Among Painter CEOs who spontaneously painted on my subtle nudge,let me present Jacques Vincent. Hes the key transformer of $26 billion Groupe Danone where Ive strategised about 200 brands since 1984. One day in 1988,I got a call that Jacques,whod just been posted back to France,wanted to meet me,but in my atelier,not office. He arrived,and talked about the liberty of expression Id created in the hardcore strategy of corporate requirement. I later asked what made him come to my studio. Familiar with all the work Id done for Danone,he knew I was a painter,so was curious to find my source of creativity. Looking around my studio,he commented that the freshness in the work Id delivered to Danone now falls into place in his mind.
He wasnt finished exploring the creative aspect,he said. Jacques always wanted my perspective on marketing through art. He asked me to show him how art is culturally associated with food,the parallel between the evolution of classic to contemporary art and the last 100 years human consuming pattern. I organised our next meeting in Foundation Cartier,an artistic seminar place in Paris outskirts. That he agreed to spend the whole day away from his corporate world to view business through arts fresh perspective proves that Jacques business success comes from lateral thinking. I gave him my take on the trajectory of art,food and how they mesh in Western societys culture,adding that marketing would be socio cultural rather than statistically-driven in future. This subject snowballed in my subsequent meetings with Jacques over the years. Its important to append here how luxury brand Cartier promotes various artists in a large gallery of collections in this sophisticated contemporary art museum. Foundation Cartier shows how business can go beyond industry to support art thats timeless.
Another call from Jacques in Brazil Ill never forget is his asking if I could design the dress with your type of colours hed wear for his daughters wedding. I was nonplussed. Was this hardcore Western corporate gentleman joking? I
made my assistant Caroline check with Jacques secretary. Yes! Thats exactly what hed requested! Some other work was bringing me to Bangalore then,so I picked up violet raw-silk material and had his suit custom-tailored in Paris. I hand-painted his tie,silk coat-pocket handkerchief and socks. He accepted everything the way Id designed them.
Can you imagine Jacques,whom everybodys seen in corporate formal dark colours only,wearing this violet suit? People at the wedding were wide-eyed in admiration. All I can say is that it clearly exposed Jacques creative and daring mind,the quality that allowed him to turn around BSN of 14 verticals into Danone,world leader in dairy products today. Jacques asking me to design his dress the way I do my paintings was an incredible demand from the Vice Chairman of a global company. Pinned up in my office is a photograph of violet-suited Jacques hugging his daughter wearing a white wedding gown. This poignant father-daughter relationship really looks like a piece of my painting.
So when in 2010,Jacques re-visited India,and Id helped him find some direction for Danones expansion here,our first years Painter CEO calendar was already out. Sitting in Jacques chamber at Shining Consulting,Bangalore,where weve allocated him a regular office as he prefers to conduct business from here whenever hes in India,I invited him to join the Painter CEO club. Whats that? he asked. I explained my belief that CEOs are perforce creative as they magnificently manage diverse situations and people while striving for that bloated bottomline. He readily agreed to paint in my Bangalore studio this time. I video-taped him (http://www.painterceo.com/participants/2011/Jacques-Vincent.php ) as he carefully chose brushes,colours and concentrated in painting. His attentive stance reminded me of our many meetings in Danone when hed listen intently as I spoke on consumer value and social trends. In fact in 1995 when Jacques asked me to work for Britannia where Danone had a share then,it was the first time I was coming to work in India. From Charles de Gaulle airport to Mumbai,he made me talk on cultural aspects of different societies Id worked with,and took notes with multiple geometric shapes. Our discussions always veered on how art and culture can influence marketing. After painting he said it was tough,very unlike his 40 management years. You get inspiration when you put the brush in water,the colours you see and dont see. Its exciting the first 15 minutes,then theres anxiety,and creativity rises again. Jacques outstanding determination came through in seamless strokes he confidently made,leaving white space at the bottom,and converging power at the top. Twenty-two years after hed visited my atelier,his painting revealed hes still carrying freshness,as also unique focus with which hed made Danone deliver healthy dairy and water globally. Wait,Jacques artistic inclination doesnt end there. After painting,Jacques told me his retirement plan was starting an art gallery. I was there when his Art for Smile Gallery on 28 Quai du Louvre (www.artforsmile.com) was getting its interiors done. This incredible gallery is just behind Louvre Museum on River Seine,Paris,opposite to my art college Ecole de Beaux Arts. When people buy a painting,part of the proceeds go to CARE France,an NGO. Different CEOs often ask how I generated the Painter CEO idea. Ive spent a lot of time with Jacques Vincent; this incredible story of a high-level corporate leader retiring into the brightness of colours and milieu of artists is an inspiration,among others,that Ive inherited from French society since my early career. Painter CEO is a truthful manifestation of CEO creativity which has immense value in society,much beyond their professional lives.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at http://www.shiningconsulting.com