September 23, 2023 Today at 03:00
Peter Corijn, former executive of Procter & Gamble and ex-CEO of Van de Velde, publishes a management book: “True Leaders Deliver”. A little rock and roll in business…
It is rather rare to meet a boss who has opened for a U2 concert. Peter Corijn was 21 years old at the time. “It was in Deinze in 1982. I was part of the group Angry Voices as bassist,” he tells us. But young Peter didn’t dare approach the members of the Irish group or ask for a photo. “I was too shy at the time. I regret it, because they seemed nice. For me, they were stars.”
Peter Corijn has just published a management book, “True Leaders Deliver”. There are many management lessons there, including those that groups like U2 precisely, but also the Rolling Stones or even an artist like David Bowie.
Full screen view Peter Corijn
Born in 1961, Peter Corijn grew up in Deinze. “The local venue, the Brielpoort, welcomed young bands from the British and Irish scene. We were the first to discover bands like U2.” Unfortunately, his group Angry Voices did not persevere. And he still regrets it today.
A graduate in law from the University of Ghent and in commercial law from the VUB, Corijn, at the start of his career, completed an internship at the BBL (now ING), part of which took place in London because he was destined for an international career. “But I wanted a more dynamic environment than a bank.” He was then recruited by Procter & Gamble. “It was love at first sight. The welcome was excellent. I stayed there for 25 years.” He worked there in different countries. “I was attracted to emerging markets, in an environment where I could develop my entrepreneurial capabilities.” He thus turned around the P&G subsidiary in Morocco. He then participated in the integration of Gillette within P&G. “It was a great adventure.”
“There is always a way to win”, tel est le slogan personnel de Peter Corijn.
After spending almost 4 years in England at Imperial Brands, where he was global chief marketing officer (CMO) and chaired certain divisions, he then set up his own company Vucastar Consulting. He then had the opportunity to become the CEO of the lingerie company Van de Velde. But the adventure will only last a few months, from May to the end of November 2022. “It was better not to continue. We weren’t culturally right for each other. We separated peacefully.”
“There is always a way to win”, tel est son slogan personnel. “Even when a society is in serious difficulty, it is possible to find a solution if we use appropriate methods. That is the aim of the book.” The book includes many examples from business. But Peter Corijn adds management lessons inspired by other fields, including the music sector. Don’t the big music labels live according to the “blockbuster model”, like in the pharmaceutical sector? It is the discovery of a star artist or a star drug, a “blockbuster”, which will pay for the rest of the efforts (and the share of commercial failures).
“There are groups that have been successful for twenty, thirty or forty years, but they have been able to adapt. I sometimes ask participants in my seminars: describe to me a strategy for U2.”
Author of “True Leaders Deliver”
“The music industry sector is really very interesting because technological innovations and the disruptions they create occur first in this industry” he says. “Remember, we had vinyl records, cassettes, CDs, Napster and the MP3 format, which then led to the creation of iTunes and the iPod. Then streaming arrived with Spotify in particular. And today, artificial intelligence is arriving. This will be a new chapter in the industry,” confides Corijn.
“Whether we like it or not, AI will impact creation. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in. We will We are therefore witnessing the emergence of virtual artists and we must logically expect numerous copyright lawsuits. As usual, there will be winners and losers, under economist Joseph Schumpeter’s phenomenon of creative destruction..”
Knowing how to adapt
Full screen view For Peter Corijn, the longevity of the Rolling Stones is based on their cohesion and discipline. ©BELGA
For Corijn, the music sector demonstrates that in business, it is constantly necessary to evolve. “There are groups that have been successful for twenty, thirty or forty years, but they have been able to adapt. I sometimes ask participants in my seminars: describe to me a strategy for U2. The answer is always: the key , it’s about building a good team. But it’s a cliché, it’s worthless as a strategy. Are there any musicians who form a band to be a bad team? No, obviously.”
“What you have to understand is that in big groups, like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, the sum is greater than the parts.”
One of the keys to success, according to Corijn, is that U2 decided to share the revenue equally between the four band members and the manager. Everyone receives 20%. This avoids problems. It is a system which has also been copied by other groups. In the book he titles a chapter “When to change? What Bowie and U2 got right”. Both Bowie and U2 continued to reinvent themselves throughout their careers. Bowie constantly changed his style, from Ziggy Stardust to Thin White Duke via his new romantic figure in Ashes to Ashes… For its part, U2 made the courageous decision, Corijn suggests, to record the album in 1991 Achtung Baby, which was a departure from the band’s usual style of music. The latter above all managed to overcome problems, notably the alcoholism of bassist Adam Clayton. The other members helped him. A great lesson in loyalty.
“What you have to understand is that in big groups, like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, the sum is greater than the parts.” Mick Jagger never had much success in his solo career. Relations were sometimes difficult between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but both understood that it was together that they were strongest. “The Financial Times once asked Keith Richards why the Stones were so successful. ‘Because we are disciplined,’ was his response. This may seem surprising at first, but having read his biography, it’s the truth . You know, we consider him an excellent guitarist, but he is also a genius composer.”
The right CEO
For Peter Corijn, there are five criteria for being a good CEO. You have to deliver good results, be authentic, have courage, remain accessible and be resilient. When asked which CEOs can serve as models, he cites Paul Polman. “When he became CEO of Unilever, Polman made the courageous decision to no longer provide quarterly targets. The company focused on long-term value creation, which included ambitious targets for ESG and sustainability. It was the right thing to do. Under his leadership, the shareholder return was 300%.” He also cites Chip Bergh, they Levi Strauss who restored society, Patrice Louvet by Ralph Lauren, and the essentials Steve Jobs et Elon Musk (but only for certain aspects). In Belgium, he points to the name of Jef Colruyt.
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Could Peter Corijn still become CEO of a Belgian or international company? He says he remains open to opportunities. In addition to his consulting activities, he continues to record music under the name Paul Numi. He already has two albums to his credit with pop-rock music influenced by Joy Division, The Cure and The Editors. Little broadcast here, his music has nevertheless found its way to certain American college radio stations. In the hit parade of one of these stations, he was ranked thirteenth… ahead of Paul McCartney. In Florida, a basketball team broadcasts its songs before games. He was also interviewed by BBC 2 who programmed one of his pieces. “It’s a great satisfaction.” So Peter Corijn would not be a prophet in his own country? “Recently, someone called me to ask me if I was interested in playing at Werchter. I was surprised. But, it was for the mayor’s ball,” he confides with a smile, adding that he was not available on the scheduled date. Who knows, when U2 next returns to Werchter? Peter Corijn would have things to say to Bono this time…
Peter Corijn and version Paul Numi
“True leaders deliver: An essential guide to mission success”, par Peter Corijn, Owl Press, 304 pages, 25,99 euros.
Peter Corijn publishes a management book, “True Leaders Deliver”. There are many management lessons there, particularly inspired by great artists and musical groups. One of the keys to the success of U2 East equal sharing of revenue between group members and the manager.Tant David Bowie as U2 continued to reinvent themselves during their career.At the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, the sum is greater than the parts.
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