30 Nov 2016
CIEL Group

The importance of operational excellence at CIEL

Jean-Pierre Dalais has been appointed Group Chief Executive, effective as from January 2017. In his interview with us, he unveils CIEL's long term vision, the Group's new priorities, and his thoughts on the importance of operational excellence - at Group level, for stakeholders, and for team members.

CIEL Stories: Jean-Pierre, you have been appointed CIEL Group Chief Executive FROM 1ST OF JANUARY 2017. HOW do you feel about these new responsibilities and what kind of Chief Executive do you want to be?

Jean-Pierre Dalais: I feel energised and honoured! Of course, I am fully aware of the gravitas that this position entails - the responsibilities we have towards our shareholders, partners, customers and, naturally, our people. In terms of management style, I truly believe that our people at CIEL are our key pillar. My priority right now is to infuse CIEL with positive energy and instill passionate drive in all of us, through team work and total engagement in our activities. I aim to do this by being as close as possible to our centre of operations, which allows me to better understand the nature of our constantly evolving businesses. I want to ensure that executives have my full support in implementing the right structures and obtaining the best tools for operational excellence. Furthermore, by being close to operations, I can make sure that the executives have the total backing of their boards as they unfold and carry out their strategies. 

I want to feel the CIEL heartbeat and make sure that we're operating at the right pace, all while remaining true to ourselves. Finally, I would like to ensure that we remain very close to our customer base and constantly analyse the clientele feedback. This is fundamental in order for us to understand the kinds of progress we are making.

CS: CIEL is a diversified investment group with interests in different sectors and COUNTRIES. HOW and where do you intend to focus your time and energy?

J.P.D: We have just completed a significant investment phase at CIEL between  2014-2016. We have invested MUR 3.5 billion in Mauritius and abroad, this was carried out as per our business plan. Our focus now is on the consolidation of our investments, whilst nurturing operational excellence across all clusters and at all levels. I will make sure that everyone is aware of their responsabilities and that we work as a team in achieving our objectives. 

I will also pay particular attention to our Hotels and Resorts cluster, in order to provide necessary support to David and his team, so that they may achieve their forecasted turnaround. In this, they have my full trust and confidence. A return to profitability at Sun will make a real difference for CIEL. We have strategically positioned assets in this company, where barriers to entry are high and this is a key business fundamental. Our liabilities at Sun are quite significant, and we intend to gradually lower them. We cannot wait for Sun to shine in our sky!

Finally, the good governance and ethics on which CIEL built its solid reputation are very important to us, not just in Mauritius but internationally. We want our governance to be strong and efficient, though not draconian. Looking in the mirror is useful, but the key thing is to focus on the future and on the challenges that lie ahead.

CS: You have been talking about operational excellence. How do you see CIEL Ltd infusing excellence within its five clusters and its numerous companies?

J.P.D: We have learned from experience that cross-fertilisation and sharing of good practices are very efficient means for improving productivity, stimulating creativity, and achieving growth. In order to carry these out, we have to facilitate dialogue: it's important to be on the field, to listen to the issues that our staff and customers have, to know what works well, and what doesn't. We need to ensure that each of our clusters learns from each other, and that adequate forums are created for that purpose.

We must benchmark our performance against that of the best players in the industries we operate in, and challenge ourselves to constantly improve our products and services.

We want to learn what we do not yet know. We want to be conversant with international best practices and standards. It takes hard work, passion and a constant quest for excellence in order to succeed but it is an extremely rewarding journey for all of those involved.  

CS: What are the Group's key strengths? How will you leverage them?

J.P.D: As mentioned earlier, our key strength is our people, who live and breathe our values on a daily basis. First of all, we are all entrepreneurs regardless of our position in the organisation. Being an entrepreneur is not a status, but a mindset. We are accountable for our actions, yet we work as a team to go beyond horizons: to improve, constantly. We believe in the value of collaboration at all levels, so that we learn from the best. We bring positive energy, we work hard at building sustainable long-term growth for everyone. In other words, we build to last.

Our values are strong and they have been constructed over a long period of time. Arnaud, our Chairman, inspires us all with his human approach, and I would like to thank him for his incredible leadership skills. I feel privileged, and I know that the whole of CIEL feels the same, to have him as Chairman of this unique Group of companies and of people.  I humbly intend to build on these values to the best of my abilities, whilst continuing to rely on his support.

CS: Now, on a more personal note: You're a very active person, an early bird always on the move, always brining new ideas to the table. What drives this energy? 

J.P.D: I truly love my job, the excitement and the learning process that entrepreneurship brings! We never stop learning: as you acquire new knowledge, new opportunities come your way. I wish that everyone in the Group would somewhat feel the same as I do, in their own way. I try to get some rest and relaxation through exercise - particularly jogging. It's my own way of taking a step back...Besides, we only live once (or so I believe), so let's make it an optimal time for development.

CS: You have been with the Group for the past 25 years, and you have played an instrumental role in the recent restructuring and consolidation of CIEL into five clusters. What are your thoughts on CIEL's journey so far, and what do you think lies ahead?

J.P.D: We have come a long way. Just by looking back at where we were five years ago, we can see that our growth has been impressive - all due to our people, our entrepreneurial and managerial skills, and our strategic partners who have given us their trust. Our strategic thinking is starting to
bear fruit. 

The cards are in our hands, and it is for us to play them as wisely as we can. Our recent investments abroad have gained us significant global exposure: we have a well-established investment portfolio spanning over ten countries, comprising around 30,000 employees in our investee companies. We are now an international investment company, based in our multicultural home of Mauritius. Our country provides us with an unique business platform from which we operate.

Today's world is flat: there is no great sense of distance, for technology and communication facilitate interaction. There is no longer a sense of separation: opportunities, therefore, are numerous - particularly in Africa and Asia, where we are well positioned to seize prospects for growth. Through this, we aim to offer new career opportunities, employment, and greater personal development to our people. Of course, we have had to face challenges and difficult years, but we have learned from them. The future will have its ups and downs, but I am confident about our current positioning and the opportunities that lie ahead.