Most business leaders I work with would be satisfied being successful in one industry. But driving success in several different industries is only possible for a rare number of great leaders.
Sylvain Toutant is one of those business leaders. I’ve had the privilege of working with him over the years, and I’ve always been impressed by how he’s been able to go into very different companies and create success.
Whether it’s been a big box retailer, a leading coffee company, or a paper products manufacture. Toutant has the uncanny ability to drive success by creating a sense of personal excitement and passion for the business in his employees and customers.
Well, Toutant has been at it again with DAVIDsTEA, a Montreal-based beverage company, which is rapidly growing into a powerful North American brand.
The company first caught Toutant’s attention when his sons introduced him to the company’s products. He recalled in a recent interview, “Something is going on here…you talk tea with your mother, not your boys.” From that moment on, he started following the company.
He learned that the tea industry is a significant one, estimated to be close to $44B in size worldwide and growing. Next to water, it’s the second most popular beverage around the world. It has also become very popular among millennials and that is key for the company.
As fate would have it, he was tapped on the shoulder by the founders of DAVIDsTEA to come in and take the company to the next level. And that’s what he did.
Last year, Toutant and his team launched a successful IPO, and they continue to expand retail locations across North America. They are also building a strong omni-channel strategy.
So what’s at the heart of Toutant’s success?
“You have to love your business and your industry” expressed Toutant with a childlike enthusiasm.
So I pressed him a little to really understand what it means to “love your business”. He shared that it begins with a passion for your customers and really serving them in a meaningful way.
“You need to be curious about your customers’ behavior and understand how to meet their needs – this has to be core to your approach to leadership. You need to also be absolutely committed to creating unique value for your customers.”
DAVIDsTEA puts Toutant’s ideas into action through their core mission to infuse people’s lives with joy. It’s at the core of everything the company does. You can sense this feeling of joy in him. I was talking to him over the phone as he was on the road, in one of their US retail locations. He was excited by the customers coming into the store and walking out with a cup of tea or one of their many products.
But you also feel this sense of joy at the store level with the many young people who work for the company. They bring an energy that is infectious.
Toutant related a personal story that really anchored his approach to leadership. “My father had a job – he worked in a plant. It was what I would call a job with a small “j”. I saw him come home from work, never really excited about what he did. I promised myself early in my life that I would never do that. So I made sure that I would always have a passion in my work and to me it begins with loving the business you are in.”
This week’s gut check asks: Do you love your business and your industry?
About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro