HU: An animal?

FM: An elephant.

HU: A meal?

FM: I would be a breakfast.

HU: A song?

FM: I would be a song by the Rolling Stones.

HU: A movie?

FM: A Bollywood movie.

HU: A sin?

FM: Cursing.

HU: An object?

FM: I would be a book.

HU: If you were a book?

FM: I would be How to be a Parisian wherever you are

HU: If you were a sport or a game?

FM: I wouldn’t be a sport or a game… oh wait, I would be table tennis, does it count as a sport?

HU: A hero or a superhero?

FM: The lady I admire the most is mother Theresa.

HU: One thing you are doing everyday and would rather stop doing?

FM: I start every single day telling myself that I have to do my 45mn yoga. I have to walk the dog, feed the kids, get them to the school bus, and then I am supposed to do my yoga. And actually – we are Thursday right? – this week, yoga never happened. If I had to make one decision, I would chose to stick to yoga every morning.

HU: End of the Proust questionnaire. Now, could you sum your professional background up in 30 seconds?

FM: I started at l’Oréal for 3 years, I was doing marketing development. Then I completely changed path and I went to TV production, working for Elephant & Cie for 8 years. Then we moved to the US and I am now in luxury retail, working at Bonpoint.

bonpointelephantloreal

HU: Have you copped with a difficult choice in your professional life? What did you learn?

FM: One really difficult choice was moving out of France to come to the US, dropping everything I had built in France. What I learnt from it is that it is totally fine to go back from scratch and start a new career.

Emmanuel Chain

Emmanuel Chain

FM: I was at l’Oréal, learning a lot and meeting amazing people but I was dreaming about working as an editor for TV. I met with Emmanuel Chain thanks to the HEC Alumni directory and he took me on board in his company Elephant.

HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?

FM: It has been two years now that I am in retail and I am still learning. It is a new path for me so it is very exciting. I am meeting people everyday, I am working with a pretty awesome team. So it is all about being still learning, it is sort of a new school for me.

HU: What are your usual tasks?

FM: Every day is different. I often have to travel to where my stores are, L.A, Houston, Chicago, Palm Beach… This is part of my routine. If I am at the office I would catch up on my emails, have a few meetings with my teams here, do stores visits in NY. And then there are tons of events, meeting with press people, bloggers and influencers.

HU: What is Bonpoint’s strategy in the U.S?

FM: We are trying to raise brand awareness. It is hard to believe seen from France but Bonpoint is not a famous brand in the U.S. American people wouldn’t have Bonpoint on top of their mind when looking for a baby gift. We are trying to build that by opening new doors, investing on digital communication and having physical events. For a very long time there was absolutely no buzz around Bonpoint in the U.S.

bonpoint-1 bonpoint-poupee-cosmeto

HU: What is the professional achievement you are the proudest of?

FM: To me, having grown the Bonpoint brand in the U.S in the past two years is a big achievement. This happened thanks to our work on building the brand awareness I was talking about. We organized a ton of events with celebrities, charities, doing partnerships with interesting people to get some visibility for the brand.

HU: You have worked in TV production; it is a pretty unconventional path for a HEC. Did you like it?

FM: First of all, working with Emmanuel Chain is pretty awesome. I really enjoyed working with this guy who became my friend. What is really interesting is that every year or so you completely change job. One year you are going to produce a prime time show for France 2, the year after you are going to produce a game for Canal +, and then you are going to be very much into documentaries and spend six months working on one very particular subject. Then you have the reward – or not – once it is broadcast, depending on the number of viewers, and you switch to the next subject. It is a great job for people, like me, that get bored fast. You can’t be bored, on every new project you have a new team, a new host, a new mindset. Also, the idea that you try and entertain people is very exciting. It is not like you are saving lives, that’s for sure, but I like this mission. It is very different here, but in France, people working in the TV business, entertainment and the news don’t take themselves so seriously. It is all about entertaining people. So I like the state of mind of these people and working for the TV in France.

“In New York, {people} are like machines, they would sit down in the morning, they would stay sit the whole day, being crazy intense on their work and then at 6 pm they would be done and go to the gym or something like that. French people can’t do that, that is not how we are wired.”

HU: Now we will talk a little bit about New York City. You have been living there for six years. Where do you hang out on Sunday afternoon?

FM: Most of the time we hang out around where we live in Brooklyn Heights. We often go to Dumbo because there is this big carousel and it is a very cool neighborhood. In the last two years they have developed many activities around Dumbo’s piers.

HU: If you had 24 hours left to leave in New York, what would you do?

FM: I wouldn’t stick around Brooklyn heights for sure! I really like to bicycle around Central Park so I think that’s what I would do.
central-park-1

HU: That would be a long ride…

FM: Haha, I mean that if you have to leave the city you have to do a last stroll in Central Park.

HU: What do you like most about people in New York?

FM: I really like New Yorkers because they are diverse, super open minded – it goes together I guess – and they are not judgmental. You can go and dress like a Smurf in the subway and nobody is going to even raise an eyebrow, it is completely fine.

central-park-roller

HU: What is the USA’s challenge that matters the most to you?

FM: Gun control. I am freaked out with this gun situation.

HU: Is it an issue in New York?

FM: It is not really an issue in New York but I travel all the time and it is an issue anywhere else.

HU: How do you like working in the U.S?

FM: There is this big cliché that in the U.S people are more efficient and that French people are super lazy. You hear that quite often here. It is just untrue. In the different companies I worked with I have never seen people being more efficient than in France. However, there are a few differences. People in the U.S don’t take a break for lunch, they would just eat behind the computer. People also take more breaks in France, go to the coffee machine and have a chat with colleagues. As a consequence we are staying later at the office and the same amount of work is done by the end of the day. Specifically, in New York, they are like machines, they would sit down in the morning, they would stay sit the whole day, being crazy intense on their work and then at 6 pm they would be done and go to the gym or something like that. French people can’t do that, that is not how we are wired. We would have a few coffee breaks during the day and go for lunch at the “pizzeria du coin” for instance. That’s why American people think they are more efficient. One thing is true, they would answer all of their emails the day they received it. If I send someone an email on Monday, on Tuesday I could be like “what’s wrong with the guy, I emailed him yesterday!”. American people are very task oriented, and I think we are too but we have a different perception of the time frame.

HU: Maybe French culture values more social interaction inside the company? What do you think?

FM: Definitely, I worked for two years in this really cool production company in New York and I was shocked. People were not even saying hello to each other in the morning. People don’t have time. Plus, when you are on a meeting and something really fun happens, nobody is going to say a thing. If somebody is doing a whole presentation with his fly open nobody is going to say a thing. And you are like “come on guys, let’s make just one joke and have fun, please”. I have tried and make jokes a billion times and usually people look at me like I am the weirdo in the room. I have actually been embarrassing myself a billion times in this city because you cannot take five minutes and chill.

HU: However, you can be dressed as you want on the street…

FM: Sure! They are completely not judgmental but work is very important, you should not be kidding around at work. And you are not going as a Smurf to your office. You can do that in the subway, to your party, and nobody is going to say anything, but at your workplace you shouldn’t be kidding.

HU: It makes us think about all those very focused engineers who go crazy at the Burning Man festival near San Francisco.

FM: This is completely true, Americans work hard and party hard. They can be very, very extreme when they party (laughs).

“I was way too serious when I was 20”

HU: Let’s talk about HEC now, what was your favorite place on the HEC campus?

FM: I think it is the lake, and the funny thing is that I almost never went to the lake. But looking back I feel that the best part of the campus is the lake. I just don’t know why I was never going.

HU: Is there a place you often went to and that you liked?

FM: The corridor I used to share with all of my girl friends during my second year at HEC. It was a pretty cool place…

HU: What is your best memory from HEC?

FM: It is probably going to be the same as for everyone else: les soirées du jeudi (ed.The POWs). Or maybe more accurately, my favorite memories were before the parties when we were all hanging out together in our rooms.

HU: What would you advise to a young HEC graduate?

FM: I would advise him to be very careful in choosing his first job. I had to switch a few times and I feel like I didn’t really chose carefully my first job. They made me an offer and I was “oh, it looks cool, let’s try it!”. I don’t think I have wasted my time, I learnt many things at L’Oréal, but I think that if I had been more honest to myself I could have realized I wanted to work in the TV business way before. So I would advise not to take the easy road just because you are freaked out and want to be independent from your parents. Chose something that is meaningful to you. This is an advice that I would really have liked to have when I was twenty years old.

HU: For which reason would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus?

FM: I am always happy to share with any alumnus contacting me. I would also REALLY like to be contacted by people willing to make a donation to the EPIC foundation. It is my husband’s foundation and it is doing amazing work, so that is another reason why they can ALWAYS contact me !

HU: What student association were you part of in HEC?

FM: I was part of the Junior Entreprise. It was a great experience because I learnt almost as much at the Junior Entreprise than I leant in the regular curriculum. However, I didn’t have so much fun working at the Junior Entreprise. Looking back I was like “what the hell, I could just have had fun the whole time!”. I was such a “polarde”…

HU: So this means you changed during HEC. Were you the same “polarde” at the end of HEC as you used to be?

FM: I guess you lose it a little bit. Even though you really try to be a “polarde”, like until the end, at some point you let it go. It is just not the spirit. The first year I was very serious, the second year it was not that easy, and the third year was like … oh my god…

HU: Did the professional life bring you back to being more serious or did it make you realize you could have had more fun before?

FM: I definitely could have had more fun before. I was way too serious when I was 20.

HU: Are you going more crazy now?

FM: I am going as crazy as possible with three children…

HU: Good luck with that, it looks like a very noble task. HEC’s motto is “the more you know, the more you dare”. What would be your own motto?

FM: When I moved from Paris to New York, and I was a little lost in between, I was in the subway and I read this ad saying: “if you don’t change directions, you may end up where you are heading”, it is a great advice and it is the story of my life.

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