Olivier Fricot’s career is an example of how opportunities, hard work, humility and curiosity can come together to create exciting results.
The Mauritian and French national’s career path has been continuously preparing him to take on the role he currently holds, Global Sourcing & Supply’s Vice President - Africa, where he is in charge of overseeing all GSS activities in the continent.
A career of international proportions
Following advice given by a close relative who happened to be the Managing Director of the Mauritius Port at that time, Olivier went to France in 1993, studying management & business administration, with a postgraduate degree in supply chain, logistics, and transport. While in Europe, Olivier also stated his professional career and seized opportunities to work for multinationals like AT&T and Sony Corporation in several countries across the continent.
In 2002, Olivier moved back to Mauritius, and worked in and oversaw a variety of business units related to consumer goods, textiles, pharmaceuticals and FMCG products, while also being in charge of beverages production and project management.
Appointed in 2009 as the Country Manager of BMMI Djibouti, Olivier helped solidify, improve and lay a strong foundation for our business there for three years. He then further enhanced his knowledge of the Horn of Africa and experienced a new management culture by joining the AP Moller -Maersk Group, before returning to BMMI in 2014, as VP of Africa.
What made him decide to return to BMMI? “My passion for developing international business and my people oriented management style drew me back to BMMI. It truly felt like an opportunity to turn these values into reality within BMMI’s great family and with the support from its leaders, and this was what I truly missed. The Group’s Winning Hearts culture and the approach of the top management, as well as its commitment to diversity and putting employees, were able to attract me back again,” said Olivier.
His years of experience in an international multi-skilled business environment, the opportunities he got along the way and his know-how of Africa, have equipped Olivier with a strategic understanding of how to manage business and people in an ever changing global context.
Below are the points he believes are the most important for both personal and professional success internationally, and especially in Africa:
Brush up on your language skills
Language is a big asset and communication is key in management and dealing with people. “If you manage to speak the language of someone in front of you, you are more likely to understand cultural nuances and behaviors. People can share their thoughts and jokes with you in their own language, and even express their emotions and concerns more freely and intimately. This is especially important in Africa where oral communication and culture are predominant in many countries.”
Be curious and do your best to understand the culture
Sometimes, people tend to speak about Africa as one monolithic entity, with sweeping generalizations, but the truth is that Africa is a continent of 54 countries, with a multitude of cultures, languages, customs and ways of doing business.
“To truly understand the community and culture in which you are working, you need to be curious and you need to love learning new things every day. You need to mingle with people and you need to always be aware that each country in Africa has its own culture and way of doing things. This requires adaptability and permanent flexibility to be welcome by people and deserve their trust.”
Build and maintain your network
Networking, building and maintaining a trusted base of contacts is fundamental. When Olivier first moved to Djibouti to work for BMMI, he credits a friend he had made at university, seven years before, with helping him initially build a strong network in the country, which is still active today.
This proved to be really important, especially in the context of working in countries in Africa. “In many African cultures, tribal and social organization is very important and you need a strong network to truly succeed. People need to feel that they trust you, and that you are integrated into their local context. Knowing someone who is part of this network, helps create local business opportunities,” said Olivier. On top of this, opportunities can come at higher level when businessmen and stakeholders recommend you to people in their networks in other countries.
Make it personal
You need to maintain direct contact with your colleagues and personally meet with them as often as possible .You have to make sure that there is room for personal face-to-face interaction whenever you can.
“When you interact with people face-to-face, you get to know them better, get to know their culture better, how they prefer to do business and you just genuinely learn much more about them in their day-to-day environment. Open two-way communication and human contact is crucial – when you shake hands, when you say hello face-to-face, open honest discussions and manage to get feedback, it leaves an impact. However you express yourself, when you personally do it in front of someone else, it’s so much more rewarding .”
Keep it diverse and replicate success
The world has become a global village .Times are challenging globally, especially in Africa where there has been a collapse in the commodity & extraction market, creating a turning point for countries in the continent.
“I believe when your back is against the wall and you are cornered, this is where you are forced to create opportunities and reinvent yourself. Following the motto which says: When the Going gets Tough, the Tough gets Going. During this time, it is important to diversify your business portfolio further, thinking outside of the box, engage in market segmentation, invest and decide what is truly sustainable and what is not. Never strategically put all your eggs in the same basket.”
It’s all about the team
You will have to constantly invest in your team, helping them get the skills and training they need to maintain success. Furthermore, you have to ensure you have the right corporate culture that encourages them to perform their best and to enjoy what they do. Another point, especially with international business, is that it is paramount to commit to diversity and inclusivity in your team. This will help you gain more diverse perspectives and talents, all crucial to your team’s success.
Passion & generosity
Passion is inseparable from success. “You need to work from your HEART and to love what you do, and this will in turn help to listen and motivate the people around you and you can be a role model for how people should approach work.”
Generosity will enrich your life. “You need to share moments and emotions with people, this is very important to me. You need to be able to give back, do some good actions, while enjoying your time, and contributing back, especially when if you have been lucky enough to be blessed with opportunities.
‘’Always remember that life is never about just taking, but also giving.”