As manufacturing group Vestel looks to the future, it plans to expand by adding a branded business model, and also by investing in new technologies to stay on top of a rapidly changing environment. Former Managing Director Paul Molyneux discusses what lies ahead.
The CEO Magazine: What are the key differences between Japanese and Turkish business?
Paul: In Japan the business culture tends to be more long-term, a little bit more structured, and the decision-making process is definitely slightly longer than in Turkish companies. Vestel is a bit more of a trading environment; traditionally it’s not a branded business. Their core model is OEM, ODM, manufacturing, supply chain, and key value chains. Decision-making, therefore, is a little bit quicker. It’s a bit more market focused. In a Japanese environment the communication is very structured—lots of namo oshi, where you’ve got to get things agreed to in principle before the meeting, so the meeting is a ceremony. In a Turkish company it’s almost the opposite, everyone wants to get involved with decision-making because information is power. Part of the job of running their biggest subsidiary, and also helping them to set up the branded business, was to try to balance those 2 approaches.
We’re not talking about being overly structured, but some structure is good, and the ability to plan is still important. So we’ve brought a bit more professionalism to the business, and by having a good framework I think that we can really create flexibility and an environment where our team can develop.
How has this experience shaped your leadership style?
Leaving that Japanese environment and coming to Vestel, I was very conscious that it wasn’t really my style. My natural management style is much more collaborative.
It’s really about bringing people together, empowering teams, and creating accountability.
That is sometimes very hard to do in a Japanese environment if you’re running a regional business, because over there the absolute level of decision making that can be devolved is still relatively limited.
In the Vestel environment, there is quite a lot of autonomy in decision making, and obviously you’re expected to drive the company forward, so you really have to create a team that enables you to do that.
What plans are in place for further growth at Vestel?
There’s a big opportunity at the moment. Of the €300 million that we turn over annually, roughly €200 million is what we call ‘brown goods’—TV, mainly—and €100 million is whitegoods.