Business Lessons from Jean-Claude Biver

In His Own Words

Jean-Claude Biver is the head of watchmaking at LVMH and currently oversees TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot, three luxury Swiss watch brands. Mr. Biver successfully grew sales tenfold in less than ten years at Hublot. He previously enjoyed success rejuvenating the Blancpain and Omega brands, both currently owned by Swatch Group. He graduated with a degree in business from the University of Lausanne.

In his storied career, he made a name for himself as a passionate goal-oriented mentor and leader. This curated list of a few of his business lessons could apply to anyone in any industry.

The Core of Tenets

“Love and passion: You need love, which means a passion for business. A dead fish swims in the direction of the current. But a living fish, swims against the current and darts in the direction of its choice. The universe of passion is open to everybody, but many don’t believe. Luck will never come to them. But you can go towards luck.”

“Think differently: In today’s environment, people need to think differently. Whatever my company does in any field, we try to be the first, and/or unique and/or different. If you are first or unique or different, you will win!”

“Keep perspective: When things don’t work out, I talk to the tall mountains which I see every morning from my home. I see those mountains – I say to these mountains – Mountain, I have a problem. You are 37 million years old, I am a little guy with a little problem, can you help me. I put things in perspective.”

Your Best Tool is Your Mind

“Stay focused: I am connected only to watches. I have other little passions, but my main passion is watches. I would never transform my minor passions into a business, but watches are my life. I want my wife and children to remember my love and I want people to remember my contribution to the watch business.”

“Be prepared to learn: You must be willing to accept help, which means you must be willing to learn; not spoon-fed knowledge. After university, you need to start to learn how to learn. Be humble. Never believe you know it all. Doubt is your friend. People without doubt make me nervous. I want people who are full of doubts. Doubts help you to stay humble and on the right track. Young people must be ready to accept half their salary at a new job. The other half should go to paying the company for teaching them. Listen to others.”

Constantly Innovate

“Innovation and creativity: Innovation and creativity are more powerful than knowledge. Knowledge is easy for anyone to get. It is there whenever you want, especially with modern technology. But where is innovation and creativity? They are above knowledge. Creativity and innovation are much stronger than knowledge, and cannot usually be taught. It is a way of thinking. Create an atmosphere where people can innovate. Permit people to make mistakes. Then they will start to trust themselves and become much more active and take on new initiatives. Innovation brings uncertainty. If you are capable of forgiving mistakes, you will foster innovation.”

Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum

“Powerful messaging is better than a powerful product: Don’t be product oriented, be message oriented. With Hublot we fused gold with rubber. It was provocative. Fusion became our message, our philosophy, our religion. We developed further products based on this brand message of “fusion.” I freed Hublot from the product and helped to create a brand message. From the brand message new products were born.”

“When you have love and health and a job you adore and that you are passionate about, you are in paradise!”