We couldn’t have found anyone better to help us start up our Paris office. Before joining BrightHouse, Mathieu was a senior partner with the Boston Consulting Group, where he spent 20 years working mostly in Energy and Industrial Goods. He was also a member of the Paris Office Management Team, in charge of HR and people engagement, and he founded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize in 2007, which has since recognized 12 outstanding social entrepreneurs. See, he’s parfait for the job. We asked him 5 questions about the move to BrightHouse and the new office:
You’ve spent the last 20 years as a senior partner at BCG. What made you decide to join BrightHouse?
Well, 20 years of dark green was a lot, you know. It was time to switch to the bright yellow! More seriously, my 20 years at BCG taught me the utmost importance of strategy—and its fragile side: strategy without engagement, without a superior sense of meaning for people, usually fails to deliver success in the long run. But a clear strategy, combined with a great sense of Purpose, widely shared across all levels of the organization, makes a company simply unbeatable!
At BCG, you founded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize. Tell us a bit more about this great prize and why you founded it.
I am very proud of this initiative. I wanted to show to the business community at large that there is a way to combine business and solidarity. This prize is aimed at recognizing one outstanding social entrepreneur each year and helping him/her scale up. The jury is composed of French CEOs of CAC 40 companies who come and spend two hours listening to the four finalists and then debate to select the laureate. We have helped 11 outstanding social entrepreneurs grow, become stronger, and enlarge their social footprints. They are living examples that you can make profit and take care of the disabled, the lonely, the poor, the former inmates, the leftovers. I like to present these dreamers as the natural children of Mother Teresa and Steve Jobs. That says it all!
You’ve said before that the Luminary part of our process is one of your favorite aspects. Why are Luminaries so important?
Without Luminaries, we would be lost in the dark. Think of the number of people rescued on the land or on the ocean thanks to the light of the North Star! I believe in the power of ideas, and in the multiplied power of divergent ideas and different points of view. Luminaries help our clients understand what they bring to the world, to mankind. They are totally independent, spend a vast amount of time thinking, and are never complacent. We need them! And I thank each of them for the time they dedicate to accompanying our clients on their path to uncover their Purpose.
You’re a compulsive reader, and we’ve got a long layover; give us a list of your top recommendations.
Of course, you should start with the novels I wrote. Ok, they are not yet translated to English, but hey, that is a wonderful opportunity to learn French. Joke aside, talking about American literature, I love James Ellroy—The Big Nowhere would be a good start. Raymond Carver is the king of short stories, and I recommend Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and Cathedral. Denis Lehane, so famous for Mystic River and Shutter Island, should also be recognized for The Given Day. Finally, I like taking a step back with Irvin Yalom’s The Spinoza Problem. In French literature, there’s no possible mistake if you pick any book by Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, or Emile Zola!
You’re leading our new Paris office! How popular is Purpose with French businesses? How will you help them find their raison d’etre?
The raison d’être is at the heart of many conversations right now in the business community in France. Still, our leaders need to be convinced that the way BrightHouse intends to help companies uncover their Purpose is the right one. I strive every day to demonstrate that poetry and eloquence are an incredible way to mobilize their employees, and that emotion is a strong lever, maybe even the strongest, to unleash collective energy!