Beautiful business

9 January 2017

The walls of L’Oréal Norway ooze French passion. It’s a place where creativity is embraced, as are initiatives and opinions. The work is driven by staff who take responsibility and have a strong belief in their own abilities, and the strength of a team. The result is a successful clash of cultures.

At L’Oréal Norway’s modern office premises in Lysaker, west of Oslo, you are thrown straight into the wonders of the French cosmetics company. There are pictures of models from ad campaigns, a vast amount of product samples, and make-up studios stuffed with every conceivable tool and mirror as well as cosmetics such as lipstick, nail polish, creams and powders. L’Oréal’s 22 brands are displayed on a wall. From L’Oréal Paris and Maybelline, to Biotherm and YSL Beauté. This is where we are greeted by Andreas Aaserud, L’Oréal Norway’s Commercial Director, Consumer Products division. Before Andreas was headhunted to L’Oréal six years ago, he worked for Procter & Gamble.

Photo: Andreas Aaserud builds his leadership with energy, passion and trust

What is the biggest difference between working for an American and a French company?

“Procter & Gamble is also an international giant and a great place to work. But the big difference between L’Oreal and the typical American business culture is that American companies are usually more rigid, systematic, and processes based. Here, we are driven by passion, enthusiasm and commitment instead. Staff are given a lot of responsibility, and managers trust them to resolve issues. There are two different schools of learning, and I believe that we have a much steeper learning curve. Our way of working also creates highly skilled people, with a strong ownership to their responsibilities.”

So you have a distinct culture at L’Oréal?

“Yes we do. But everyone has to be prepared to give a lot of themselves, be part of the team and help to move the company forward. This is not the place for someone who wants to sit in a corner and solve problems on their own. We are driven by passion and the work has to be enjoyable. It doesn’t matter which L’Oréal office you visit in the world, you’ll be met by the same type of person who works here in Oslo.”

Photo: The french connection. Andreas Aaserud in L’Oréals office in Oslo

How strong is the French company culture?

“The most noticeable French trait is that at L’Oréal, you are encouraged to say what you think. Your managers expect it. Despite being a big multinational, the culture fosters entrepreneurship. This means that we expect people to try, fail, try again and succeed.” At a time when the rules of the game are constantly changing, demands are high on a company like L’Oréal, with its variety of brands, markets and audiences. The multinational giant has realized the need to rapidly adapt to the new and even more fast moving world. Simplicity is key to win, and with simplicity comes new behaviors. “Traditionally, hierarchy has been highly regarded in French corporate culture. But with “Simplicity”, the “team is the new hero”, and “empowerment is the new management”.

A good example of adapting to the fast pace in the industry, is the recent launch of the professional make-up brand NYX, which was launched this spring. “We had never before launched anything big without advertising on TV and in print, but NYX is directed towards a younger audience, so that strategy is 100% digital. To be present where they are, such as on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. We also have a good cooperation with influencers, both professional make-up artists, bloggers and vloggers,” says Andreas. So far, NYX has sold three times more than L’Oréal had expected it to sell in a year, and is about to become Europe’s best-selling cosmetic brand. “An organisation is not really set up for such an extremely rapid expansion, but with the unique entrepreneurial culture both globally and locally in L’Oréal, our team has done a fantastic job,” says Andreas. When Andreas studied at BI, he had his mind set on the same career choice as many of his fellow students – to work in finance. Halfway through his studies, he took a sabbatical to work for an investment bank in Taipei, Taiwan, and soon discovered that this was not for him. He wanted to work preferably in an international company, and with sales. “Too many people do things they’re not good at. I’m sure I could have had a good international career in finance, but I didn’t enjoy it. And to succeed in that industry, which is very attractive to many people, you have to be extremely good at what you do. Today, when students or colleagues ask for my best career advice, I always say that you have to do what you like. Someone who enjoys their work performs well, and is precisely the the kind of people that L’Oréal and many other international companies are eager to recruit”, says Andreas.

«This means that we excpect people to try, fail, try again and succeed.»

Reference: Advantage #3/2016 – The magazine for members of BI Alumni

Andreas Aaserud - Alumnus '04

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