Keep meetings to 15mins. It’s long enough.

This weekend I watched a fantastic interview by Nico Rosberg with the very colourful Mr Flavio Briatore (https://youtu.be/FcwAfSB-uHo). In the interview (which at 1hr 51mins, is really in depth), he tells how he has jumped from one industry to the next, building a vast fortune on the way (or little baskets of money as he refers to them). He discusses his achievements in Formula 1 and more recently in the high end hospitality industry. But what stood out for me were a few comments he made about speed of decision making, his motivation for what he does and the ability to plan and think strategically about the opportunities that lie ahead.

Thierry Boutsen driving for Benetton. Paul Lannuier from Sussex, NJ, USA •  CC BY-SA 2.0

Thierry Boutsen driving for Benetton. Paul Lannuier from Sussex, NJ, USA • CC BY-SA 2.0

On the speed of decision making, he tells the story of when Benetton purchased the Toleman Formula 1 team and he was parachuted in to be the Commercial Director. In less than a week, he had decided that the team principal and the chief designer needed to go - and go they duly did. Flavio, with no experience of F1, had just promoted himself to running an F1 team. His approach to success was instructive - “we are building a product” he told the mechanics and design team. To be a good product it needed to be based on a good concept, be high quality and do the job well. He didn’t see a car - he saw a route to success and he encouraged his team to think the same way. He also restricted his meetings with mechanics and designers to 15 minutes - he says that this is enough time to state your case and get a decision made. His view is that if you only have 15 minutes, you come to the meeting prepared to be concise. In my view that’s a smart approach that gets things done.

On being asked what motivates him, he replied “I like to create jobs...when you are poor it is hard to create jobs, but when you are wealthy it is easy to make jobs.” To me, this was a surprising, but refreshing comment and one that helps to show that money in itself is not always the motivator. 

The overall view of Flavio, though, was that he has an uncanny ability to connect the dots and see things that other don’t yet see. He told the story of acquiring the TV rights for F1 coverage in Spain just as he had signed Fernando Alonso to his management company. He tried to offer them to the main network in Spain, highlighting that he had a potential Spanish world champion driver. The response - people in Spain watch MotoGP, not F1. Needless to say, Flavio was right and the TV network ended up paying a huge amount more for the rights once Alonso started winning races and championships.

Clearly, he is a man that has his flaws and a chequered past, but my takeaways from watching the interview were that you have to make decisions fast, you have connect the dots first to secure the most lucrative opportunities and you have to think strategically, planning for the long haul, not the quick buck. 

Give it a watch. You’ll enjoy it.