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CEO Blog: Culture is a Company’s Holy Grail

In 2008, Harvard University handpicked Coty to be the focus of a case study entitled “Bernd Beetz: Creating the New Coty.” Published in the Harvard Business Journal, the feature examined Coty’s success as the largest fragrance company in the world and a leader in the beauty industry, as well as our unique “Faster. Further. Freer.” corporate culture; instilled soon after my arrival as CEO.

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Andreas Pollok | Getty Images

When I asked the study’s author?Professor Geoffrey Jones, a true academic expert on beauty?why he chose to highlight Coty, he said, “Look, I’ve analyzed the beauty industry for the last five years, and you’re very abnormal. I had to look at you because you are the only company that acquired brands that didn’t work elsewhere and made them work using the same team. That’s absolutely unique.”

In that sense, I’ll take being abnormal as a compliment. Our company culture has been the biggest satisfaction of my professional career. And in my decade at Coty, it’s become the subject that’s closest to my heart. I believe that culture is a company’s holy grail and that it needs to be defended by all means. CEOs and brand stewards should be extraordinarily vigilant about building culture. It’s the engine room. It inspires all the things that a company does. It’s the very lifeblood from which you can attract and foster some of the best minds in your industry.

But first there’s the business of defining what you want your culture to be. I knew that I wanted Coty’s culture to encourage forward-thinkers and brand builders to reach their full professional potential, so I boiled this down to the motto “Faster. Further. Freer.”I encouraged our employees to be faster, go further and to think more freely than anyone else in the market. This has paid off more than I could ever have imagined. I have to admit, the Coty I saw 10 years ago was extremely decentralized, had a poor reputation, and the organization overall lacked cohesion. But when I realized that I had a unique opportunity to start fresh and define a new culture that really drew me to the company.

That said, I still love to go over numbers and I never tire of charts. Wherever I go, I like to pull out Coty’s latest figures, which continue to show how year after year, we’ve outperformed our competition. Yet I know that numbers like this would not have been possible without our impressive organizational structure and capabilities. That’s what the numbers really show?the focus and commitment of our employees?which is a direct result of our empowering company culture.

It’s important to embrace branding in a very holistic way. Branding at Coty is not an isolated task of one or two departments. It’s the effort of the entire organization, and that shows. That’s the way we go to market. We passionately build our brands, and that’s why they are so superior. We are capable of addressing and attacking issues in a very focused way. We know how to acquire and integrate brands. Over the last 10 years, we’ve taken on over 10 brands. All of them are successes.

In light of so many acquisitions, we’ve had to make a lot of personnel decisions. Rather than immediately discount the employees of the companies we’ve acquired, we believe—and have seen—that it is better to embrace the ideas of others rather than to immediately discredit them. By integrating new people and new ideas into our company, we’ve continued to grow and prosper.

Company culture reaches far beyond the boardroom and the break room and into the brands to which your employees are devoting their time. The litmus test for a brand is whether or not it can enrich, enlarge and impact a consumer’s life in a positive way. For each brand, you find different ways to do that, and you’re only able to if you have the right culture. Pay close attention to your culture, and you’ll find that it not only helps you to attract the right kind of people, but trains your people to have an innovative and open way to address what consumers want and need. This philosophy will not only drive the success of an entire company, but it might even get you written up in an academic journal ?or two.

As chief executive officer of Coty Inc. since 2001, Bernd Beetz has transformed the organization to position Coty as a leading global beauty company. In ten years, under his leadership, Mr. Beetz has amplified the organization’s presence worldwide through vast industry insight and international business practices. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and focused on creating a strong, innovative pipeline, Coty has gained an unyielding position in the fragrance, skin care and color cosmetics categories; the beauty company now also possesses an unrivaled portfolio of over 40+ notable brands, which are delivered to consumers in 135 markets worldwide.