Richemont’s Tamie Toledano grew up in Nice and works in HK, but thinks part of her is Japanese
With her long black hair in a chignon, a soft line of make-up on her eyelids and wearing a simple black dress, Tamie Toledano, Northeast Asia managing director at Roger Dubuis, Richemont Asia-Pacific, is the quintessential Frenchwoman – elegant and sophisticated in an understated way.
She instantly strikes you as unaffected and sincere, living up to the values she treasures in life: simplicity, honesty and authenticity.
“I’m a typical French citizen,” says the native of France’s southern coastal city of Nice. “[But] part of my inner self is Japanese,” Toledano adds.
Although there was little that was Japanese in her home city, she became drawn to Japan at an early age and studied Japanese at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations in Paris.
“At university, we mainly learned about the culture. At the time, they were not very good at teaching the spoken language. I was very much influenced by Japanese culture,” she says.
On graduating, Toledano wasted no time in going to Japan for internships and work experience.
Fortunately, her boyfriend, who already had a job at the time, was willing to quit and also try his luck in Japan, and it has proved to be a lasting relationship arching over 18 years.
Her first job in Japan was with Cartier, also part of the Richemont group. Fast forward 16 years, and Toledano is now based in Hong Kong with watchmaker Roger Dubuis, a sister firm.
“My job was marketing in Cartier’s lighters and small gifts division. Later I was promoted to the jewellery division. But I was more interested in Japan than anything else,” she says.
Few foreigners start at the bottom of the career ladder in Japan. But Toledano was lucky, giving her a rare chance to learn everything from the ground up, starting with the Japanese standard of service, such as the art of bowing and gift wrapping. She grew up with her Japanese peers in the 10 years she spent there with the company, and still keeps in touch.
“I’m so happy to have this experience when I was young. At that age, you are much more flexible and adjustable to the culture. I was like a sponge,” she says.
By the time she was offered a promotion and moved to Hong Kong as marketing and communication director for Cartier Far East, she was in charge of marketing, strategic planning, customer and public relations and communication. She also had a three-year-old daughter to look after.
Toledano was interested in learning to work in a Chinese company culture. She also loves Hong Kong – the speed, people’s flexibility and the feeling anything is possible.
“Whatever I do, I try to always look at it from the best angle. With this recipe, I’m happy wherever I am. When people see you are positive, they also want to give you their best,” she says.
While her family is growing – she has two more children, a boy and a girl, both born in Hong Kong – her responsibilities have also increased, with a promotion to Roger Dubuis’ managing director, overseeing Northeast Asia, including Greater China, Korea and the Philippines, covering 10 boutiques out of 16 worldwide.
The most important decisions she makes are connected with the prioritisation of resources, the market segments in which to invest, and maintaining a long-term viewpoint. “But my biggest challenge is time management – ensuring that I receive the best of what people can offer at work and at home, and that I can give them my best and still be happy. This is the biggest challenge of all working mothers,” she says.
Toledano says she usually leaves home at 7.45am, once all the children are dressed. She is always the first at work and makes the best of the first two quiet hours of the morning, so that she can leave for home at around 7pm. The weekends are spent with her family, and she also tries to fit in the gym, Zumba, lots of sleeping and satisfy her passion for reading.
“My inspiration is my husband and children. They are the sun of my day,” she says. But what keeps her passionate, she says, is progress, to make tomorrow better than today, to be better tomorrow than today, and have a learning curve rising day after day.
TOP BUSINESS TIPS AS TOLD BY TOLEDANO
GIVE FEEDBACK "Try to give people timely feedback. Not immediately, but don't wait for the year-end appraisal."
GO EASY "Never be aggressive. Have a sense of humour. You can say almost anything with a sense of humour. Also, try to show the common goal."
BASIC DRIVING "Think of Enzo Ferrari's saying: 'To arrive first, first you need to arrive.' First get the basics right, step by step."
BE PREPARED "Remember Louis Pasteur's saying: 'Chance favours only the prepared mind.' "
NICE NICHE "Don't try to be a generalist. How many millions of people have marketing degrees? Find a niche and be a big fish in a small pond."