Entrepreneurs Forever 2015 | Version française

Alice Gentils

Sales Director for the Société des Bains de Mer of Monaco

She sells dreams for an emblematic hotel group on the Côte d’Azur.

The sky is always blue in Monaco, and Alice Gentil’s voice is, too. « I have the incredible good luck of working in magnificent surroundings, and selling products I love. »
The journey was a lot longer than the 70 km it says on the map, from Cabris, the hilltop village in Provence where she grew up, to the Hôtel de Paris, the most beautiful palace in the world, and one of the sumptuous Monaco establishments whose services she sells.

Alice Gentils had an unconventional upbringing in a family of artisan painters on silk, where the sense of beauty was more important than material wealth. She learned to speak English, Spanish, and Mandarin « 30 years too soon! », and thought that she would do an MBA in order to go into tourism. « My first gesture of freedom was to pay for my studies at Business School myself, against the opinion of my parents who didn't think much of the world of business! » She was one of the 5 % of "different" profiles in the class of 1985, where she finished top of the class. « The stakes were not the same for all of us. For me, going from the Faculty of Letters to the best Business School was a real shot in the arm! »

I love this theme of freedom; it has guided my whole life. Freedom means taking the risk of being yourself in an authentic way, even in environments with a strict code and strict controls. We must not sacrifice freedom of speech, and freedom of action in the name of security! 

Her first destination was the Méridien chain of hotels, which was at that time a subsidiary of Air France, where she explored marketing in the European sales management team. « I started in the hotel industry by chance; but very soon I understood that it was a field I enjoyed, with its Service and International dimension. »

When she got back from her first maternity leave, she packed her bags as Sales Manager for the Hotel Le Crillon, a mythical Parisian palace, where she learned about sheer luxury. « The passion for a totally bespoke premium product, with perfection at the service of the customer. » Six months later, the Sales Director left the service. « The Hotel Manager, Hervé Houdré, trusted me enough to give me the job, even though I didn't really have the necessary experience for it. » She made her way from price policy to loyalty plans, from seminars to incentive programmes, and, after five years, had had excellent results… But she did not want to bring her children up in Paris.

In 1996, her former manager suggested that she joined him as Sales Manager in the Société des Bains de Mer, the biggest private employer in the Principality of Monaco. Who could possibly refuse to market four hotels by the sea, two of which are palaces, thirty or so restaurants, including the Louis XV where the Chef Alain Ducasse made his name, and several meeting, sport, and entertainment centres…?

Alice Gentils developed the sales department, keeping up with ongoing luxury refurbishments, and today runs a team of 25 people. « I love transmitting my passion for sales techniques, for creativity, positive attitude, and sheer hunger! You do a lot of business when you are really hungry for it! »

She has both feet firmly on the ground. « In this profession, it is important to keep to your own place, not to imagine you are the same as the client. The higher up you go the truer that is. »

Her own brand of luxury lies in finding time for herself, for travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and to devoting more time to the Côte d’Azur Forever alumni network. « Thanks to Emmanuel Ponçon, with his boundless intelligence and generosity, I have understood that our School is a family. And I must say I am really proud of the idea of this book of Portraits. It makes a school which trains people in business more human, and gives it a whole new dimension I like a lot. »

EM Lyon: MBA 1985
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 01/06/15