Carmen Chiu gets 1½ hours of deep sleep every night but hits the office raring to go. When working for a 90-year-old chocolatier that’s bent on reinvention, standing still isn’t an option, says the marketing and merchandising director.
Belgian chocolatier Godiva celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. But Carmen Chiu, 39, is already hatching plans for 2018. “We work 18 months in advance,” explains the Hong Konger, before quizzing me about wedding traditions in Singapore. Wedding favours are an area she’s exploring for Godiva, which is shedding its image as a gifting brand in favour of a lifestyle one offering a full suite of chocolate “experiences”. As gatekeeper of the brand in China and the Pacific Rim, Carmen’s job is to market Godiva’s new image. This includes enforcing the brand’s new look (she travels across Asia to inspect stores); having a say in new product categories (she’s exploring the launch of a glitzy Godiva lifestyle boutique here next year); oh, and taste-testing every chocolate variant before it goes on sale in the region. Sweet deal. We chat with her about work, life and getting things done.
“We’re in a fun business,” says Carmen of her work. That’s evident based on these photos of her on the job.
We set out to be the Rolls-Royce of chocolates when we entered the region in the 1990s.
We were primarily a gifting brand, but in the last few years, we’ve shifted to being a “year-round” business that delivers chocolate experiences, be it a chocolate drink or a chocolate soft serve. Delivering an experience is how we make customers feel emotionally attached to us.
In the daytime, I see myself as a “doctor”.
I enter the office at 9am, and help my “patients” [her staff ] clean up messes quickly. I start my own work only around 5pm, when the Europe office gets up. By midnight, the New York office starts work. So e-mails come in all the time. I don’t have children, so I can put in longer hours without guilt, but weekends are spent with my husband. Work-life balance, to me, is highly personal – it’s the point when you feel comfortable balancing both.
I’m in bed for six hours every night, but only get 1½ hours of quality sleep, according to my Fitbit. Once I’m out of bed, though, my energy levels go up. I don’t get tired. I have to play Candy Crush at night to wind down!
What Singaporeans can learn from the Chinese: their drive. People in China absorb things like a sponge. I’m based in Shanghai, and I feel their will to do better. In some markets, people are afraid to ask questions. Not in China. If they’re unclear, they’ll ask. If they want to challenge you, they’ll do so. Our conversations in China are extremely active.
I don’t believe in [hiring] just top-quality agencies.
I believe in chemistry. Working with the best ad agencies is important and comes at a cost, but that doesn’t mean they’ll come with the heart. There’s no time to start from zero, but partnering with someone without the right heart means we’d be starting from a negative value!
We’re running so fast that we don’t have time to blame people for mistakes.
And you shouldn’t. Decisions are made together. While every decision is important, not every one will be right. You have to ask: How can we make things better? When faced with a mistake, I’ll go: “Okay, let’s move on and see what we can learn from this.”
I don’t compromise on integrity.
About 95 per cent of our products are made in Belgium, but we source certain things like cakes locally, because their lifespan is short. I don’t believe in saying that 100 per cent of our items are Belgium-made. We should be transparent and proud to say that we source locally to maintain freshness. Just because something is local doesn’t mean it’s inferior.
I love work but need to be pampered once in a while.
My weekends are for the spa and my nails – I just lie there and be controlled! At my home in Shanghai, I have a massage bed and will get a masseuse to come over. Don’t forget about yourself. Relax when you can.