Lacoste CEO: Leading involves planning and explaining

Lacoste North America CEO  Francis Pierrel talks to Fordham University students during an appearance on March 3.

Lacoste North America CEO Francis Pierrel talks to Fordham University students during an appearance on March 3.

By Gabriella Stevens, FCRH ’17

For Francis Pierrel, CEO and president of Lacoste North America, leading a successful company is about “evolution.”

Having multiple plans, choosing the best plan for the given situation and explaining the “why” of the plan as it trickles down to the rest of the 80-year-old company are all imperative to continuing one of the most recognized clothing brands in the world.

But there are steps to take before all that explaining takes place, Pierrel explained during a visit to Fordham University‘s Flom Auditorium on March 3, a stop that was rescheduled after poor weather caused a postponement during International Business Week in February.

A CEO, Pierrel said, must “explain to survive, understand to explain, and strategize to understand.”

And Pierrel understands his brand.

He was contacted by Lacoste for a position after returning home to France from New York where he worked with Diesel. In his 20s, he was aware of Lacoste’s values before really even knowing them. Being involved in rugby, he knew the value of comfortable clothing, whether it be his Levis or Fruit of the Loom apparel.

The Lacoste brand, he said, promises to exemplify its “life is a beautiful sport” motto through attitude with pinnacle performance. Its products satisfy both functional and psychological needs with a style described as “elegance inspired by sport,” Pierrel said.

When asked how Lacoste intends on staying relevant in the ever-changing fashion industry, Pierrel responded that Lacoste simply intends “not to be what we are not,” before referring to the company’s famous logo. “By the way, it’s a crocodile, not an alligator,” he said.

For students seeking to build CEO-type success at the beginning of their careers, Pierrel suggested building a network of people. He said students should make a LinkedIn account and create genuine connections. Then, after graduation, students should start to utilize contacts and take advantage of university resources, such as alumni associations.

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