#5 Episode: Nicolas Babin,Global Influencer Leader in Digital World talks about Mergers,Acquisitions and Business insights.
By Entrepreneur Fox
EFox Question - Hi Nicolas, You have achieved several huge milestones in your journey so far, can you describe your past 3 decades how it has been?
Nicolas Babin - I like the number 3 as it divides equally my life. First the learning phase with the intention to always think outside of the box and always be different. As a French newly graduate, I moved to San Francisco, married an American and learned to speak English and the American way of life and work. I was very fortunate to work for large companies and small ones. I actively participated in one of the first IPO in the silicon valley and I worked for very smart people who taught me a lot. Then the development phase. I moved to London and was recruited by Sony where I spent over 15 years from head of digital mapping (I commercialized the first GPS system in the world) to head of AI and robotics based in Brussels (I commercialized the first AI robot - AIBO) to head of communication and product marketing for Europe based in Berlin. I spent a long time also in Tokyo with Sony headquarter. Then I moved to France and developed several companies outside their traditional markets. I managed another IPO on NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) and I became the head of business development (M&A) as well as head of digital for a very large company based in Paris. My third life started when I decided to become a consultant and make companies (mostly start ups) benefit from my know how and my very extended network throughout the world. I now sit on several boards, help many start ups and transform digitally large companies. I also share with students as I am a professor at several business schools and give lessons on line. Like in every job you need one year to understand your job, one year to make miracles and one year to prepare the next person. My life has been built like that.
EFox Question - What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how is it valuable?
Nicolas Babin - The most important leadership lesson I have learnt is to be humble. We are all humans and the combination of everyone's skills and know-how at all levels will be our strength. Every person has something to bring to the table and even the boss can learn from everyone. We are always a team at the company's service.
Thanks to this I was able to lead and not managed. I engage everyone with only one goal in mind... the company's success.
EFox Question - How did you build the skill of always speaking so engagingly in front of others?
Nicolas Babin - Because I am very humble, I realized that the energy I carry needed to be shared with everyone. As a leader you need to ensure everyone is engaged and therefore you need to be the fuel for everyone. It is hard work but very necessary. One important lesson was to always say to try no matter what. There are 2 ways in life... you either win or you learn. Once you get that, you move mountains.
EFox Question - Can you describe your Early life and career?
Nicolas Babin - My early life was very simple in France (South West) as the oldest of a family of 4. I was not supposed to have a big career as I was a normal student. However, moving to San Francisco when I was 22, made me realize how innovation, disruption and leadership was key to success. I did not speak English then so the effort was double. First to speak and then to succeed. One example is when I moved to Santa Barbara in California to sell computers at Computerland (in 1990). I was paid on commission. After the first month when I did not sell anything, I started to worry. An idea came up. Whatever I sold during the week, I would install at people's home on Sunday. The second month I became the 3rd best sells executive and from the third month I became the best sales executive. People needed help, I understood it and made it big.
EFox Question - How life at Sony from 1997-2008 brought change in you as a person? What are the key moments that you would like to share?
Nicolas Babin - Sony is a great company with fantastic leaders and an innovation culture like no other. The Japanese culture is fantastic because it teaches you the real values of life (to be humble, to work hard and to learn from each other). It definitely changed me as a person especially because I had 2 great mentors who allowed me to be myself. Key moments would be in the GPS world when I sold the systems to Mercedes and then saw it working on a high end E class (back in 1998). Also when I participated in robot cup events with my babies (AIBO and QRIO). Presenting AIBO on September 11 2003 at the first Sony Ericson board meeting in Stockholm was also very special.
Finally as head of communication, inviting over 800 journalists in Bordeaux (my home town) for a great Sony Media Experience in 2005.
EFox Question - What led you in the world of gamification?
Nicolas Babin - Very naturally when you work for Sony and you have PlayStation as well as the world's best electronic products. The question came one day as we were talking with my teams. How can we get as engaged as in a video game and how could we use game mechanics to benefit our product positioning. This was in 2004. The word Gamification did not exist but this became our strategy. I am a gamer in mind and I love marketing. I put the two together and now I work and I have fun at the same time.
EFox Question - What has been your biggest customer success story?
Nicolas Babin - I went one day to Germany to discuss the use of a intelligent digital tool (analytics). I negotiated with the head of a very large European communication company and after hours (over 10) of negotiation, managed to agree on a 7 figure deal. I was so tired but so happy. This deal made the company.
EFox Question - Having involved in multiple business acquisition,mergers and closures, what is one key skill require for any entrepreneur to succeed?
Nicolas Babin - Sorry but two skills are required. One is to be humble and put yourself in the other person's shoe (how would you feel if it was you). Two is to be patient and respect cultures, values and consequences that this actions could have.
EFox Question - Expert in consulting, marketing, innovations and business development,If anybody wanted to develop this kind of expertise or skill that you have, how would you suggest them to go about?
Nicolas Babin - Experience. Even if you do not have that experience, go for it and learn it as you go. Richard Branson used to say "accept a job and you will think about how to do it afterwards". I fully agree with this statement. Put yourself in a challenge and you will succeed.
EFox Question - Nicolas, what are the current professional activities that you are engaged into?
Nicolas Babin - 3 sectors of activity (funny again with the number 3).First as a consultant helping companies internationally, business development and transforming digitally.Second as an independent board member for many companies in many sectors.Third as a mentor/professor on and off line to students.
EFox Question - Nicolas, Any final thoughts on your future endeavor?
Nicolas Babin - I have been very lucky and I have enjoyed my professional life very much. However I have also had some failures. People who do not fail are not as strong. I hope that I will be able to teach that in my third life as I plan to strengthen transmission of my know how to the new generation.
Failures are OK. You learn from failures.
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