It is often the case that you forget thinking about your employees even though we talk a lot about how to sell your product and service to customers. Xavier Escales is the country manager of ASICS Iberia. He puts an emphasis on the importance of treating your employees well. Perhaps, it is time to stop talking about social media and technology for a while and to start a conversation on how you can treat your people. Social media is important but people are much more important. Let’s learn from Xavier what is the concept of “#AlwaysPeopleFirst.”
For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about who you are. Why did you start working for ASICS, not other sports brands?
I started working for ASICS because working with great people has always been one of my priorities. My former boss in LifeFitness, Emilio Risques was hired by ASICS and called me to join the project. I knew we would make a great team. After working 10 years in ASICS, knowing the company and the other sport brands values, I can say I made the right choice.
What would you like to achieve as the country manager of ASICS Iberia?
My main goal is to continue the growth of the company by adapting it to the fast changes that we are living. That means we have to continue succeeding with our current category businesses and launch new ones (the more surprising the better). Always taking into account that everything starts with our employees, they are our greatest asset.
You are about to finish writing a book. Please let us what it is about.
It is about the story of this last decade working in ASICS Iberia. I explain all we have been through, the highs and the lows, the successes and the mistakes. Basically, all that I learned and how our people made it possible. The intention of writing this book is to be useful for leaders in the organizations who look for transformational success.
What is the concept of #AlwaysPeopleFirst?
Most of the businesses begin with an employee and ends with a consumer. Due to the fact that the consumers are getting more and more power (which I think is good), companies are paying a lot of attention to them and sometimes are forgetting about their own people. They focus on trying to improve their consumer experience without realizing that it begins with having the employees fully engaged. To put it on a nutshell, #AlwaysPeopleFirst is about really caring about your people – being there when they really need you, being honest and being trustful; Once you achieve it (which is not so simple), you begin to see that what you want, happens. Not because you tell your people to do it, but because they know it is important to you and they want your success too.
Why people not product/service?
People cannot be copied and people make things happen. Talented people are and will be the scarcest resource (even more than time). So, it makes total sense to me as priority number 1 for a leader. I do not know any leader followed by products or services, but I know a few great leaders followed by people. These are the leaders who will succeed.
A lot of people do not know that ASICS is from Japan. What is opportunity and challenge for a Japanese brand to compete in the European market?
The Japanese brands have a great opportunity in the European market. The Japanese culture, food, fashion etc, is really appealing for the Europeans. Their products are made with high quality and design, and the technology plays an important role which is crucial in today’s world. The challenge that they might face is the speed of taking important decisions. Japanese tend to look for consensus, and sometimes, it takes some time to do it. We live in the fastest times ever and it is important to speed up.
How has the technology changed the relationship between the brand and customer do you think?
The change I am more interested in is the one that has allowed the consumer to interact much more directly with the brand, even their leaders, thanks to social media. We have a department of Consumer Experience. Among other things, this department is in charge of managing a Twitter Account for the consumers to contact us. It is great to read their opinions, their motivations and especially their complaints in order to learn from them.
What is the biggest challenge that companies need to overcome to survive today?
To be able to evolve and adapt as fast as is needed today. Most of the companies we work for were not created thinking of the world we live in today. And honestly the leader of these companies, we were not taught about how to deal with the situations we face nowadays. I did not have IoT or neuromarketing classes at the university when I got my Business Bachelor for example. But today I need to know about this subjects to run the business.
If you give a class in a business school tomorrow, what would be the title of the class and what would you try to share?
The title could be Business Success: from the Employee to the Consumer. I would share how big the impact of an employee in the P&L [Profits & Losses] (I would define this in brackets since non-business minded people might not know what Profits and Losses are) is, what the best practices are in order to get engaged teams and how to transform it into specific business results.
Please give a message for students.
Think before doing things. Decide what your most important goals are and what you really want (personal and professional). Then be consistent and persist. You cannot have it all in life, but you will not be happy without the important things for you. That is why you have to focus on them. Finally, be generous with people, care about them, they will help you to succeed.