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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » June 30, 2011
France in Poland
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We Hire Smiles
June 30, 2011   
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French home improvement giant Leroy Merlin is celebrating 15 years in Poland and the opening of its 40th store here, in the city of Gliwice. Leroy Merlin Poland’s French CEO, Christophe Dubus, talks to Marcin Pawlak about the company’s people-oriented approach and its plans for the future.

Both you and Leroy Merlin have a special relationship with Poland. Can you tell us about the origins of this relationship?
I was working in international trade, traveling everywhere from Puerto Rico to Vietnam. Each time I came to Poland I was interested in the way business was being done here. I was always able to finalize the objectives that I had but never in the way that I thought this would happen. People were always surprising me but in a nice way and I was always interested in how people were living here. I wanted to know more about their mind-set. Secondly, my wife is Polish and that’s why I began learning Polish even back in France. I thought to myself that maybe I can combine the personal and the professional.

As far as Leroy Merlin is concerned, in the early 1990s the CEO of the group said he wanted to go to Poland, because it was a big market. He moved here without knowing anything about the country and he stayed eight years. He was very happy here and left Poland crying, as there’s a lot of emotion tied up in this place, which goes directly to your heart.

Leroy Merlin says it has unique values, different from those typical of the corporate world. Can you explain?
We are a big company. Our group has nearly 70,000 people. However, we’re not on the stock exchange. We don’t publicize everything we do. We’re working for ourselves. I’m working for my own profit, just like the marketing director or the salesman. Every person feels that he has input and can influence his own destiny. That gives people lots of satisfaction. We want people to be happy. Of course we want to be profitable but it is not our priority. We want people to enjoy working here and we are profitable through that. We hire smiles, not someone who is a good salesman. Sales skills are a technicality and can be taught, but not everybody can be taught how to smile and listen to the customer. If our people are not able to do that, the system breaks down.

What does the future look like for Leroy Merlin in Poland?
I think in another 15 years we will be twice as big here. There are new forms of commerce coming here. We’re talking about e-commerce now and new forms of technology and we’re going in this direction, to give the customer the ability of improving their home not only by buying some goods on our shelves but to also surf the net and allow us to get items for you, and not only DIY. So that’s the way we want to go. More shops, yes, but the concept will be tweaked to adjust to the modern lifestyle.
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