Coralie Charriol Paul, CEO of Charriol watches and jewelry, joins us today and discusses what it means to take over a family business founded by her father. Coralie touches on evolving the brand for the next generation of consumers, maintaining boundaries in a tight family business, and the challenges of being a female CEO. Listen in for advice on keeping a multigenerational business fresh while continuing to honor its history.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:00:01] Now, at the end of the day, you do have to believe in yourself, because when you’re at the top, you’re the one who makes the decisions and decision making makes you move forward.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:12] Welcome to Ideamix radio. I’m Sam Jayanti, and every week I chat with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, career changers, experts and enthusiasts for insider tips that you can apply to turn your idea into a business. So sit back and enjoy today’s show.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:34] Hi, everyone. Today, we’re talking to Coralie about how to run a family business, Coralie Charriol Paul moved her life and family from New York to Geneva last year to take over leadership of Charriol, a Swiss brand of jewelry and leather goods created by her father in nineteen eighty three. She’s a working mom and evolved from creative director to CEO over the course of several, several years in the business part of which was spent working with her dad. Coralie, thanks so much for joining us at Ideamix radio today.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:01:08] My pleasure. Always happy to be here.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:11] Coralie, what inspires you?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:01:14] Oh, inspiration comes from everything. I mean, the life I lead, the people that I meet along the way, my travels, even though now I haven’t traveled so much. But even the little things in life, you know, a museum show or a magazine that’s showcasing different designers and things like that. So inspiration comes from everywhere.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:39] Yeah, but that’s the best kind, I think, what’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever had?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:01:48] I don’t listen to bad advice, so I don’t remember any bad advice, so I actually don’t have an answer to that.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:54] OK, that’s a good answer. I like that that you filter out the bad. How how much do you feel yourself relying on your gut instinct?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:02:04] Often. Often I’m a pretty balanced person, meaning like I take time, I analyze, I’m not somebody who will answer an email right away or a text, I really have to digest. I sleep on it. So I don’t know, I forgot the question (laughter).
Sam Jayanti [00:02:23] But in the end, it sounds like you go with your gut.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:02:26] Oh, my God, my God, my God. Yes, of course. At the end of the day, you do have to believe in yourself because when you’re at the top, you’re the one who makes the decisions and decision making makes you move forward. So even if it’s a bad decision, you’re moving forward. And if it’s bad, you can quickly switch. And if it’s good, then you go. And usually when you make that decision, you’ll know right away if it’s a bad decision. I really believe that.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:54] True. True. Well, let’s dive in. Family businesses are in many ways a testament to a successful approach because they’ve stood the test of time. That said, anyone going in has a view of it that needs to be informed and updated as you go. And what was the best strategy for you? I mean, you were an insider to the business as creative director and having moved to a bunch of different positions at the company. But what did you think was the best strategy for you to really understand the inner workings of the parts of the business that you hadn’t been as involved with as you went into the CEO role?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:03:34] I think overall it was moving here, I think I really needed, I knew that I needed to physically be in the office. Nowadays you can work from everywhere. Fine. My father worked from everywhere. That was him. Me, I hadn’t worked in the Geneva headquarters office actually, ever. So I knew that I had to physically be here, show my face, you know, come in for hours, meet everybody, know what everybody’s doing, talking to everybody. I think that’s the most important. When you come in, you can’t just come in and like a bull and change everything you really have to take your time and sit back, observe, see what everybody is doing, see what, you know, and talk to them and hear what they have to say. Kind of, hopefully they they open up to you and tell you what’s going on. So for me, that’s that was the most important, important thing. And to have a good relationship with all the people that have been working here for so long.
Sam Jayanti [00:04:36] So important, totally agree. What are the three most immediate challenges, do you think, of taking over and stepping into the shoes of, in this case, your father, but a previous generation of family? He was the founder. He was a huge personality. He was really in the DNA of the brand. And what were the challenges in stepping into that role?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:05:03] Yeah, I don’t think I knew how many challenges there were. No, but the challenges were many. There were many. Number one, like you said, he built the brand from scratch. So he has the experience. He has the reputation. He has the savoir faire. And he had the respect, right? So and so filling those shoes… Big, big shoes to fill. So that for me was the main one. How was I going to gain respect from the people that are working here and then from people in the trade and then our partners on the ground in different countries? So that for me was very important. And what I did was slowly by slowly making calls, doing Zoom’s, I mean, I visited them at the beginning before the confinement. So, I had a relationship. I did have a previous relationship with them, but not in this position. So that was that was challenging number one, really like, he had already proven himself, but I hadn’t and I still haven’t. So that’s going to be a continuous challenge moving ahead. And I think the other things were… OK, so so, you know, my dad created the brand and was the success story for 40 years now, though, the way he did business and the way he worked worked very well, right? But the world changes and and and design changes, style changes. The way we shop changes, the way we we look for products changes. And I think that’s my next challenge. I have to bridge the gap between how dad created the business, the kind of traditional way, and then the new way, which includes a lot of the digital, digital acquiring of clients or selling to them, shipping to them. So. So that is going to be my bridge. That’s going to be the challenge of bridging the two. Right. So heritage. And then the next step for me, that’s and that’s ongoing as well. And it’s exciting. That part for me is very exciting. And I don’t know, I guess also the other challenge was establishing myself as a boss, as the CEO. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, but, you know, I went in like, you know, super easy, quiet, you know, like maybe if I was a guy I would have been like, you know,
Sam Jayanti [00:07:31] one hundred percent,
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:07:32] I’m the boss, you know, but I don’t do that. So I, I think it’s establishing my way. I did it. I did it piece by piece, slowly building the blocks, building the blocks of confidence, building blocks of trust, building the blocks of respect. And that’s how I see me going forward.
Sam Jayanti [00:07:53] Well, I think women often do that slowly and deliberately. But but I’ve got to imagine that that would be a much, much better step, because, as you said, there were so many existing relationships, existing members of the team who had been involved with the business for such a long time. And had you come in and said, I know what’s best and here’s how we’re going to evolve that out with the old and in with the new, I mean, it never would have worked.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:08:17] Well I kind of did that, you know, a year in, so sure.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:20] But it took time.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:08:22] Yeah. And then the covid also definitely sped things up. Yeah. I might have been on a much slower track to cleaning house and reorganizing and changing a lot of things that I’ve changed. I did it much faster because of covid. I had no choice, actually.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:41] Yeah, totally makes sense. What’s your guidance? Do you feel poorly for how to respond and react to these challenges as they come up as someone like you steps into this role of running the family business and strikes this balance of retaining what’s good but evolving to sort of the next iteration of what the business needs to be.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:09:07] How do I do that? Isn’t that the secret of the sauce? (laughter)
Sam Jayanti [00:09:11] Yes, exactly, tell us your secret sauce.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:09:14] I mean it is because what’s amazing is that it’s off the ground. I mean, it’s got 40 years of history. It’s got a brand recognition. The name is recognized, dad used a color, which is part of the soil color, a slogan advertising for 40 years and different magazines like he really established the brand. So, in fact, he gave us a foundation, a solid, solid foundation. And that’s that’s how lucky we are. Also, the product is very identifiable. It’s it’s cable. So it’s very identifiable, so that the building block of that is so strong that I really feel that now I can grow for him. I can I can stretch a little bit further away. I can do some, you know, I can change things. And I think that the brand label will be able to change with me and with the time because of this very solid foundation that he created.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:11] Yeah. So in a sense, you’re saying the foundation has been so solid that it’s given you the opportunity and the tools to be able to evolve and transition it, and then the pandemic has helped speed up that process of change to really evolve it to the next stage. But without that foundation, that’s all would have been quite difficult. That makes total sense.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:10:30] So, I mean, yeah, no, I definitely think so. I think it’s very important for a brand to have that history. You know, we have archives, we have archives of designs. We have archives of launching of different products. We really have the story. We just have to tell the story in a different way that is adapted to twenty twenty one. That is adapted to the next generation of consumers. That’s what I need to do, retell the story. But it’s adapted to the next generation.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:06] When you’re the perfect person to do that, your father would not have been able to do that. So, so it’s worked out. What are the one or two areas that you were most focused on as you stepped into this role? You know, obviously that changed with the with the pandemic because that created its own set of challenges. But what were the one or two areas that you were laser focused on?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:11:32] Well, for me, what I know my strengths and I think that’s very important as a leader is to know your strengths and to know where you need help. So for me, my strength has always been in the design and in marketing, and I wanted to absolutely work on that. That was going to be my main focus, retelling the story, changing the product, connecting it to what’s going on in the world, focusing also on women that launched the brand with the woman focus. And I’m going to push that even further and really be a woman’s brand, not neglect our male consumers either. But it really have all the core values for a kind of woman company and that caters to women customers. So that that was my main thing and I know that, you know, where I’m going to where I am. OK, another thing that I like is also sales. I do like sales. I love selling. And it sounds weird, maybe, but I love, I got I was trained behind the counter in department stores in Japan. So if a consumer, customer came up, I would spend 45 minutes convincing her which was the best watch with the best bangle and things like that. But and she would buy it and it would make me, I don’t know, would bring her joy, would bring me joy. So I really liked the part of selling. So for me, when I talk to our team around the world who are selling Sherril products and I talk about strategy, about how to sell, how to present and things like that, or even our boutique concept that have to also evolve with the times, the digital times, that part is great also for me. So marketing, sales, design, those were my three. Like, I love it. I get excited. All the other stuff, which includes manufacturing, which is one of the biggest headaches. And when you create product, manufacturing and and finance. So those two those two areas that I need help and I surround myself with very talented people, thank God who helped me through those, through those moments.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:44] Wow, excellent. Most people separate personal and professional. And that obviously isn’t possible when you’re in a family business. What are your thoughts on how best to set boundaries while retaining the familial relationships which are obviously so important?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:14:05] It’s yes, it’s a family business, family members, very tricky, one thing you have is that you can usually be very open and very frank, and sometimes that is also a problem because you don’t put your gloves on. Right. When you talk to an employee, you put the gloves on and you’re more sensitive and with the family members sometimes maybe too, you know, too brutal, too up front. And I think you have to talk to your family members the same way you would talk to your colleagues. Right. With with gloves on, because,
Sam Jayanti [00:14:36] That’s really good advice.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:14:37] Yeah. Everybody is sensitive, you know, and you take it take it to heart more quickly. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy running a family business. But then also it’s so fun and challenging as well. You do have to try to put things away when you come home, like, put it in a drawer, save it for the next day. Don’t do it. Don’t talk too much over the weekend about it. But it’s very hard to do.
Sam Jayanti [00:15:07] I’m sure that’s really hard. So Coralie, what’s something that you wish you knew a decade ago?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:15:19] In business? (laughter)
Sam Jayanti [00:15:23] Or about yourself, in your sort of evolution as now the leader of Charriol in your world.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:15:32] Right, I probably would have taken that course in accounting that my father had suggested. (laughs) That’s something I probably should have done. A little accounting.
Sam Jayanti [00:15:49] He had good advice for you about that.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:15:51] I needed these 10 years to get where I am. If this had fallen in my lap 10 years ago, there’s no way I would have been ready. Yeah. I mean, there is nothing, you cannot cut corners, Now I really see that. And I understand because I remember graduating from college coming out and saying, OK, what am I going to do? Thinking, you know, what you’re going to do, thinking, you know something. And and then you get into it and you’re evolving. You like this, you don’t like that. You you’re thriving at this. You’re not thriving at that… And then you get to 10 years. And when you’re sitting around that conference room, boom, like you have experience, you talk from experience, you talk from from knowledge, you talk from you know, and and then people listen and you’re like oh!
Sam Jayanti [00:16:38] Yeah, no substitute for that experience. So true. So true. So think about a decade in advance, so in 10 years. What’s a skill or talent that you hope to have developed by then?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:16:54] I think I think the hardest thing that I’ve also found as CEO is… It’s people relations, like a CEO at the end of the day is a people relationship holder, creator…
Sam Jayanti [00:17:10] is the glue that keeps these relationships together.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:17:12] Absolutely. Absolutely. And and is inspiring. And they listen and they see the colleagues grow and evolve and you grow and evolve. So that part that’s what I’m hopefully in 10 years will look, you know, we’ll work on for that part, is being the leader and being a good leader, you know, and and lead with your heart, you know, and lead with with empathy. But leading with inspiration too, I don’t know, that’s kind of like it’s just it’s nobody talks about that, you know. So it would be something.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:57] It’s a good goal to have. If you could see yourself in another profession, what what would that be and why?
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:18:05] Well, before I worked at Charriol, I wanted to be in advertising. I loved the power of advertising. I loved the power of image and the power of messaging. But I get a little of that here in the company, so I’m happy about that. But if all else, if everything else fails, I’ll definitely go into film or documentary or something like that. That’s my passion has always been documentary films.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:37] Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today.
Coralie Charriol Paul [00:18:39] I’m so glad. Thank you for having the time to interview me and and good to see you.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:47] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you. So e-mail us at info at the Ideamix radio.com or Instagram DM us. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milewski with music by the awesome Nashville based singer songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at DougAllenMusic.com.
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