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Piovesana is leader of the brand

Published on Friday, 07 May 2010
Alessandra Piovesana, regional managing director, North Asia, Nuance-Watson (HK)


Alessandra Piovesana’s stated aim as is to drive growth, profitability, and productivity through a customer-led approach to business. As North Asia regional managing director for Nuance-Watson (HK), she has done this by successfully managing marketing strategies, product turnarounds, corporate start-ups, and re-tendering exercises.  

Her career began in Europe where she handled brand management and marketing for Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and the Revlon Group. To gain broader experience, she then worked for L’Oreal Group Asia between 1985 and 1995 before joining LVMH Group as a regional division general manager. She talks to Jan Chan.  

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

My responsibilities include achieving profitability, strategic growth, and enhanced competitiveness for our operations in Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai. We have a workforce of over 800, and I believe the important thing is to be sufficiently clear-minded to segregate business priorities and deal with them systematically. You must be able to assess and endorse self- generated opportunities, as well as react quickly to situations which emerge spontaneously. It is also necessary to “inject” trust and passion into your people, while leading development and gaining recognition for the company. 

How did you train yourself to be a better leader?

I think that the first priority for a leader is to hold yourself responsible for your own acts and the way you live. That attitude then extends to thinking about the well-being and success of others within a family, a company, and other kinds of entity. I was fortunate because, from an early age, my parents taught me the importance of taking your life in your own hands and feeling happy with what you are.  

During my career, I had fantastic opportunities to work for the best companies in their fields building my capabilities and skills, while learning to understand cultures and people round the world. To keep improving as a leader, you need to remain inquisitive, interested, passionate, competitive, and confident, but while always being true to yourself.  

What vision are you currently sharing with your staff?

There has to be a constant commitment to enhancing knowledge and understanding of customers. This is the starting point for our initiatives to drive performance and growth. Also, we are a business built on diversity, operating in various locations, and dealing with customers of numerous nationalities, which conditions choices, perceptions and buying attitudes.

Our winning card is to ensure that this diversity is the basis of a strong company culture where we are recognised for best practices, teamwork, individuals with a high level of expertise, and a strong will to succeed.   

By doing this, we can contribute effectively and extend the lifespan of our company, achieving the required critical mass and mix of revenues to ensure profitability. Our industry is extremely dynamic and is often challenged by external events over which we have little control. These can include changes in the global and regional economy, currency movements, the political environment, government legislation and policies. Thus, there is an obvious need to move forward consistently and innovatively, keeping our customers in mind at all times. 

With so many responsibilities, what do you prioritise?

I have learned that planning and visibility of business operations are essential to good strategic leadership, so I focus on this first. Since “retail is detail”, you need a thorough knowledge of the business, which takes sustained interest, self-motivation, and enjoying what you do. In our industry, every marginal difference can be important, so you must manage the financials rigorously using the same principles and procedures, whether times are good or more challenging. 

What specifically did you learn from your time with LVMH and L’Oreal?

With LVMH, I learned especially that brands have a distinct culture. This is  built around craftsmanship and quintessential values which distinguish their products and satisfy the needs of target customers. At L’Oreal, I saw how it takes entrepreneurship and an understanding of diverse markets to develop brands. Above all, it was there that I really learned about Asia and developed my interest in this part of the world. 

How do you handle pressure?

It took me many years to acknowledge that stress and pressures are part of life. Possibly because I have always been surrounded by good and capable people, a supportive family, and a loving husband and son, I was generally able to cope with the intensity at work. Yet, there are times when pressure reaches peaks, and I came to realise that it’s not what you do then that is most important, but what you have done before to prepare yourself. 

My own daily “customs” include some yoga to stretch my back, listening to inspiring music, taking therapeutic Swiss natural drops to build my immunity, a bedtime dialogue with my son, and a brisk walk hand-in-hand when the night is tranquil. All these valuable but seemingly small intricate things provide that sense of relief from pressure, and help to put your work and life in perspective. Begin invigorated in this way, you also remain resourceful when planning what comes next.

Right moves  

  • Piovesana obtained an MBA in international marketing and finance at the University of Oregon
  • Is a member of the advisory board of the Business Administration Faculty at the University of Macau
  • Was selected as a “Woman of the Year” in 2003 by the Moodie Report
  • An elected member of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association Executive Committee

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