Campden Wealth is delighted to welcome back Jean Mane as chair of the eagerly-anticipated European Families in Business Conference in Madrid on 12-13 June.
The fourth generation member of the Mane family, transformed the family business MANE into an international group since joining after his father. His focus on innovation and globalisation led the company to extensive growth and made them one of the worldwide leaders in the fragrance, flavour design and ingredients industry—the sixth-ranked globally and first in France.
Ahead of the major event, Mane talked with CampdenFB about the themes of the upcoming conference, balancing heritage with innovation, how he approaches investment in high growth markets, and the advice he would offer his family’s next generation.
Which aspects of the European Families in Business Conference are you most looking forward to?
The growth trifecta—Authenticity, Adaptation and Leadership.
Not being a professional ‘better’ on horse races, I had not known about the word “trifecta” until I was invited by my patent lawyers in Louisville to a Kentucky Derby Day. There, I realised the meaning of “making bets on Kentucky Derby Day”, not only through the words of Jagger and Richards in their Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers, and the million dollars exchanged. But I realised also that trifecta meant “tiercé gagnant” in French, or a bet in which the person forecasts the first three finishers in a race in the correct order.
Our trifecta for the coming two days of this 15th European Families in Business Conference is thus: Authenticity, Adaptation and Leadership.
In Madrid this year, I am especially looking forward to hearing from our speakers whether this is the correct order, or whether their “trifecta” is somewhat different. I am eager, for instance, to listen to some of the attendants or speakers whom I met two years ago in Berlin whether they place Authenticity and Adaptation ahead of Leadership, or whether the authenticity they have championed as a pillar of sustainability led to their affirmed or improved leadership and whether as a result this new leadership they showed was not characterised by the focus on adaptation to favour perenniality of their business through a constant and increasingly agile adaptation in a world which is more and more described as VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. A four letter word which was abundantly commented upon by the president of PepsiCo India during his keynote speech at the 1st International Spice Conference in Goa on January 2016.
During those two days, we will listen to an increased number of women—we are not yet at parity, but getting better—as more of them, especially in the next generation, become influencers on sustainability criteria and leaders in family businesses or very large agro food or tobacco multinationals or in luxury products businesses. My question to them would be whether they had to adapt their natural authenticity to become leaders, or what have been their main drivers to affirm themselves as the enticing leaders of their family businesses.
I am also very keen to hear whether this Trifecta—Authenticity, Adaptation and Leadership—is the same whether you are a member of the 26th generation of an Italian winery family business (whose Grand Cru I personally am fond of) or whether you are the co-founder of a company whose playground is sustainable creative economy governed by buzz and tweets.
If I were to make an educated guess about my own trifecta, looking back over my 23 years of leadership at the head of the MANE group, I would say that authenticity came first, as a prime manifestation of intellectual honesty. I had a family name; my collaborators had to discover who the MANE behind my first name was. Authenticity was the most important thing to ensure my collaborators would not lose time in discerning how important the proportion of Dr Jekyll in Mister Hyde was. Right or wrong in my assumption, I believed that authenticity and consistence was the surest way to attract trust and respect that would become reciprocal. And, after all, are we not all of us willing to buy only authentic antiques? I am speaking for myself of course! Leadership in this increasingly VUCA world does not go without a copious ration of humour. Who would be following an authentic leader incapable of any adaptation?
Humour and self-mockery are factors of adaptation. The intelligence to adapt the objectives and to innovate into a new future is also characteristic of many dynasties that have maintained and constantly reshaped their family businesses. I am eager to learn through the presentations, panel debates, fireplace talks and conferences how they conjugated authenticity and adaptation—which may a priori sound antinomic—to the present and anticipated future of the businesses they lead.
With more than 145 years of history, the Mane family business has gone from strength to strength across the generations. How do you balance the heritage of your company with the changing demands of the 21st century?
A few years ago, I used to present the evolution of our manufacturing sites in France as a “Four Generations Four Factories” type of investment. Each generation has added on to the talents of their respective fathers, and adaptability meant for us to find where our strengths and competitive advantages were and turn them into success. It does not always mean to be ahead of the competition, but to try and understand better where the unresolved issues of our clients were and how to offer a solution to their problems. A solution that others would not look into for lack of talents or lack of that passion to resolve the issue for lack of perceived monetary return on investments.
So we have added to our passion for the customers and our collaborators, the mission “to capture what moves” as our latest logo says. At the heart of our art which is to create hedonic emotions for the final consumer, speaking to their olfactive or gustative perception when enjoying the products of our clients, lies the perpetual attention to a world in motion.
Motion and emotion: we must capture what moves otherwise our own products will be considered as obsolete by our clients. Helping them win market shares through successful launches or re-launches of their iconic products needs the capacity to create new emotions at a faster pace, with new ingredients which have nevertheless to be compliant with ever changing and stricter safety regulations to ensure certain other criteria dictated by our own clients through more stringent restrictions or widespread by all kinds of media as desirable for the benefit of the Society, whatever polymorph the information—or disinformation—source may be. We rely on our talents to guide our company along the successful pathways of innovation, be it incremental or disruptive.
On the other hand, when more natural and authentic products are back on the stage of fashionable desirability, our ancestral knowledge conjugated with our capacity to adapt them to new and safer regulations demonstrate a certain leadership in reinventing the future on the enlarged elements of the past, if the German attendance allow me this paraphrase of my preferred quote from Goethe. Like in fashion, heritage is not synonym of dusty obsolescence but is the rich foundation of a new way to create new successful products. Like Ayurvedic medicine in India is a rich source of inspiration to cosmetic companies with a desire to stick to authenticity.
Following in the footsteps of your father, your focus on globalisation has led to extensive growth and made MANE one of the worldwide leaders in the fragrance, flavour design and ingredients industry. How are you identifying and investing in high growth markets, such as China, to grow your footprint and achieve your ambitions?
In comparison to most of our larger competitors, MANE had relied mainly on internal growth to get to the #5 position in the list of Flavour & Fragrance suppliers. We must admit we have very little talent for acquisitions, to which we prefer stepwise mergers, while retaining our financial independence.
This methodology of not spending the money we do not have on our accounts has certainly to be adapted in a world where quantitative easing and derivatives have created a monetary mass that is used to acquire companies at insane multiples. Our group has also been really frugal in its pattern of dividends distribution, a real frustration to those who would like to see us embrace the M+A pathways at a higher pace or float a part of our capital. At the same time, it offered us the possibility to take risks in investing a large proportion of our EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) in new countries, where we have often been pioneers, or in countries where there was very few established competitors, or in countries like China and India where it was a must to invest, given their growing population and GDP, and the emergence of a new class of wealthy consumers.
We knew we had to become a family governed small multinational company. We did that methodologically in a stepwise coordinated yet agile plan, with recent strategic stepwise acquisitions, because our growth is also largely attributable to our local talented human resources who want to participate in the challenge of collaborating with an eponymous company, led by members of the family with the ambition to become a billionaire company and to enter the Top Five of their trade. Here we are in 2018. Mission accomplished. Yet Mission to be accomplished further, farther, faster!
MANE is renowned for natural flavours and fragrances using both biotechnologies and new synthetic molecules to enhance their ingredients palette—what is at the heart of MANE’s innovation strategy and how will these trends evolve in the coming years?
We have invested in conventional biotechnology for the past 30 years. We are regaining the fruits of our ethical choices along this long period, as legislations have changed and we had the talent to anticipate them. Now that the “natural” trend has gained momentum, we have the capacity to ramp up production to meet the demand! New additions to our portfolio can be obtained through modern biotechnology, but also by the addition of the competences within our latest Indian merger and new investment. These will complement our range of molecules which are antibacterial or antioxidant and open new avenues in the stable sourcing of cosmetic actives from the diversity of the Indian agriculture. As well as create a new platform for the large scale synthesis of a range of patented synthetic molecules.
We also screen them to discover new functionalities such as odour control management or bactericide and fragrancing properties, such as betahydrane for instance. But the heart of MANE's innovation strategy will remain in the hands of our seamless team of people reinventing our future with disruptive technology.
Could you briefly comment on some of the challenges or “growing pains” you have encountered and advice for what other families might want to consider?
The growing pains—are they new in Europe or in France?—in our trade are instability or reversibility of the tax law, especially on inheritance tax (I know some of you among the audience are not subject to capital tax or inheritance tax law… and please stay where you are or adopt me!). This uncertainty is a growing pain when the huge amount of tax to be paid is incompatible with the necessity to grow internally your business and therefore increase its value.
The instability of the demand from Health Risk evaluation bodies is also a growing pain in both our segments, Flavours and Fragrances. For the flavouring substances, we are still waiting for the full evaluation of 8% of our application dossiers. The rules for evaluation, deletion or restriction on our positive lists are varying with time and under diverse political or public opinion pressures, some based on fake science. Our clients add to this uncertain tyranny by asking us to anticipate on potential yet unpredictable deletions and therefore to reformulate some of our products.
Each time a new health warning emerges, based rightfully on new scientific evidence or solely based on highly suspect scientific studies, tweets and gossips from influential millennials or political cowardice not to surrender to any situation, right or wrong, which could prevent them the gain of a few votes, we must anticipate to produce new evidences for the authenticity of our products. Despite the existence of a taskforce within our company whose role is to predict the bad and the ugly that may emerge in the not so distant future, we must admit that I am still looking for the store where I can buy a crystal ball predicting our future with absolute certainty. We are only sure that our future is uncertain and we must be prepared with a certain humour to face impossible or unrealistic scenarios which will cascade down from the consumer to the client to their supplier—us!
A third threat is on our intellectual property. Trading products which are hybrid between intellectual work of art and chemical recipes, we are constantly challenged to be more transparent in one way or the other about the molecular content of our beautiful cuisine. And communication to the public of chemical names is not going to influence their attitude towards chemistry when only 4% of the French admit they like chemistry as a subject for their baccalaureate or doctorate studies.
VUCA, I told you: Volatile (and our essences are indeed too), Uncertain (as the supply of some of our raw materials due to political or weather situations or critical chemical incidents in some suppliers, forcing another “force majeure” warning), Complex as are our formulations with their 3,000 different possible ingredients and Ambiguous in terms of the regulations and the tweets of a President and a few other who can really put an end to years of patient WTO negotiations. Let alone the achievability of the objectives of the Paris COP 21 on climate. Never a dull moment!
What advice do you pass on to your daughter, Samantha Mane (pictured), who now works with you in the consolidated business?
If I was sure to really apply them all myself, I would advise any of the members of the fifth generation of the MANE family to respect the Toltèques Accords, which are taught and explained by Don Ruiz.
Any company, especially family owned businesses, has a soul, principles, passion and is made of the flesh and blood of their human resources.
In as much as my major at school or university was synthetic organic chemistry, what I learnt is that it is an experimental science. And human chemistry is far more complex than chemistry itself. My eldest daughter Samantha, her cousins and sisters likewise, have learned or will learn to be humble in front of such complexity and keep a passion to learn and a strong capacity of resilience relying on an entertained sense of humour. All of them know that I am personally available day and night for advice… For what they will think it is worth, since I repeat there is no absolute rule and avoiding the errors of the past is not a guarantee to lead by impeccable leadership.