Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Isabelle Ducellier

General manager for Pernod Ricard Sweden

She became an expat to manage an SME for the world co-leader in wines and spirits.

Who can say whether the destiny of Isabelle Ducellier was decided on the Island of Embiez, belonging to the Pernod-Ricard group, when it hosted the induction seminar for her class, or else during the year when she went from bar to restaurant, with the team of the Petit Paumé city-guide? Or else when, as an EMLYON graduate, she met a representative of Pernod-Ricard, who delivered the clincher: « There are real possibilities for a fast-track, varied, career for gifted candidates ».

At Pernod-Ricard, everything begins with learning the sol-fa in the field, and Isabelle Ducellier was no exception. She practiced her scales in field Sales in hypermarkets and learned a little night music of shelf-filling. After a few marketing impromptus in table wines, she became the first woman to be head of an Export sector. She orchestrated the importers of Cusenier liqueurs in Scandinavia, in Germany, then in continental Europe, and even in South Africa. At the end of it all: high level contacts, but too much travelling for a newly-married lady. « Exhilarating but exhausting », she summarises.

You can have the desire to transmit values, or a culture, but you can't force it. To transmit well, you need respect, exemplarity, conviviality, sincerity and love for others.

The General Manager of the Swedish distribution subsidiary offered her the possibility of creating the marketing function. Isabelle Ducellier arrived in her hotel room in Stockholm with her husband and her two-month old baby. As the first expat woman in the group, she kept up with the tempo: complete immersion, Swedish classes, recruiting a team, structuring the marketing plans of all the brands in the group... 5 years and 2 more babies later, she adds Sales Manager to her musical score.

In 2002, the group bought the Polish brand Wyborowa and was composing international ambitions. Isabelle Ducellier scooted off allegro to Warsaw. This time she sight-read strategic marketing, composed the global platform for the brand, but kept on taking planes with the regularity of a metronome. « I was getting home on Saturday exhausted, with my house husband looking after our three children. »

If Poland is a country of music, life was not necessarily as romantic as Chopin nor structured like a polonaise. « No roads, no trains, we had to fight for everything, it was really hard. » Isabelle Ducellier was hoping for a transfer, and found herself back in her native south-west France as Regional Manager for OOH, over- seeing a 50 strong sales team: all men, aged around 50 and built like rugby players. « A real trial by fire, but we ended up getting on really well! »

When the project to purchase the Absolut brand was announced, she offered to go back to Scandinavia. And she returned to Stockholm in 2008 as a divorcee this time, with her three children and a cat. New opera, one octave higher, that of General Management, a first in the group for a woman.

In five years, Isabelle Ducellier, like a real music-lover, played the integration of Absolut, without striking a false note, and placed the tonic accent on management whilst tuning up development. « The Swedish were worried about being taken over by a French company, since they don't have a good image of the French. I was happy to be able to succeed in making them love Pernod-Ricard. »

In between, Isabelle Ducellier met a Viking: together they conduct a sextet of teenagers from 12 to 17, in the sound of music... which sometimes leaves her an intermezzo: for her commitment as French Senior Advisor for External Trade, for polo... and especially for her grand piano, her only extravagance!

EM Lyon: Programme Grande Ecole 1991
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14