““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
BJT Management Series: Piaggio America's John Bingham
John Bingham, president and CEO of Piaggio America, is known for his directness and candor. He joined Piaggio in 2010 and has since overhauled the image of the brand while focusing on the Avanti's coolness factor. Bingham, who began his career working for Renault and Rolls-Royce in the luxury car space, gave us some insight into his philosophy and discussed his reverence for honesty above all else.
Leadership is making sure that things will in fact be better when you wake up the next day. If you put your head under the pillow and pretend that everything is fine when it's not–guess what? When you finally pull your head out from under the pillow your problems will still be there.
I believe you have to be absolutely honest and open. Keep a clear focus on what the goals are in terms of getting the company to come out of the hard times and grow again.
For marketing and branding to be successful, you need a clear, key message. We decided to focus on four factors: speed, space, size and operating cost. All of our advertising and communication is focused on these areas.
Richard Branson is someone I admire hugely. When everyone said to him, "You can't do it," he said, "I'm going to try."
When the markets in North America and Western Europe were slow, Piaggio aggressively went after getting certification in new markets: Australia, Russia, China and Brazil.
During the market's tough times, it has been so bizarre to see companies having press conferences and saying everything is fine. Once, at a press conference in the middle of the recession, I said, “the market is truly horrible,” and people actually began to applaud the honesty.
If it's horrible, it's horrible–so lay out your strategy to tackle horrible!
I lived in California for several years and like everyone else who moves away I miss the occasional In-N-Out burger. I don’t normally eat fast food but they taste so good! There is one next to LAX and during a layover in Los Angeles you can actually hop on a parking garage shuttle which takes you almost directly to In-N-Out Burger, and you can get a burger and make it back to the airport in time to catch your next flight. Definitely beats airline food.
The market is still difficult but I am optimistic. People have cash. Companies have cash. But they are uncertain as to whether they should part with it just yet. Traditionally the aviation market follows the luxury car market, and that market is certainly bouncing back from the bad times.
I look for integrity, honesty and passion. This is what I value in those who work for me and also what I value most in the people I work for.
If you have a fear of failure, you probably haven't got it right in the first place. But if something does fail, go back and redouble the effort to get it right the next time.