The head of international trade at JoJo Maman Bébé on what it takes to work in an international-facing role.
JoJo Maman Bébé is currently expanding overseas. Which markets are you targeting and what is your strategy there?
To grow business-to-consumer trade we’ve had multi-currency transactional websites in the US and Europe for the past 18 months. We then started growing business-to-business trade and actively selling at wholesale just over 12 months ago. We are trading with retailers directly in 54 countries from standalone boutiques in the Hamptons to well-known and successful department stores and online retailers [globally].
What does your typical day involve?
Working with every country in the world means you are never really ‘offline’ with time-zones and demands.
I start very early. The morning is about getting back to any Far East accounts before they go to bed. I have a mini-lull at midday where I can deal with Europe and Africa but then the more customers we attract in the US means my afternoons are extremely busy. I’m far too excited to ignore a flashing red light on my BlackBerry so I reply to emails in the evening too.
As well as meeting with potential new accounts in our showroom in London, I might also jump on a plane and meet with them in their office. I may spend a morning dealing with a start-up business in Norway that wants my range planning experience and then spend the afternoon understanding more about the Bahamas and their market and shipping requirements.
As you build the business internationally, how are you having to restructure teams and recruit at JoJo to facilitate this expansion?
We have so far coped with the brilliant team already in place, but I’m very aware on an almost weekly basis that I am asking for something new and complicated. So currently we are recruiting for a few extra roles within my team.
For a business that only had to satisfy its own needs 12 months ago, I’m impressed at how reactive the buying and production teams have been. They have had to change how they work and shift the critical path forward to allow me to show future ranges to customers.
What skills are required for an international-facing role?
You have to be a great multi-tasker. I switch from signing off multi-currency price lists one minute to designing a trade fair stand in New York the next.
You therefore need endless energy and great communication skills. You should have a strong social awareness. The most important person is the customer. So the [ability to] listen, understand and help them achieve what they want is crucial whether it’s here in the UK, in their office in Moscow or a trade fair stand in Tokyo.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If you want to broaden your retail horizons and achieve a truly global perspective on trading, you can’t get a better role. Previously, I was in buying but the switch to selling has been an exciting and remarkably easy one – everything I wanted from a brand I am now striving to give to our customers.