Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CEO of Inbev, Carlos Brito on Management and Leadership

Our boss at The Wall Street Journal Europe, a Harvard alumnus, invited his sales crew to participate in a Harvard alumni diner in Brussels. Main attraction of the evening was a speech of the CEO of Inbev, Mr. Carlos Brito, between first and main course.

Normally speeches of CEO’s are hard to swallow especially between courses, but the speech of Mr. Brito was an exception. A true motivational speaker, Mr Brito concentrated on management and leadership issues in his company.

Here are a few notes on what he said:

The culture of Inbev should be the unified culture of Ambev and Interbrew. Ambev had a well defined uniform-like culture, based on organic growth. Interbrew had a patch work culture, based on growth by acquisitions. The unified Inbev culture is what Brito calls the “DreamPeopleCulture

Inbev’s dream is to become the best, most profitable beer company in the world.
Inbev doesn't just have "a" dream, it has a "stretch-dream". The dream can only be achieved by over-achieving. Only then will Inbev grow from the biggest to the best. "A company with a dream" sounds a bit strange these days, admits Brito, but it doesn't mean that Inbev is an ‘adventurous’ company.

The dream can only be achieved if Inbev has the best people. Brito believes that great companies are formed by great people and that great people attract more of the same. (Brito advises to read: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins)

Inbev will adopt the highest standards of integrity in their business. The difference between a good company and a great company is that a great company doesn’t use short cuts. Inbev will never use short cuts even if it means losing a sale. It also means that one has to be patient from time to time.

A truly great company is defined by three elements:
1. Meritocracy: best will be treated best. The Inbev culture is a culture of hard work. The only reason why Inbev is bigger than others is not because Inbev has better people, it is only because the people at Inbev work harder. If the best are not treated best, they will not want to stay in the company. People = sustainable competitive advantage.
2. Candor: be honest
3. Informality: talented people don’t need formality. Brito explains by telling about his own office. Actually he doesn’t have an office. Uppermanagement sits around 1 very big table. It is noisy, it is electrifying, it is like working on a trading floor. Uppermanement seldom schedules meetings with each other; by sitting at 1 big table they have like 30 micro meetings a day by just talking to each other over the table.

About changing the company's culture:
If you want to impose a new culture to a workforce of 85.000 employees, you can’t just talk to all 85.000 employees individually. It is actually not required to talk to all 85.000 employees to start changing a culture. You only have to talk to 20 % of the employees. Because in a group of 100 people you have 20 leaders, 60 followers and 20 anarchists you have to get rid off, because they don’t agree with anything.

Management team:
At Inbev only 200 – 300 people make a real difference (out of 85.000). These 300 people are considered the super talents who will create the future of Inbev.
Brito likes people who are more entrepreneurial. They tend to take more care of the company and will try to come home with successes.

Brito's favorite quotes:
“If you are not at the table, you’ll be on the menu” (especially regarding alcohol legislation. Inbev wants to be involved in regulatory issues. If Inbev is not involved it will bear the consequences and it will find itself at the loosing side in the future.)
“We don’t need consensus, we need alignment”
“We are not smarter, we work harder.”

What is a leader ?
A leader:
- must deliver results
- with the team
- in the right way

Leaders must put pressure in the system, like in sports. Ever seen an athlete relaxed ? No, athletes are focused, they are under pressure.

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility:
4 elements:
1. A company must be profitable to do good for employees
2. A company must obey the law
3. A company must act ethical, do what is right
4. A company needs a fair amount of voluntarism, involve in community

Balance between life and work:
In the old days: you had 2 lives (1 at work and 1 at home)
Today: you have 1 life. Due to emerging technologies employees are living and working in a mix of work + home.

Brito works with 3 year targets: Inbev will focus on 3 elements the coming 3 years:
- focus on people
- focus on regulatory issues
- focues on commodities

Carlos Brito cv

Born in 1960 a Brazilian citizen - joined Brahma in 1989. His first role was Financial Analyst followed by 2 years as a plant manager. From 1992 to 1996 he was responsible for the Soft Drink division of AmBev. From 1997 to 2001 he was Head of beer sales organization in Brazil followed by 2 years he was in charge of Operations (supply Chain and People functions) and was appointed AmBev's CEO in 2003. After the combination Carlos was promoted to Zone President for North America with Headquarters in Toronto- Canada in January 2005. Brito holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and an MBA from Stanford University. He has extensive experience in the beer industry throughout Northern, Central and South America.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The WSJE Future Leadership Institute

To build further on our physical distribution program towards the universities and business schools I created The WSJE Future Leadership Institute, a virtual institute acting as a bridge between university and industry. With the Future Leadership Institute we target students as well as managers who have come to the point they feel the need to re-educate themselves to be able to move to the next level on the corporate ladder.

For this audience I highlight every day a seminar or educational event that could be of interest to them, in a specially designed educational box on the back page of our newspaper. Except for Thursday's that is, because on Thursday's I am giving away management books via a little book contest. The book to win this week is 'Grande Expectation' about the rise of Starbucks.

The book contest enables me to come into direct contact with our customers. It is one of the best things I did working for The WSJE to reach out and learn about our customers.

Because our audience (at least the managers responding to the contest) is Blackberry-proof it is often very interesting to see how responses come in from countries we are not delivering to. I dare then to ask where they picked up the copy, what is of interest to them in the newspaper, etc... (for example an Amercian COO responding from the US, who picked up a copy at Davos, or a CFO responding from Iraq (!) who picked up a copy on an airline...). Personally it is a lively reminder of my former function at the WSJE where I was responsible for the distribution operations. Back then I knew exactly where the copies were going, but I didn't know who was picking them up.

More details about The Future Leadership Instute will follow in later posts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Adding 7 Turkish Universities to The WSJE Future Leadership Program (end)

Right, Turkish Airlines TV advertises with "Turkey: 300 days of sunshine per year". I must
have chosen the other 65 days to come to Turkey. So far I have seen rain, fog, (some)
sunshine, and last but not least "snow". It was both cold as well as very warm. I experienced 4 seasons during 3 days in Istanbul.

Bosphorus bridge changes color all the time.

To be good I should keep my agenda free for at least the same amount of days I was on business trip
to follow up with the administration upon my arrival back in Belgium (to take care of the reports,
offers, thank you notes, proposals, business cards, contracts etc)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Turkey, Istanbul. Adding universities to The WSJE Future Leadership Program.

The Wall Street Journal Europe is now present in 7 Universities in Turkey.
Today I visited 3 of them. First stop: Istanbul Ticaret University. Private University funded by a Commerz Association. Department of Communication has its own tv and radio broadcast equipment. The students make 2 news editions a day for local television. Impressive.

Turkish distribution company Dunya is helping me in a fenomenal way. 2 managers, 1 car and 1 driver are at my disposal for 3 days. Originally I had rented a car to drive around in Istanbul myself. Dunya convinced me that was a bad idea. I cancelled the car... very very glad I did that now I have seen how people drive in Turkey. Let's say that Turkish drivers haven't reached the era of enlightment yet. Pictured: Mrs Elvan A. explaining me how Turkish people examine the coffee pulp in their cups to determine the future (if the pulp resembles a fish you will win a lot of money, if the pulp resembles a man on a horse you will be married soon).

Marmara University with The Wall Street Journal Europe cardboard
stand in the reception area of the central library. The university has about 60.000 students. 40.000 of them follow classes in buildings around the central library. In front of one of the buildings we saw a genuine fighter plane.

Koc University. Private University. Clean. Modern. Marble.
Koc University is part of the Koc Holding funded by the Koc Foundation.
The Uni is situated in the mountains, in the woods, 40 min from Istanbul center.
They seem to have a very interesting Executive MBA progran.
Makes you want to start studying again.

Open air bookshop in Ortakoy region, couldn't help myself, bought 2 English management books.

Taksim district, appealing walking area.
Sat down in corner of the Golden Horn street restaurant eating
things I can't pronounce.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Turkey. WSJE Future Leadership Program.

Turkey. Grey. Rainy. Cold. I added 7 Turkish Universities to our Future Leadership Program. For the first time The Wall Street Journal Europe will be available to students and professors in the following Turkish Universities:
- Metu University
- Marmara
- Kadir Has
- Bahcesehir
- Istanbul Commerce
- Koc
- Sabanci
I am in Turkey to follow up on the program and to establish relationships with potential partners and sponsors. All my meetings have been set up by our Turkish printer and distributor Dunya.

Around midnight after the first day in this strange country: my brain tries to cope with a busload of impressions. How many people did I meet who told me bluntly they feared for the future of this country ? Most of the people I met today (Am I meeting representatives of a minority or a majority ?) How many people expressed irritation even anger about the apparent move of the government to establish a religious state ? All the people I spoke with today. Somebody actually told me that the desire of the Turkish government to become a European memberstate is to be considered nothing less than a devious strategy to keep political correct Europe at ease while silently moving away from the secular inheritance of Ataturk. A Turkish businessman looked at me with tears in his eyes when I showed him some copies of The Wall Street Journal Europe. I lived in the US for 16 years he said. I read the WSJ every day. In 1996 I had the choice to move to Seattle or to Istanbul. Because of the kids my wife and I chose Istanbul. It was the biggest mistake in my life. I realise now I lost 12 years of my life. I should have built my carreer in the US, not here. I long to go back to the States when my children are old enough. I miss the freedom, I miss quality of life. I miss 'business'.

Picture: Koc Holding. A Turkish multinational founded in the 1920's.
A Fortune 500 company built over 3 generations.
They also have Koc University in their portfolio.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Impactroom: 50.000 visits

The Impactroom blog rounded the cape of 50.000 visits this week. Most visitors arrive via Google search. Most pages visited are related to management theories, MBA's, executive education and management guru's. There is a small core of visitors that visit Impactroom daily, a group probably just big/small enough to invite them all over to a middle sized party with affordable drinks and foods, although their number is steadily rising since September last year (don't know why). Thank you very much for your visits and growing number of comments via mail. I don't have the time anymore to answer them all within 24h, (a standard I set for my day time job at The Wall Street Journal Europe), although I do try to come back to requests within a week.