29 January 2015 Wall-Street.ro
Stephane Batoux (50) joined Albalact last June, after a 2-year General Manager office with Coca-Cola HBC Romania. Before that, Stephane Batoux used to run the business of Danone Romania as General Manager for three years. All of this time, he kept a low profile. This was one more reason to have this interview, barely crowded in the very busy agenda of the French manager. The time was not selected accidentally. We met in one of his favorite restaurants, La Cantine de Nicolai, right the day Stephane Batoux turned 50.
I was pleasantly surprised with its laid-back attitude over lunch, moreover since the rare meetings we had before were highly formal and sprinkled with business-related questions only. I thus found out that, despite his first impression of the Romanians as “very proud”, “different from the rest of the world” and out of the crisis’s reach, today, he sees Romania on an equal footing with Italy, the country where Stephane Batoux felt home.
“There are plenty of similarities between Romanians and Italians. I worked well with the nationals of both countries. I saw the same desire to be successful, win, attain the set targets in both Italians and Romanians”
Stephane Batoux, CEO Albalact
Romania and Italy add to other four countries Stephane Batoux worked in along time – United Kingdom, France, Russia and Ukraine. “When you work in more countries, you need to have good adaptation skills, otherwise you don’t stand a chance. I tried to keep only the good things, and brush under the bad ones. What I loved most about Italy was the mix of flexibility and good organization in companies. Russia was definitely my toughest experience. Moscow is a chaotic country, with no traffic rules, and where only the size and the price of your car matter. Nevertheless, I appreciated the cultural life there, and I show several of Bolshoi Theater’s performances”, Batoux recalls.
Coming back to Albalact, I want to find out what determined him to accept the proposition of Raul Ciurtin, the owner of the largest Romanian diary producer, and a company which has experienced a booming growth over the past years, ranking second in the relevant industry in 2014, after the French giant Danone. “My decision was conditional on the equation 1+1=3. It was a good mix between the spectacular performance of the company and its team, and the experience I gained in multinationals. I said “Yes” in less than one minute. I knew Raul Ciurtin, we had met in several occasions before, and his proposition came during a 30-minute meeting over a coffee”, recalls Batoux.
He has a very open relation with the business owner, the two transparently and frequently giving each other feedback. “The main asset of an entrepreneur is his or her capacity to assume risks, while making a sound market analysis. What it sometimes lacks, but this is perfectly normal, are the processes. This is exactly what I am trying to bring to the company, because processes generate efficiency. In Albalact’s case, it is not about shifting performance, but enhancing efficiency. I also found something that applies across the entire Eastern Europe and is rooted also in the communist time, that is no capacity to anticipate things. This will change with the generations”, explains Stephane Batoux.
The experience gained in multinationals is now paying off, as the French managers thinks through strategies for a 3-year time horizon with a precise objective or, as he likes to call it, “a magical number”. “We are internally fine-tuning the strategy for the next 3 years. The path is straight. We want, first of all, to continue the success story of the 8-9 years of uninterrupted growth. And, why not, become the number one on the market. Then, we want to implement certain processes within the company to enhance efficiency, and recruit new staff in strategic business areas. I am dreaming about a magical number to be achieved in 3 years time. My main bet is to be the number 1 on the market, and be recognizes as such by consumers”, explains Batoux.
As for how the diary industry will evolve this year, Albalact’s CEO expects no “unpleasant surprises” given that, although there are no prospects for growth on the market, consumers gradually recover their purchasing power and look for “healthier products”.