From Managing People to Building Up Entire Stores

August 13, 2021

Benoit Rubin shares his career path in the retail industry

Can you, please, share with us your career development until now? What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

After having completed my studies I started my professional life as a fresh food manager in a Carrefour supermarket, a position that I held for four years. Why did I choose the retail? I think I was already attracted to managing people. The next logical step for me was the position of store manager, a role that involved a larger team and more responsibilities. In order to achieve this goal, I moved to Normandy and took over the position of store manager at the Carrefour supermarket of Fleury sur Andelle. After four years spent there, I accepted the challenge of an even larger store, the Vernon Carrefour Hypermarket. Consequently, for the following eleven years I devoted all my energy to managing people, coaching and mentoring them, while successfully accomplishing all my professional tasks.

I feel obliged to acknowledge the paramount importance Carrefour had in my career. It offered me a highly testing and rigorous training within a customer oriented, CAC 40 listed company. However, time came for a new challenge, a fresh approach, another type of management. Therefore, I moved to Adeo Group and opened a new store from scratch. I got totally involved in all the stages: building the store, recruiting the staff, establishing the budget, training and coaching my team with passion and professionalism. It was a complete success. Having achieved this goal, I felt the need to enrich my professional and personal development with an international experience. Consequently, I applied for and obtained the position of store manager at Leroy Merlin Bucharest, Romania. After only one year spent in the bigger store - 20.000 sq. meters and a turnover of € 35M - my team and I became in charge of a demanding project: the construction of a new Leroy Merlin store in Bucharest. After one year of joint efforts and total commitment our store became number one on the DIY market in Romania.

To date, I have successfully managed teams of up to 1200 FTEs (including colleagues from India, Brazil, Romania, France, Ukraine, Italy and Russia). While in Romania, thanks to a strong HR program, I maintained best-in- company staff turnover (over 85% stability, 15% attrition) despite high rates of economic emigration from the country. During my current assignment at Dalmia Bharat Group, I have built up a high-performing startup team from 2 to 32 talents, including heads of functions (Marketing, Expansion, IT, Operations, Finance, Strategy, HR and Merchandising).

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

Most recently, at Dalmia Bharat Group, I created and began implementing a strategic roadmap to build 32 home building materials stores around India as well as a nationwide online store. Along the way, I have identified optimal locations for the new stores and built collaboration with high-tech partners to implement digital solutions, making sure the business model to be profitable and saleable. It is a really interesting project as we are dealing with B2C as well as B2B customers, on a multichannel business model (online and offline). My focus on innovation and change management is a key feature of my working life as it helps me monitor and react to dynamic industry developments.

I gained a thorough understanding of the market and customer needs through data analysis via CRM & SAP tools. And the change management techniques prove effective as they are able to generate a year-on-year volume growth of +19% for Dalmia, a growth rate which is surpassing the overall cement industry average despite a complete COVID-19 lockdown.

What was your biggest professional challenge?

While in Romania, thanks to a strong leadership focus and HR initiatives, I maintained best in-company staff retention (over 85% stability, 15% attrition rate only) despite high rates of economic emigration from the country. The challenge that we were facing at that time was a high exodus from Romania to Italy and Germany because people were getting much higher salaries. Recruitment was complex to get good profiles. How did we handle this problem? We revisited the salary range, provided more attractive, long-term perspective in the company, with possibilities to grow within the company.

We also worked on a lot of motivational training programs and gave our team a better vision about their future and the opportunities they had in the company. The result was a very low turnover of people, and our HR policy was duplicated at Group level.

What was your biggest professional mistake (from which you learned a lot)?

As leaders, we have to take the time to understand the cultural, professional and often as well personal background of the team members before acting. Going too fast is not always the best solution. To be concrete, in India I have learnt to pay attention to small details when it comes to the customs and habits of my team members such as being vegetarian etc. I was happy to have a Hindi teacher to help me better understand and adapt correspondingly.

Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?

Throughout my 20+ years of experience, I’ve been responsible for shaping and implementing business strategy in India, Romania, France and Brazil, translating strategic goals into operations plans, budgets, business development roadmaps and HR policy. I really think that my international exposure in Brazil, Romania and now India helped me to progress in my personal and professional experiences. And most recently, at Dalmia Bharat Group, the WU EMBA was a critical diploma to access that opportunity.

When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him or her to live a successful and fulfilling life?

I really think that it is important to have a true balance in our lives. For me, it also permits me to feel good and efficient. The 3 principal pillars composing my personal balance are my family, my job and a personal project by long view.

When I look at my personal and familial construction, I always have built myself in coherence with my family with new constructive projects, and they have a link, a red line between them.

For example, my new challenge for an expatriate experience in Bucharest with all my family was not only for my career, even if I think it could be a plus, it was also a familial project. My wife and my two children, Swann 12 years, and Heidi, 8 years, are in the French school of Bucharest, my wife teaches there and for all my family, our expatriation was an extraordinary experience.

Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?

  • Respectful

  • Coaching Approach

  • Available

  • Demanding

  • Long term Vision

What has changed in your career because of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you?

For me, the WU Executive MBA was a perfectly balanced program. A well-structured curriculum with relevant case studies and not at all just a bunch of academics disconnected from the real world. From my personal view, all the learnings directly served my professional life and needs. For example, during the EMBA I was able to get a senior management position being responsible for the Indian market. I was able to directly reflect upon and apply the learnings of several modules to opening and managing India with a new business model in a complex market. The insights from the strategic marketing were particularly helpful. The module changed my “traditional way” of thinking. We got introduced to a new vision of how marketing works as well as new marketing tools that really help us to make better decisions. The teaching was based on simulations that were very close to real life! Taking this EMBA allowed me to analyze and understand what happens in other companies at a worldwide level. This was amazing, and that was one of the most important learnings during my MBA. What a great program!

As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?

My family has always been very supportive with me during all the MBA journeys. It is true that this is not so easy to manage, and my only advice when you are getting into a MBA program such as WU EMBA is to be aware that it means putting in effort, dedication and perseverance as well. Still, I would say that my effort was really worth it, considering all the great colleagues and teachers I have met during my MBA.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

I consider a great luxury to have the opportunity to discover new cultures, new people. I am firmly convinced that my children now grow up with a very open mind, with the Romanian language, another culture, the experience of a new world we have discovered here in Bucharest, with some extraordinary nice people.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

The last book I really enjoyed was the one written by professor & Author Miquel Lladó, called “Falling in Love with the Future”. Beyond learning the frameworks and skills associated with Strategy, all the real-life cases you have shared inspired me a lot!

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

If I could change places with anyone for a day, I think I would ask Thomas Pesquet, an astronaut, to do so.


I can laugh about:
Everything, I like humor and positive people and a positive mindset
Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook:
My Hindi skills
My funniest/most exciting travel experience was:
I think it was my first travel to India, I was so happy, I was smiling at the idea to discover a new country
I could not survive without this smartphone app:
My fridge is always stocked with:
Black chocolate
I would spend my last money on:
Travelling, see another new country
Ten years ago, I thought:
I will go outside France
Today, I know:
That "this is about writing your future, not reading it" (pg. 143 "Falling in Love with the Future", Miquel Lladó)

Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.

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