The name Tectona is derived from tectona grandis, the scientific nomenclature for teak, the coveted wood varietal synonymous with exceptional outdoor furniture, decking, and yachts. Teak’s tastefully understated luxury, along with with its unmissable timelessness, is very much imbued into the philosophy at Tectona, where Blanche Aloisi-de Crépy (MSc 1997, EMBA 2016) – rare in her own respect as a dual HEC Grand Ecole-Executive MBA alumna — leads by example.
“I like beautiful things, but not just for the sake of luxury. I like workmanship and artisanship; sometimes I can’t relate to the current idea of luxury because it can be too flashy,” she says. “I like simplicity.”
Serving as managing director crystallized her perspective on the rising and falling fortunes of industry competitors. “In our business, the brand is key. Quality in creativity, in desirability, how you execute things – that’s how you build a reputation. Maintaining a reputation is more difficult. You see some brands that are too fashionable, and then they can’t keep that status. That’s why keeping the brand fresh is important.”
Keeping it Fresh
After a few years leading Tectona, Blanche realized that she “needed to make sure what [she] was doing was in line with the fast-changing environment.” She wanted to keep her business acumen, honed at digital consultancies in the height of the dot-com era and perfected at Publicis’ chief digital arm, at the cutting edge. “I needed to make sure that Tectona was running at its full potential, taking into account best practices across all fields – digital, HR, finance, and everything in between.”
“I needed to make sure that Tectona was running at its full potential, taking into account best practices across all fields – digital, HR, finance, and everything in between.”
She was a prime candidate for an Executive MBA. As a graduate of HEC’s vaunted Grand Ecole in 1997, though, she could have been forgiven for expecting an extended academic reprise of her early twenties. In many ways, in fact, she says she didn’t know what to expect.
“I spoke to my Grand Ecole friends about the EMBA, and honestly at the time they didn’t really know what it was,” she chuckles. “They thought it was like a second chance for people who didn’t go to the Grand Ecole.”
Any possible misconception about what she was getting into was quickly dashed in her first week at the EMBA. It started, in short, with one word: “Fidelio.”
“It was one of the most powerful moments of the program,” she recalls of Fidelio, an icebreaker exercise featuring a bracing dose of radical honesty. “It’s an exercise in which you share intimate professional challenges to a room full of strangers.”
It wasn’t just any “room full of strangers,” of course. They were her peer EMBA participants who, it just so happens, are a collection of some of the most accomplished professionals and executives in the world.
“You almost feel naked in front of everyone. But sharing problems—and solutions —that you have as a high-level executive with peers is an opportunity that never happens at work,” she says. “Highly sensitive things like internal management issues, investor relationships, and vitally close operational details that I would normally never be able to speak about. With family and friends, maybe—but never, ever would I be able to dive deeply into specific business-level challenges. Fidelio was a really good exercise because it was useful to have feedback from peers who had encountered similar problems and were able to come up with creative and effective solutions for them.”
Fidelio was just the start of a long-term personal project that, in Blanche’s words, was meant to “help me really nurture ideas. I liked being able to study for one day per week and be surrounded by new ideas, and then being able to turn around and see if those ideas could be implemented. This nourishing energy motivated me every week.”
For Curiosity’s Sake
That newfangled energy nourished her curiosity, which she was able to indulge after years at the helm of a high-performing luxury furniture boutique fiercely protective of its brand identity.
“I launched a big project about marketing and brand identity,” she says of her capstone project, typically the single most impactful and powerful piece of academic added value offered by an EMBA. “We worked hard on the brand platform, making things crystal-clear to ourselves. We needed to be able to easily communicate it to the external environment, and to be able to accentuate your strengths,” she notes. “What is it that differentiates yourself from others? Capitalize on that. This is true on a personal level, and this is also true for a brand.”
Her one-day-a-week rhythm at the EMBA was highly conducive to implementing immediate and impactful changes at work. In her never-ending pursuit of keeping the brand fresh, Blanche has made a point to pursue projects that put Tectona in the best possible position to maintain its reputation. Enlisting up-and-coming designers and studios to develop flagship items for Tectona’s 40th anniversary is a prime example of this, working “hand-in-hand with the newest designers, the ones that show the most promise and skill,” she says. She also opened new markets, with new targets as hotels, as well as at an international level. “After doing the EMBA, I really allowed myself to listen to my curiosity: about others, about new things, about the challenges I face. This helped me to craft my vision by getting out of my comfort zone and doing things I usually wouldn’t. In other words, living the HEC motto of ‘Learn to Dare.’”
“After doing the EMBA, I really allowed myself to listen to my curiosity. This helped me to craft my vision by getting out of my comfort zone. In other words, living the HEC motto of ‘Learn to Dare.’”
Time will tell whether Tectona will truly be able to mirror the enduring grace of its arboreal namesake. But Blanche provides the elusive blend of seasoned wisdom and youthful verve, however, that make sure it has a lasting chance.
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris Executive MBA is ranked #1 in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more about this world-class program.