This month’s insights from our leaders around the world comes from Chris Connors, Head of Development, France, at BAI Communications. Chris is based in Paris and is responsible for BAI’s development in France.
Chris has extensive experience in the tech and telco industries, and before joining BAI worked as Vice President and Region Head, France, Belgium & Luxembourg, for Larsen & Toubro Infotech (now LTI Mindtree), an IT services and consulting company. Prior to this, he worked in business development and leadership roles for companies such as HCL Technologies, Cable & Wireless, PictureTel and BT.
What’s the most important development happening in our industry and what does that mean for business globally?
In France, the environmental impact of any proposed solution is being increasingly analysed as part of the decision-making process. Recently we were in a procurement process where Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors made up 20% of the decision scoring, and I sense this is going to increase and settle at around a third for each of ESG, technical solution and price.
Government procurement will want to reflect the legislation in this area, which will undoubtedly increase to ensure the stated target of reducing emissions from French industry by 35% by 2030 are met. And the best young talent won’t want to work for organisations that can’t explain in detail, for instance, how their supply chains are managed responsibly for all scope 3 emissions, or where ESG fits in the hierarchy of design principles during the solution design process.
Different markets are moving at different paces, but there’s no avoiding the fact that this is the overall direction of travel, regardless of which country we live in.
It’s clear to me that it makes sense to be one of the market-makers on this subject: as well as it being the right thing to do, it’s becoming one of the differentiators in procurement decision making, and in the attraction and retention of talent.
What inspires you most in the work that you do?
Although I’m aware that it’s healthy practice to disconnect performance from results (i.e. you should take satisfaction from doing something well even if the result isn’t what you wanted), my happiness at work, and my energy levels, are almost 100% correlated to whether I think we’re doing things to help us win. So my main inspiration at work is to achieve results, which I think is pretty normal when you’re responsible for business development.
The sources of inspiration to bring the energy and ideas that help along the way are numerous. I take inspiration from almost anywhere in sports. For instance, I’m fascinated to watch the complex teamwork as teams manoeuvre to position their sprinter at the end of a stage in the Tour de France, or how an athlete appears to be steadying their mind on the starting line of a major championships, knowing that the next minutes are so critical to their career.
Colleagues are the biggest source of energy for me. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been in a room when a few words from one person have changed the whole atmosphere.
I get many ideas from what I read (fiction and non-fiction) and these transfer into my thinking at work. And of course podcasts are a fantastic supply of knowledge and ideas.
What is a technique you use to be more effective in your work?
I find it useful to keep a mid-term view of progress in mind. In business development roles, we all have to learn to ride the highs and lows, so you need to keep some perspective. If the overall trend is going in the right direction, you must be doing something right.
There’s a famous quote from Bill Gates where he says most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years. I think the same applies to a week and a quarter. You can do much more in three months than you may have imagined. So if I have a bad day, or week, it helps to remember this and remind myself that if I keep doing the right things day by day, the landscape can look very different in three months.
Other than that, I try to have decided on a single priority that I have to really and truly move forward the next day before I close down for the evening. And I work on this early the next day, to the exclusivity of everything else, if at all possible.
What’s one of the ongoing challenges you face at work and how do you manage it?
The volume of information coming at us from so many sources can be overwhelming, and it’s a challenge to extract what you need to know and then stop, before you get lost. This is easier said than done.
I think we all have our own strategies for this. Here’s mine:
- For France market environment and customer activity, I have a digital subscription to a daily business paper.
- For industry news I’ll skim through the daily industry newsletter mails (the BAI exec media brief is great) plus others which may be sector or geography oriented.
- And for specific customer developments, LinkedIn is good, as well as Google Alerts.
Then, for the key technology trends, I need to make time for a deep-dive every few weeks to ensure I’m up to speed on how a specific development may impact what we’re doing. A good recent example of this is how the emergence of ChatGPT triggered such volumes of analysis on what AI means, not only in our industry, but across all walks of life. Our customers expect us to have points of view on such subjects.
And of course, to keep life balanced, I’m also subscribed to the best sports paper in the world (l’Équipe) to help me on my way.
What is your advice for proactively managing your career?
When it comes to managing your career I’ve found it good to have some basic ground rules that you commit to. Once these are in place they tend to steer you as you go. Here are some that work for me:
- If you are working in an environment which doesn’t fit with your values, or sense of purpose, or where the culture doesn’t sit right with you, it will make you unhappy (and even ill). So no compromise on this: if the fit isn’t right, you need to move.
- The way you behave at work needs to reflect the way you behave in other parts of your life – the greater the alignment, the happier you’ll be at work. And linked to this: ambition at work should be closely linked to your ambition in life.
- Finally: work has to be enjoyable. For me, the joy comes from making a difference and properly impacting the market for the company I work for. Some of my best experiences in life have come from sharing the elation of a win with colleagues after a long chase. If I felt I wasn’t in a position to make a difference to the company I work for, it would be time for me to think again.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career and why?
I had a Scandinavian colleague whose life mantra is: ‘Life’s a competition, and the rules are that the person who has learned the most by the end of it, wins’. This resonates with me. The more the years pass, the more I’m finding I want to learn. I hesitate to compare humans to sharks, but in one way we’re similar: some species of shark need to keep moving to live, and I think if us humans don’t have ideas to interest us, or exciting projects ahead of us, we degenerate.
I also learned early that the best managers and organisations give you real autonomy to achieve your objectives. When organisations give you space and relax, then the control, creativity and innovation tends to flow and the work experience becomes more enjoyable and productive in a way that benefits both individuals and organisations.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I grew up with three brothers, all close in age – mud, sweat and noise set the tone in the house. An example: the most repeated family rule from my parents was ‘no speaking about football at the dinner table’.
Then fate had some fun and I now find myself the sole male in a house of four women. When our first baby was born, I had absolutely no reference points. When our daughters were growing up, there were times when I felt completely ill-equipped to deal with situations. My logic-based approach to solving issues, e.g. “the trousers are in the wash, so wear another pair” – would be thrown back at me with fury as if I was an imposter that knew nothing of the world.
So life has taken me from one extreme to the other. What has it taught me ? Never allow important decisions such as what film we are going to watch on a Sunday night be decided by vote, as 9/10 times I will be ganged up upon and lose!