Sebastien Bonneau (E.12), Jeremy Seyman (H.13) & Antoine de Leudeville (M.07)
The Blue Ocean
Paris. We met Sebastien trough the HEC Alumni Executive Education network. The surprise was big when we saw that he was working with Jérémy, his partner, a fresh graduate from HEC. We decided to arrange a crossed interview with Antoine de Leudeville, a former BCG principal who also graduated from HEC after Polytechnique. These three inventive and dynamic fellows explained us what their company – All You Need for Growth – was about and talked about HEC.
Read full transcript…
HEC United: Hi guys! Tank you very much for receiving us.
We are really excited to make this original interview with 3 HEC alumni at the same time. First, can you please introduce yourself in a few words?
Antoine de Leudeville: Hi, I am Antoine, 31 years old, and I just joined All You Need for Growth very recently.
Jérémy Seyman: My name is Jérémy, I started All You Need for Growth with Sebastien a year and a half ago. I am HEC “Grande Ecole” 2013 and I am 27 years old.
Sebastien Bonneau: I am Sebastien, the oldest guy here, I am 39. I am a corporate attorney and I did the Executive MBA from HEC in 2012.
“You can choose between a red ocean, filled with blood and where sharks kill each other, or you can make things a little bit different and create your own market, your own practice, where no one goes because no one thought it was possible to go: that’s the blue ocean.” Sebastien Bonneau
H: Can you present us All You Need for Growth? What is the idea behind this name?
Jérémy: I think the idea is to reinvent consulting. Sebastien is a lawyer, and he noticed after 10 years of practice that the system was broken, or at least crumbling down. So he tried to reinvent the way attorneys work and the way legal advice works.
When I joined him, we tried to do the same with strategy and finance and we realized that it worked for everything that we call “brain juice”. So we started doing it with communication too and we are thinking of a way to do it with accounting.
H: What is this “brain juice” you guys talk about?
Jérémy: Well, the consulting business is a business in which you give time. Time is the unit of the value that you are going to bring. Suppose that you have a skill, some kind of experience that you are going to bring to the client in order to bring value to the table: for us he most appropriate unit to measure these efforts is time spent.
As you spend time on a matter, your brain is working, so we thought that a cool way to call what we were doing is: “selling brain juice”.
H: Does each one of you have a special skill and a special role to play? How does it work concretely?
Jérémy: (Looking at Sebastien) Do you want to answer that?
Sebastien: We are different people with different expertise. I am running the law firm, which is called “Legal for Growth”, Jérémy is running the “Advice for Growth” entity where you can have strategy and finance advice. People can be assisted in raising funds, finding targets to acquire, or business partners. Antoine recently joined us and he is “Mister Strategy”, he is an expert in strategy and he is “playing” with us in the “Advice for Growth” entity.
Jérémy: The idea is that we all have this specificity and this unique skill that we are bringing to the company. Since we all spend time together and we work on the same files and same matters, we end up developing a broader view of what a business is and what it is to grow a business.
The attorneys who joined us 6 months ago now have a very good understanding of a fund-raising process, or commercial partnerships, etc… We all have this… “vernis” (i.e. varnish), I would say in French: a basic understanding of each and everyone’s business and skills, even if each of us has a unique skill that he brings to the company.
H: It also looks like a real start-up environment to us here. Is this framework something you were also looking for?
Antoine: To put it briefly, I spent a little less than 10 years in a large strategy-consulting firm. The Green one. On the verge of entering the VP race, I just asked myself: “Do I want to enter this 900-partners-machine, with this not-so-much-flexible value proposition of selling big projects, during months, to large corporates on large transformation efforts?” The answer was quickly “no” and I met these two guys and they told me: “Maybe you can use the skills you accumulated in the corporate world in a different way, with a strong focus on execution and client interaction, without the downsides of the large machine.” All this in a nice and “friend-like” way of working.
H: This “friend-like” way of working, is it the reason why you are happy to go to work every morning?
Jérémy: We can work naked, that’s a big plus! Working naked is a huge plus.
Seriously, we do our traditional job, but we just decided to do it the way we wanted. We don’t have many constraints on the way we want to do things. If we get the job done…naked, well the job is still done and we don’t care! You don’t need expensive offices or funky expenses to be efficient. So we decided to get rid off this…
Antoine: Including executive assistants! (laughs)
Jérémy: Yes and we decided to work in a more agile, “start-up garage”, feeling. It’s been working for us so far and we like it!
Antoine: My answer to your question would be that fields are open.
In a large consulting firm, as a partner, you have your targets, your prospects and you try to score projects. You try to understand and navigate the political map to score projects, score the next transformation and be the one. I mean the Green, or not the Blue or not the Red, you see what I mean.
Here, there is so much we can do… At the price point and with this value proposition, the ratio is so much interesting for a potential client that we have a lot to do and the only thing that limits the expansion is the number of hands and the number of brains we have.
H: So, if we use a marketing definition, you guys created a “blue ocean”, right?
Sebastien: I don’t know if I am allowed to talk about that because it’s a joke we’ve had here since the very beginning of the project.
I discovered the “blue ocean strategy” at HEC, it was something amazing for me. The idea is that you can choose between a red ocean, filled with blood and where sharks kill each other, or you can make things a little bit different and create your own market, your own practice, where no one goes because no one thought it was possible to go: that’s the blue ocean.
So we tried to create a new space between an internal advisor and an external advisor, trying to take only the positive things of both: the values of cooperation, respect and communication of an internal advisor, with the skills and experience of an external advisor. And I’ve been bothering all the team with this blue ocean strategy, they keep laughing at me about it!
H: How did it start, very concretely? Who were your first clients and the first achievements you were proud of?
Jérémy: It started with start-ups. Since we created this “high value-low price” way of working, we thought: “Now we can address start-ups!” which we thought was impossible, but we tried. We helped start-ups to grow, and many of them stayed with us actually, since the very beginning. With our help, they raised money and developed on different markets.
We kept working on projects with small start-ups, because it is our DNA, but we also started to work on bigger projects, growth-based operations and now we work on the whole spectrum of size, from companies projects to listed companies. For example, we recently worked with Renault-Nissan, that was a huge accomplishment for us.
What all theses companies share, is the obsession with growth: they all want to grow fast without spending too much money on professional services and advices. But they also want to have people on their side who understand what it is to bee an entrepreneur, what is to work in a “no-bullshit” environment and who know how to do their job. And that’s us!
“I joined the Rugby Alumni team, I am still on it, this is where I met Sebastien” Jérémy Seyman
H: You all went to HEC, and that’s why you are sitting together on this couch. What are your best memories from HEC? Of course your answers are going to be very different, which is very interesting.
Sebastien: Is this going to be politically correct? (They all laugh)
H: No it doesn’t have to.
Antoine: I spent one year only at HEC, one very short year, it was a Strategic Management Master if I remember well. (Antoine was a student at Ecole Polytechnique and did his Masters year at HEC).
The academic was pretty much focused on business consulting. A large of share of the classroom went to the big 3s (McKinsey, BCG, Bain & Company) so academically speaking, it was impeccable: the right preparation to what I was about to do.
But my best memory is not a specific moment because I didn’t spend that much time on campus. It’s the friendships that I made: between 8 and 12 very close relationships with people I met on campus. After my graduation, I lived with 3 of these guys. We went to the wedding of one them in Mexico, another got married in Italy, and all the classroom booked plane tickets to get there each time.
H: What about you Jérémy?
Sebastien: You definitely spent more time than us on the campus.
Jérémy: For me it will be harder to pick a specific memory but it’s a no-brainer, it rugby for me.
The rugby team at HEC built something very special… It’s very intense and people take it very seriously, and I mean it. It’s intense on the field and off the field. We built really strong relationships without even realizing it.
You build yourself, you build values, your team spirit and you learn to interact with people who are different from you. These relationships will last for a whole lifetime I think.
Jérémy: Yes, graduation was not the end. I joined the Rugby Alumni team, I am still on it, this is where I met Sebastien, this is where we met a lot of good friends and a lot of clients and partners too. It’s a network of people sharing the same values, a group of friends. Good parties and good stuff. Good memories.
Sebastien: My best memory was the study trip at Babson College, in Boston, where this project started actually.
I touched the American way of approaching the business and understood how to disrupt the market. “All You Need for Growth”, the business we launched with Jérémy, is about disrupting the traditional model of consulting. What is funny is that Jérémy also went to Babson College for 6 months so we approach our business and the disruption of our market in the same way, with both these two approaches of HEC and Babson College. It helps us a lot, everyday, to understand each other, and to take the right decisions.
“Refuse to be a prisoner of paths, frameworks or money” Antoine de Leudeville
H: If you had one advice to give to a 20-year-old HEC, what would it be? Please do not say “Do what you like” because we already heard this many times…
Sebastien: Do what you like.
Jérémy: I have an easy one it’s “Do what you like” (laughs).
But I am going to explain. I see a lot of friends who are kind of lost because they haven’t taken the time to ask themselves the good questions: What is it that YOU really want to do? And what is it that you are good at? What inspires you? What do you actually want to do?
There are a lot of career paths that are easy to take and you know that if you do those things right, then it’s going to happen for you and you are going to be successful. But are you going to be successful the way you want?
I have the impression that not enough of my friends have taken the time to think about that and some of them are asking themselves these questions and think “What the hell am I doing here? This is not at all what I wanted!” So this is my tip: “Do what you like”.
Sebastien: I’d say two things. First, travel, travel a lot. This is what we have been doing at the very beginning of this project because it helps you a lot to see things.
And second, do a lot of sports as well. Not only because you get friends, but also because it helps you to see things properly when you are facing difficulties.
Antoine: I have an easy one too which is: “Don’t listen to advices from the old guys like us.” (laughs)
No. I’d say: “Don’t compromise” in the sense “Refuse to be a prisoner of paths, frameworks or money”. Money is a trap and you need to free yourself from these kinds of traps to be able to ask yourself the right questions, as my colleague just said.
H: Ok last question, team building moment: Each one gives a quality to the two others.
Sebastien: Id’ say that Jérémy cares about people and is very generous, which is a key quality in the way we do business every day. I don’t know Antoine as much as I know Jérémy for the moment, but I think you are very brave and creative and… and it looks like a declaration of love. (laughs)
Jérémy: And you so good looking!
Sebastien: And I want to **** *** right now!!! (laughs).
Antoine: (speaking to us) Please delete this part of the interview…
H: Your turn Jérémy.
Jérémy: (Ironically) Sebastien has the biggest heart ever….
(They all laugh and at that point, we lost complete control on the interview. After a short break during which we heard crazy things, they calm down)
As for Antoine, he is the archetype of the good guy, which I love. Profoundly good, in the Christian sense. Does that work? (He looks at Antoine)
Antoine: You decide!
Jérémy: I think it does.
H: Your turn Antoine.
Antoine: I’d say that Jérémy is so strong and solid that he is reassuring.
And for Sebastien I’d say that he is true. “Franc-jeu” in French.
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