From the busy ateliers of Paris and the decadent world of luxury brands, Anne-Sarine Dupuis- Courcoux packed up her family and former life to move to the bustling development of Phnom Penh to uphold her father’s legacy and leave her mark on a long-standing family business.
Blue Pumpkin is one of the most recognised local brands in Cambodia. The late Alain Dupuis played a major role in its expansion. When he passed away in late 2013, his family had to step in and decide where to take the parent company, MEAS Development Holding. Alain Dupuis’ daughter had been indirectly involved in his many businesses throughout the years, and decided it was time to take control and steer the company to the next level.
Anne-Sarine moved from Paris to Cambodia and took the position of chairwoman representative at MEAS Development Holding, with her husband, Eloi Courcoux, by her side as CEO.
“We came here at a time when the company had grown rapidly,” Anne-Sarine says. “In 2014, we opened 11 new outlets of different brands such as Hard Rock Café, Yoshinoya and Dim Sum Emperors. When we arrived our objective was to continue structuring teams and consolidate the business. Our next objective is to expand.”
A New Regime
The first thing the newly arrived couple did was overhaul the structure of the company. “We’ve developed a holding company structure and management team, reinforcing strong people with specific skill sets to be able to work on all the different brands that we have,” she says.
“It’s important that each brand has its own managing director and functions independently, as each has its own personality that requires day-to-day management. We are here to reinforce, help and guide the teams of each of the brands.”
“We really want to continue being one of Cambodia’s main players in the food and beverage industry
and this means structuring the teams to a more international standard. We still want to keep this entrepreneurial spirit but also to professionalise it more.”
Of Belgian and Cambodian descent, Anne-Sarine has a background in brand development, marketing, and human resource management, specialising in luxury brands and targeting markets across the globe.
With Communication Comes Trust
Her management style is inclusive and utilises an open door policy to establish trust between herself and her employees. “First, it starts with trust. Then it’s about teamwork. But within that teamwork, everybody also has their part of responsibility and accountability for what they do,” she says.
And how does one build trust in a Cambodian workforce of 1,300 people spread across numerous brands? “You have to believe in them and give them their space,” Anne-Sarine explains. “You can only teach so much. It’s about letting a person become an individual and take on responsibilities. Trust is also about communication; thus we really believe in being transparent and honest.”
Having grown up among Western cultures and ideologies, Cambodia presents Anne-Sarine with some unique cultural contrasts that need to be addressed for a business to operate smoothly and successfully. Having spent four years designing human resource training programmes for the prestigious Louis Vuitton, Anne-Sarine, with a workforce of 10,000, learned how best to foster personal growth in employees.
“My role was to shape people on induction and provide ongoing training while fostering a community and family spirit in thousands of staff worldwide she says. Yet there was a sense of community among all of them with pride and values that everyone shared.”
Just as she shaped staff worldwide for Louis Vuitton, Anne-Sarine is applying the same principles here. “It’s a very hierarchical structure here in Cambodia. Very often staff are directed by management rather than encouraged to engage actively. At MEAS Development Holding, we’re asking them to take initiative and give feedback. We are giving them the message: It’s your moment to shine and take the lead in your outlet.”
The undeniable skill gaps that pervade the Cambodian business landscape are being addressed through ongoing training and skill development, but Anne-Sarine believes that good recruitment is the key and the rest can be nurtured. “We look for the people with the right mindset. Then, we teach the skills, whether it’s vocational or technical,” she says.
MEAS Development Holding provides various ways to drive motivation in staff. “Day to day, it’s about recognition and encouragement. You need to know what your objectives are and need to know what you need to produce. These are the building blocks. We also offer things like birthday and staff parties and then incentives like training, annual leave, performance based salary increases, health insurance and promotions,” she says.
Anne-Sarine’s professional goals fit well with the philosophy she’s applying at MEAS. “I want to be the right kind of role model, helping individuals to bring out the best in themselves. I want to be able to motivate the teams,” she says.
Words by Jessica Sander |Photograph by Bernardo Salce, Courtesy of MEAS Development Holding