Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Gilles Mollard

General manager of Toy"R"Us France

He cultivates the customer reflex.

Gilles Mollard grew up on the 20 acre family farm, one of the last ones remaining in the commune of Chambéry in Savoy. « When you have your feet in the mud, in the middle of the cows, it is teaches you to be pragmatic. » It teaches you poly-culture, if you follow the furrow: multi-trade, multi-sector, and multi-country!

His first job was with the Bongrain group, in the Vosges: as Product Manager, he cleared the ground for the ‘’Caprice des Dieux’’ brand of cheese. His colleagues felt sorry for him, when, in 1987, he left them for supermarket retailing.
And there he was, still in the countryside, in the Bugey region, for the Comptoirs Modernes. « I met some amazing mentors, with a real philosophy of trade and management. »

He started practicing a sort of professional crop rotation, alternating several jobs, including that of HR Manager, and designed a training course for the 2,000 Managers which would sow seeds along the rest of his career. « I still use those ideas as a reference: perfection in your work, the customer reflex, trust in the team, the spirit of conquest. »

With my peasant origins, I grew up with the idea of transmission.
In companies, you transmit projects and values so that all the teams work together.
This means communicating with good intentions, adapting to everyone, whatever their function, status or profile. Good transmission leaves no one by the wayside

In 1996, he was sent to Spain to layer the first acquisitions of supermarkets; he was the first expat in the group, and knew nothing about the country, or the language. After five weeks of language lessons, he arrived in Catalonia, fertilised the network of stores and trellised several local take-overs, after the sale of the group to Carrefour in 1998, and the subsequent grafting of Promodès in 1999.

In May 2000, Gilles Mollard and his herd embarked on a transhumance. Without even doing a recce, he went straight to the Carrefour head office for the America zone in Buenos Aires. He was in charge of the Carrefour brand, and prepared the ground for international supply chains, such as the supply of farmed salmon from the Chiloé Islands in Chile.

Then he set out to grow supermarket activity in Brazil. Three years later, Carrefour decided to concentrate on hypermarkets, and that was the end of the Brazilian season.

Back to the mother-land in 2003 and then migration to the Netherlands, where Casino supermarkets gave him the reins of the Laurus group: 300 discount stores to prune, and fatten up. After a rotation in mass catering, Gilles Mollard went back to retail in 2006, as General Manager of the French subsidiary of Toys ’’R’’ Us. The toys giant (present in 35 countries, 70,000 staff), was purchased a year later by three investment funds, leaving him the run of the field to make the company more profitable.

A diagnosis to clear the brushwood, a new vision as compost, he sowed the seeds of a profitable and cost-effective growth: with a well-bonded Directing Board, a regained level of trust, client culture, re-launched expansion, the shift to internet, a broader product range, multi-channel access, and a recast supply chain. « I see myself as being at the head of a big SME rather than the Manager of a subsidiary. A 'Manager by walking around', who asks himself the same question, every evening: What have I done today to contribute to customer experience and customer satisfaction? »

‘’Father Christmas's N°1 assistant’’, is how he describes himself with a smile, and he regularly puts down his sack in his native Savoy: in his cabin high up in the trees, the epicurean landowner savours the view of the lakes and the mountains, devours cartoon albums, simmers his plans for the next gastronomical pilgrimage, and boils over in excitement at the idea of tasting the first bottles of vine from his own vineyard, and of oil from his silver olive trees.

For Gilles Mollard, happiness is in the field, in toys, diversity, simplicity...

EM Lyon: Grande Ecole 1982
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14