The Sprezzy Gentleman

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“When sitting’ pretty is more than a hat trick…”

Friedrich Nietzsche once stated, “Giving style to one’s character is a great and rare art.” Thus Spake Zarathustra.

An elegant gentleman has many reasons to wear clothes. The most obvious is to cover his body so that he doesn’t catch pneumonia, particularly when you cannot rely on the climate. The best dressed invariably are dandy. I recognize like you do that style is a subjective subject.

One person’s sartorial splendor is another’s nightmare. However a visual vocabulary to the sprezzy gentleman is important because it can express the inner dynamics of the human character, show sense of purpose, determination, and even elegance.

Not long ago, I was consulting a copy of I Am Dandy by Nathaniel Adams and Rose Callahan. Their book is a sumptuous display of male individualism and the attitudes diverse personalities have concerning elegance and attire. This tome is right on target because we are experiencing the return of the dandy.

The term, dandy, is often misunderstood. We are not talking about male peacocks whose sole pleasures in life are indulgence and indigence. Nobody today is trying to live the life of Dorian Gray. Today’s interpretation is elastic and in my own humble view defines someone who cares about genuine style and uses the vocabulary of clothing to express his inner nature. Most are hard working professionals.

Dandies are people such as James Sherwood, Nicholas Foulkes, G. Bruce Boyer and Nicolas Wooster. Take the quotation by Beau Brummel: “If people turn to look at you on the street you are not well dressed”. There is more to this quotation than meets the eye. Some people clearly dress to be noticed. Others are subtler and use dress as indicator of mood and personality steeped in the inner confidence of their own being. Ultimately, clothes are a language in a similar way that a writer takes mere words and turns letters into prose.

Style writer Glen ‘O Brien has stipulated, “If there is a cardinal sin in our world it is not self-absorption, but mass absorption, the dissolution of the individual into the mass. The silent majority. The crowd attired in team jerseys. The mob, the throng, the flock.”

I love this quotation because it speaks to the heart of what constitutes luxury let alone what it means to be a dandy in the 21st century. I won’t name names, but all lovers of hand made and artisans know exactly what I am talking about. Real luxury is about uniqueness and not mass marketed trinkets and trash at exorbitant prices.

Another point, I Am Dandy brings out is the multidimensional aspects of the personalities who love to dress well. Some are lawyers, designers, real estate agents, fashion writers and musicians. Loving fine clothes with a distinctive voice crosses all professions. Its sole signifier is excellence. I admire the diversity of the people Natty Adams interviews in this splendid volume. In previous generations, men looked up to style icons such as Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire and even the Duke of Windsor. Today, elegant gentleman find inspiration in a multitude of style blogs as well as people they happen to meet in the street.

For example, if you happen to be in London, why not look up Karl Matthews. Karl is a true dandy. His attention to detail and savoir fare will show you how to release your own internal spirit. It’s as easy as stuffing a silk square into your breast pocket. Trained on Savile Row, this tailor can help you release your spirit without ostentation or shame.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting and discussing with les fous the pleasures of fine clothing and craftsmanship. In Paris, this motley crew can usually be found at a shop buried in the deep part of the seventeenth in Batignolles. The shop is named after the owner, Stephane. He would never refer to himself as a dandy. However, one look at this outstanding bespoke shoemaker and you can recognize at a glance his sartorial nonchalance is a result of decades of study. Spend an Saturday afternoon here and he will speak at length against vulgarity, exhibitionism, and philistines in general. He will also share with you why elegance is the antidote to mediocrity.

As an eager explorer of all that is beautiful in this world, I urge you to collar a copy and spice up your universe. Who knows maybe you’ll wind up featured on Scott Schuman’s style blog the Satorialist!

Article Title: The Sprezzy Gentleman
Photograph: curated by ES

All Aboard The Paris Hanoi Express

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“When you really want to know who done it…”

All aboard the Paris Hanoi restaurant express. Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel. Can just picture the dialogue: “Oui, mon ami Hastings. The rouleaux du printemps at Paris Hanoi are a délice. And the nems are perfection.”

“Are you sure Hercule? I mean, wouldn’t you rather fancy an Indian curry than Vietnamese food?”

“No Hastings, I would not. The mix of the raw and the cooked at Paris Hanoi is good for the little gray cells. And the parfum, c’est magnifique!”

Now Poirot, certainly travelled on his belly to recoin an old phrase from the little general. I can’t blame him. This restaurant Paris Hanoi will not disappoint for its professionalism and saveurs in the kitchen. Located at the heart of the Bobo universe deep in the eleventh, P-H is pure Paname.

The way Paris Hanoi has been popping up in the French media of late, you would think that Parisians have just discovered Vietnamese food. Au contraire. What is happening is a Southeast Asian food renaissance with French finesse. Add the simple fact that this has become a tout Paris favorite, and you’ll understand why the cues outside the door pack this place to the rafters.

In terms of style and decor, the ambiance is simple and clean. The food is light and flavorful punctuated with lime, fresh mint and coriander. There is a freshness about this place that more typical joints in this genre simply lack.

The vibe is young fashionista. You are guaranteed to be sitting cheek to jowl with models, artists, and designers. Foodies adore the aromatic and perfumed flavors Vietnamese cuisine delivers when prepared by the right hands. The kitchen is run by three brothers Mido, Jean-Phi and Hando. The beauty of their artistry is arranged on the dish. It is hard to know what to order first.

Start with a Vietnamese salad, spring rolls or nems. Afterward, go for a Bun Bo Hue, Pho, or brochette de poulet. Whatever you decide, I recommend coming with friends so you can share in the plentitude. If you find it hard to choose, look at the dishes of your neighbors and point. We came with the RedHerring gang recently. My gosh, I thought I was at a fiesta. Chilled Sinhga beer was making the rounds. People laughed, slurped and crunched away.

One word of caution: the crowd is dense. So either come early or late. Opening times for lunch are 12h00-14h30. Cash only. Don’t expect the waitress to smile and say: “Hi, my name is Babette and I’ll be your waitress today”. On a scale of one-to-ten the service is -5. However, the food is glorious and Paris Hanoi is worth the visit.

After your meal, you might be tempted to buy the restaurant’s cookbook, which was published last year by Marabout. The recipes are easy to make and the book is a delight to the senses.

Bon Appetit!

Paris Hanoi
47, rue de Charonne
75011 Paris

Article Title: All Aboard The Paris Hanoi Express
Photograph: Paris Hanoi

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on food | style | design | art | culture.

Red Herring |
is the digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand. If you are looking for well-connected and passionate Community Managers to work your social accounts, RedHerring can evangelize your brand via social platforms. Our aim is to combine original high-quality content, with curation and community to gain distinction.

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Visit RedHerring at redddherring.tumblr.com

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Why Luxury Brands Matter

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“Understanding luxury brands is more than a flash in the pan…”

Many Italian and French luxury brands now bear labels proclaiming made in aillers far from the company’s place of origin. Critics claim that this dilutes the authenticity of the brand. Others claim that the quality is there but is better for profitability. Because this is an out standing issue in this industry, I believe it is necessary to re-examine what constitutes an “authentic” luxury brand product. Does it really matter where a product is manufactured? Is this an appropriate strategy for heritage brands?

Clarifying the Disparity
Definitions of luxury can vary enormously. It depends on with whom you discuss this issue and in what context. For starters, the term luxury has never been easy to define although countless books have been published on this subject. It is relative, mysterious and elusive. In essence, it revolves around subjective criteria, which creates a mood and what is generally referred to today as lifestyle.

The proliferation and marketing misuse of the term luxury on many products across sectors is quite evident. Brands either do so out of ignorance or they want to enhance the desirability of the product in the eyes of prospect clients.

Gary Harwood at HKLM, one of the founders and directors of a leading strategic branding and communication design consultancy, affirmed:

“A luxury brand is very expensive, exclusive and very rare – not meant for everyone. When it ceases to be these things, then it’s lost its exclusive cachet. Commoditizing luxury brands and making them more accessible to the middle market puts them at risk of becoming ordinary, common and less desirable. And the more available a brand is, the less luxurious it becomes.”

Authentic luxury brands compete on the basis of their ability to invoke exclusivity, prestige and hedonism to highly selective target audience. Check out my classic litmus test and you will get the picture:

• Is the product manufactured in artificially limited quantities? What I call the rarity factor.

• Does the firm have a story to tell? Here I refer to heritage brands and other firms, which have pedigree.

• Does the firm engender a unique lifestyle?

• Is craftsmanship the hallmark of the brand? These products are geared to mostly High Net Worth individuals who purchase without question.

• Does the brand offer authenticity?

• Does the brand foster a no discounting policy?

• Is the product (materials/parts) manufactured only in its country of origin?

Remember, when it comes to this sector there are two principle product categories: luxury and premium. Luxury is not premium – and premium is not luxury. They are dissimilar and cater to different market segments.

Key Factors of Authentic Luxury
A luxury product is rooted in a specific and well-defined culture. If the product class has no roots, it cannot foster a genuine heritage. Heritage and locality therefore become integral to the integrity and authenticity of the brand and of the firm. Production runs of the products remain small. When production is moved overseas the firm risks tarnishing the very brand they created.

Professor Jean-Noël Kapferer, a recognized authority on this subject and an author and lecturer at Kellogg and HEC-Paris stipulates:

“Looking at luxury companies’ own attitudes, there is a clear segmentation, based on their brand positioning and business model. A first group (such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Chanel) emphasize quality and heritage as the main sources of their incomparability.

They are patriots. For them, a country of origin is a homeland, much like the soil in a vineyard – a miracle made of earth, nature, sun, rain, and sophisticated human labor, loaded with culture. For them, ‘made in…’ tells a whole story, tying production to a long heritage.

To remain a true luxury brand, following the luxury business model, entails sticking to local production. This is not an easy task for many luxury brands. Those that comply must create the conditions that are necessary to sustain this production. This is why they often buy their local sub-contractors in case the latter go bankrupt, to be sure to keep alive a historical know-how that might otherwise disappear.”

Look at the following examples: France and Italy are considered the leading centers of luxury and trend setting in clothing and accessories. People who buy goods from these brands expect they are manufactured in their place of origin. Quality and origin are seen as key selling points, and in theory justify the high price tags.

When it comes to high-end watches, better known as “timepieces”, made in Switzerland underscores quality, precision, craftsmanship, and authenticity. Although luxury timepieces are manufactured in other countries, the Swiss clearly lead the pack in recognition.

London, is considered by many the luxury spirit capital of the world. I put this down to its large population of international HNW individuals and its cost of living index. Burberry and Rolls Royce personify the type of high-end luxury English brands people want to believe in.

Private vs. Public Luxury Purveyors
To maintain an air of prestige, top-tier luxury brands should remain small organizations and be privately held. Ideally, such firms should be family-held and not subject to speculators and investors. Many luxury brands today however, are held by groups. Groups clearly do not have the same focus and are subject to other pressures than family-held enterprises.

In essence, privately held enterprises have the luxury of taking risks a group cannot. They also have the freedom to invest long-term. Publicly traded ones firms however, are accountable to their shareholders. They are constantly under pressure to cut production costs, increase revenues, and profitability. It also drives them to cater to an ever growing target audience referred to as the mass affluent. Scarcity and exclusivity are jettisoned in the name of growth.

Here are some examples of what I consider excellent examples of family-held luxury brand enterprises: Hermès (70% owned/controlled by the Dumas family), Chanel (100% ownership by the Wertheimer family), and the niche perfume house, Creed Fragrance Company founded in 1760 (100% ownership by the Creed family).

According to the Millward Brown luxury brand survey, which includes the large luxury groups, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), Rolex, Cartier, Fendi and Tiffany & Co. respectively, are the most successful family owned luxury brands.

Moreover, research done by SDA Bocconi, renowned for providing world class luxury education, revealed that unique characteristics of most family-owned or managed business fit almost perfectly with the competitive logic of hard and soft luxury approaches. Needless to say, their management culture, retaining the mystique (crucial in the ultra-luxury domain), and long-term decision approach are all instrumental for cultivating and preserving their brand heritage.

The Take Away
There should be no confusion between luxury and premium brands. When you buy a luxury object, you purchase craftsmanship, cache, and pedigree. Products are manufactured in limited quantities and are exclusive. Place of origin matters.

The premium business model is different. It is based on manufacturing the best-in-its-class products. Here, style matters most. The term premium applies to clothing, shoes, and accessories. Products are ephemeral and subject to change in the publics taste and desires.

Brands such as Nike, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, and Tommy Hilfiger are doing an exceptional job of selling to a broad church of clients. Most of the products are made in countries such as China. Prices may not be low, but sales promotions are used to accelerate sales revenues.

In the article “Building a Luxury Brand Image in a Digital World” by David Dubois, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Marketing and Debbie Teo, INSEAD MBA, state:

“Hermès has no desire to become ‘masstige’ (a mass producer of prestige goods) the company’s CEO Patrick Thomas stated in 2009. In essence, he asserted that his brand was not in a position to dilute its image and compromise on quality in the interest of short-term results. This is truly one of very few authentic “luxury” brands befitting the model and criteria in the sense of the word.

Privately held luxury brands are prone to view business with long-term vision and remain rigid with quality over quantity. Comparatively, their publicly traded counterparts go out of their way to please their shareholders which may dilute their luxury status for the sake of volume and short–term gains.”

Article Title: Why Luxury Brands Matter
Photograph: sequinsandthings

About The Author:
James D. Roumeliotis lives in Montreal, Canada and is a regular contributor to this blog on luxury brand management.

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The MBA Margarita

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“MBA Admissions is more than choosing the right cocktail…”

If you are betting on an MBA, your success will be determined by more than choosing the right cocktail. It demands a cogent MBA application strategy. According to the New York Times, more MBA candidates are hiring coaches to help them build their applications and write their MBA essays. Rather than creating a more level playing field, the advantage has shifted to those MBA candidates savvy enough to engage professional assistance.

It is no longer enough to just have an excellent professional track record. This has become a sine quo non. Differentiating your profile is what makes the difference between an MBA admit and an MBA reject. This season, we launched the Careo MBA Initiative in order to show people like yourself how to build your “uniqueness quotient”. I’ve listed below a few of the key steps to assist you in tackling the MBA application process methodologically.

| Step 1 |
Identity between 4-6 MBA programs geared to your professional objectives. Besides investigating online, which is relatively an easy affair, try to visit the campuses you hope to enroll in. MBA campus culture varies at each business school. Get beyond the cocktail-marketing brochures. Get in touch with real alumni. Contact the school and ask to speak either with admissions officers or the school administration. Feel out your prospects. You are about to embark on a marketing offensive in a highly competitive and saturated market.

| Step 2 |
Make yourself a study agenda for the required entrance exams, which concern you. For the majority of MBA candidates, this means tackling the GMAT & TOEFL. The number of schools, which will accept your profile without these exams, is extremely limited. Test prep should be taken seriously. Plan on taking the exams more than once psychologically. Most people do.

Secondly, determine whether you can prepare by yourself or need help. Most people enroll in organised Test Prep centres where large group classes are the norm. Some organisations are better than others. Look at the results of the organisation you wish to enroll. The quality of the teachers coupled to your own sweat equity will determine your test prep success.

| Step 3 |
Once the GMAT & TOEFL are out of the way, the time has come to tackle the MBA essays required on each application. The essays must engage both professionally and personally. Most schools have specific questions. This is done on purpose so that you do not copy and paste. Getting the essays right is not just about writing. Think of each essay as a spoke in a wheel. Writing the essays is really an exercise in strategic marketing to a highly targeted constituent audience. The MBA Admissions Committees will give you no slack, therefore you must engage and be persuasive.

| Step 4 |
Interviews are not required for every MBA applicant. However, most of the top schools have made this part of the MBA application process. The point is to meet the person behind the written word. To go to an interview unprepared is sudden death. A specialist in career management is the way forward. Train with someone in person.

| Find A Unique Sense Of Purpose |
For inspiration, take Mohammed Ali’s advice: “float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee”.

Although you can sting, you should prefer to float like a butterfly. Manifest your own beauty and believe that you can give joy to many. By doing so, you will show that you have the perception to think beyond your own professional aspirations. A butterfly serves its purpose with a fruitful and productive life. You can too. It is just a question of direction and will. As human beings, we feel the need to do more than just drive to the office in the morning doing the “same old thing”.

Many of us are truly blessed and do not lack a sense of prosperity. Wealth is such an open-ended term. It is not about bags of gold. It is about health, humour, love, and the ability to share with others in need. Prosperity is about the privilege to access opportunity and harvest the resources at our command. It does not mean living in a dwelling so large that you need a GPS to find you’re way from room to room.

There is a beautiful verse in Sanskrit, Gunaratna of Bhavabhuti, which states:

“For the wicked, knowledge is used for conflict or war, wealth is for pride and vanity, and strength and power are used to oppress or torture others. For a noble person, it is completely different: Education is for knowledge to make everything better, wealth is for charity, and strength or power is solely for protection.”

There is much food for thought here. I therefore urge you, if you are planning to do an MBA to become audacious. Jump and be free of the expectations of others. Find your true fulfilment and a transformational educational experience in the bargain. If you have knowledge and ideas, then bring them to the table to be shared. If you have wealth or resources, then share them with those in real need. If you are strong and have a sense of purpose then use your strengths in the service of your community. By doing so, you have the keys and power to business leadership in the real meaning of the term.

Article Title: The MBA Margarita
Photograph: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on | MBA Admissions | Career Management | Personal Brand Management

Let Careo start by celebrating your success story. We hold to the principle that it is not how good you are, but how good you would like to become. We are honored to have been recommended across the French media in – Le Figaro, L’Express, Capital – and by Success & Career in Switzerland.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”.

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A Taste Of Sake

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“You only live twice…”

Now, it’s a known fact that I’m keen fan of Japanese food and drink. Like haiku, traditional Japanese cuisine presents seasonality with honest simplicity. If you eat this food regularly you will live for a thousand years. Drinking sake won’t hurt either. Any cuisine which stresses raw fish and sea vegetables must be good for you.

Traditionally, Japanese cuisine and sake had a limited audience in Paris. With health issues driving many culinary trends, this city has rapidly got up to speed. There are many excellent chefs in this town serving traditional Japanese fare as well as dishes inspired with a twist. Chains have also popped up like mushrooms across the Parisian landscape. The best is clearly Matsuri with its rotating table counters featuring delicacies such as spicy octopus salad and crispy shrimp roll sushi. Their yellow fin tuna melts on your tongue. Although the sake selection is limited, it is more than adequate.

Let me share with you some of my favs if you love Japanese food and find yourself in Paris. La Table d’Aki (49, rue Vaneau 75007) run by Akihiro Horikoshi is a tiny gem. This place is so small you would have great difficulty in swinging a cat. The good news is that nobody swings a cat at the restaurant.

The magic is however on the plate. Think rouget and ceps and you will be in seventh heaven. Prices are not cheap, but then you are in the hands of a true master. Drink several flasks of sake and you won’t notice the bill when it comes to your table.

Clandestino is a great find at 8, rue Crozatier 75012. It is definitely off the beaten path out in the twelfth far from the center of the Japanese culinary world around the rue St. Anne. However, it is worth the journey. Masayuki Shibuya is a seasoned hand and his restaurant offers good value for money. His Bonito melts like butter. He also features black pig, mini leeks, yellow turnips, coriander and shallots. The fruit salad makes a fab finish. The only drawback is the portions are tiny.

Because Japanese food has become so trendy, certain Parisians are indulging in DIY. Finding the right ingredients unless you go to Tokyo regularly can be a bug bear. However, I have the answer to your dilemma. I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon Issé, an unassuming little Japanese grocery. This shop features first-rate artisanal Japanese products. What’s more, they carry sake to die for. Sake which tastes like fresh rain water is all the rage. The merchandise is organic and represents the best Japan has to offer.

To the untrained eye products appear unassuming. Closer examination reveals products of outstanding pedigree. In fact, the products such as soy sauce, vinegar, spices, and sake all have terroir cred. For example, you can find soy sauce that’s been aged for 2-years in ancient barrels, a dark miso that’s been aged for 3-years, and even finely sliced dried battera konbu seaweed for making marinated mackerel. They even have salted cherry blossoms.

The key to this store’s success is the eclectic owner, Toshiro Kuroda. He will take the time to explain the provenance of each of his products. I had a sake tasting session with him recently, and it was mind blowing. Sake with the taste of fresh rain water was quite a treat on a blustery morning. It’s obvious that M. Kuroda, not to mention his staff, take great pride in what they are doing. They even offer Japanese cooking lessons and run a small luncheon trade which is definitely worth investigating.

If you do not speak or read Japanese, no need to be intimidated. A few shots of sake and you will find yourself, cutting sushi like Toshiro Mifune.

Article Title: A Taste Of Sake
Photograph: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on food | style | design | art | culture.

Red Herring |
is the digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand. If you are looking for well-connected and passionate Community Managers to work your social accounts, RedHerring can evangelize your brand via social platforms. Our aim is to combine original high-quality content, with curation and community to gain distinction.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring at redddherring.tumblr.com

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Trending Out Of Idaho

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“When trending is more than rum and coca-cola…”

Celebrities like Ernest Hemingway generate trending with the stroke of a whisker. It could be by drinking mojitos in Havana or just a cold beer while hunting in Idaho. Is it any wonder, companies seek to tie their destiny to the lifestyles of people who appear bigger than life.

So what in trending makes the difference? Is it the benefits of the product or is it the cache attached to a persona? It’s a bit of both. Traditional companies create products we expect. Exceptional companies create their own trends. They give us products we never thought we needed, but can no longer live without.

Trending can be fostered, but in reality it is traced to external environments. This is why innovative leadership can generate trends. Vision conjures up positive outcomes. When Steve Jobs was running the ship at Apple, the firm succeeded because key managers married IT trends to the humanities. They understood what your average corporate never does: humanize the mysterious and make it easily accessible. So, if you want to create trends, the time has come to get out of your corporate sandbox and into the street. Feel the pulse.

Remember Vanilla Coke? Great idea for the States. In Latin Europe, the drink did not sparkle. Coke officials were stymied. Strategies supported the wrong conclusions drawn from insufficient trend analyses. Clearly, cultural determinants did not measure up to preconceived objectives. What goes down, doesn’t necessarily come around. Beverage preferences are linked to cultural sensibilities developed in childhood. They are also reinforced by social interaction. The impact is subliminal. Taste is subjective although their are intersecting criteria to determine. Think Derr & Laurent. Add Hofstede, then shake and pour over crushed ice.

Seeing Red
When trends for energy drinks broke open, Red Bull was there. Night clubs and social media drove the product. Everyone loved the slim can and contemporary design. The consumer benefits were clear. Popularity crossed age, social background, and education. When RB entered the market, it was a success from the-get-go. It struck the heart of youth culture and its attributes. The viral impact was immediate. Everyone sprouted wings.

Burn was Coca-Cola’s answer to Red Bull. However to coin a phrase, it was not the real thing. Had executives at Coca-Cola been hanging out in trendy nightclubs, perhaps Red Bull would have been invented in Atlanta.

The more you examine generating trending the more you should be struck by what is lacking. The trick is to be audacious. Entrenched enterprises do not do this easily. They only seek to identify rivals, suppliers, and customers in traditional terms. They segment accordingly. I refer to this as a static attack.

American business culture is known for its inventiveness. Not surprisingly, many global trends have their roots in the States. Innovative corporations can only grow in societies that relish change. Take a page out of the old Saatchi & Saatchi songbook. Become the strategic trends link between your organization and target audience. If you spend too much time justifying a product’s value, then perhaps the value is not transparent. Give clients a reason to buy. Make them dream that life is a magical encounter.

Listen closely to what the customers say and observe. This is one of the secrets of harnessing opportunity. Remember, the real Coco Chanel followed her intuition. The rest was history.

Article Title: Trending Out Of Idaho
Photograph: archival, curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on food | style | design | art | culture.

Red Herring |
is the digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand. If you are looking for well-connected and passionate Community Managers to work your social accounts, RedHerring can evangelize your brand via social platforms. Our aim is to combine original high-quality content, with curation and community to gain distinction.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring at redddherring.tumblr.com

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Elective Affinities

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“The mirror only reflects our image not our true nature.”

Choosing your elective affinities is the first step towards career empowerment. You never know when a storm can crop up on the horizon. Best to be prepared. Identifying your career choices will also determine your opportunities. They can be simple or complex such as pushing you to do a top MBA, rebuild your CV, or work on your personal brand. Although these forms of career change are a positive form of engagement, they are not elective affinities.

Understanding the source of elective affinities take us into the deeper reaches of career management. Coming to terms with career change determines more than career enhancement. Before we get hot ‘n bothered, a word of caution: “Much of our planning is like waiting to swim in a dry ravine”.

Paltrul Rinpoche uttered these wise words. He has a keen sense of elective affinities. Paltrul Rinpoche states that managing change starts with managing your self. Let’s start at the beginning. One day you decide your career has lost traction. You take the decision to do a top MBA. Everybody is doing a top MBA or so it seems. You do not want to stagnate or be left behind. Is this choice the right choice?

Sometimes, we are blind as bats when it comes to career management choices. Our senses contribute to this lack of understanding. For example, the mind bases its assumptions on preconceived information. An ignorant mind does not question. It takes facts at face value. For example, if the FT ranks the top MBAs, then clearly it seems obvious to which schools we must apply.

Step back for a moment. Although the list is tops, are these the best schools for your development. Are there other options? Am I better off starting my own company? Take a breath. Conscious choice should go beyond received wisdom. Understanding your own elective affinities implies the ability to grapple with statements such as this one:

“If this is not true, then what could possibly be true?”

Sounds like quite a mouthful. At this instant, your mind is in neutral. Understand that elective affinities aren’t value judgements. Your career choices for the moment are either attractive or unattractive. It is your mind, which decides on the bias of desire. Notice, our neutrality disappears. We believe in our choice and claim ownership. The deeper our sense of possession becomes the more risks we run.

Career management therefore, can be a tricky business. Understanding our real nature makes choosing easier. So what are elective affinities? Understanding what makes you tick. Without this understanding, we move from awareness to misconception. Ignorance can exaggerate any situation. What we don’t want is to be trapped, making the same mistakes like a ferret running round a wheel thinking we will arrive at our destination if we run faster. All we get for our efforts is fatigue.

We have the power to get off the wheel and instigate change. All we need to do is alter our approach. We do so by giving ourselves the capacity to be present. Feel your body breath through every pore. Watch the source from where your choices arise. Ignorance dwells in afflictive emotions. Once you overcome this tendency, you’re on track to discover your elective affinities, which will put your career back on track.

To help yourself focus, recognize that every choice has limitations. You can also conclude that choice attributes are intrinsic to the choice. False beliefs are internal. If you get a splinter in your foot, you can pull it out with a tweezers. However, to get rid of an internal attitude, you must see the beliefs on which they are based. The Buddha once remarked, “whatever changes is unreal. Why carry unnecessary baggage?”

Food for thought.

Article Title: Elective Affinities
Photograph: enversdudecor

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on | MBA Admissions | Career Management | Personal Brand Management | Talent Development | Life & Career Coaching |

Let Careo start by celebrating your success story. We hold to the principle that it is not how good you are, but how good you would like to become. We are honored to have been recommended across the French media in – Le Figaro, L’Express, Capital – and by Success & Career in Switzerland.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”.

For further inspiration
Visit Whitefield Consulting Worldwide

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Savoring French Terroir

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Coming back from holiday in a warm clime can be hard on a person particularly to the early autumn rain and chill of Paris. I am in need of comfort food. So, bundled up in an aviator sweater like a hedgehog, I quickly recognized that this evening clearly demanded terroir. The French hold an almost sacred fascination to terroir, which is best expressed through wine and food.

One of the most interesting vin du terroir is Vin Jaune. This French wine has special characteristics in addition to its golden hue; its flavor is rich and nutty reminiscent of Jerez, known in the Anglo-Saxon world as sherry.

To get the low-down on this wine, I go to visit our neighborhood French terroiriste, Eric, who runs an independent wine cellar.

Eric says, “It is safe to say that this wine is off most people’s radar. There are many reasons for this one of which is pure ignorance. Secondly, the wine is from the Jura region. Most people drive through here only when they go to the Alps.”

This wine is perfect with jabugo and some of those lovely Alpine cheeses of the region such as Comte. Considering the weather, Eric recommends the perfect French comfort food du terroir. “Why don’t you make Poulard Aux Morilles?”

The chicken and the wild mushrooms in a cream sauce sound like heaven. Eric counsels dried morilles because the flavor is more concentrated. I concur. Dried mushrooms are definitely the way forward. Their earthy and heady aroma bring drama to the cream sauce. Look for birds from Bresse. I learned this years ago from Paul Bocuse.

“For lovers of Vin Jaune, their emotions can be passionate. The wine makers in this region tend to go organic”, said Eric.

I nodded my head in consent. I tend to prefer natural wines. They are more expressive and better representatives of terroir. They also pay more attention to getting the right balance. The dominant grape in the region is chardonnay, but the signature of the wine is the local savagnin varietal. As Eric continues his lecture with great pride, “As one of France’s rarest wines, the flavor is quite complex consisting of pine resin, citrus, hazelnut, a pinch of salt and anis.

Furthermore the flavor is influenced by the unusual production methods, which involve leaving the wine in a partially filled wooden barrel for fermentation for 6 years. A film of yeast forms on the surface, what the French refer to as fleurs, protecting the wine from oxidation.”

Sherry is produced in a similar way and develops the same nutty aromas. However, sherry is fortified with distilled spirits. The advantages of the savagnin allows the process to go forward without the fortification. This is due to the imposing structure of this unique grape varietal.

The wine is best described as elegant and powerful. The most famous parcel of land in this region lies just outside Chateau-Chalon. Even the bottle is atypical. It is called a “clavelins” and holds just 62cl rather than the standard 75cl. The bottle is a stubby appearance, marking it apart from classic wine bottle shapes.

“Did you know that every winter the region holds a wine festival where the faithful come and sip their way from celllar to cellar?”

I am beginning to get thirsty and Eric pours us both another glass.

“This month the festivities are at Voiter, a group of vintners down the slope from Chateau-Chalon. One of the best is Arbois.”

“This reminds me of some of the wine festivals I have attended in Switzerland. Folkloric is the best description.”

“Perhaps so. Why don’t you bring a bit of French terroir into your kitchen tonight?”

“Why not indeed!” And we both laughed.

Hugging my bottle and placing it into my basket along side some jabugo, I am now off to fetch some crusty bread. With a little luck, the loaves will be hot when I get there.

Article Title: Savoring French Terroir
Photograph: sequinsntulle

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on food | style | design | art | culture.

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Should I Apply For An MBA

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“Gather round MBA candidates from across the land…”

Many professionals clearly opt to do an MBA. It is seen as the golden chalice to career enhancement in the corporate world. However, over the last several years, the MBA waters have become muddied over the value this degree program can deliver. Given the costs, changes in education and program delivery, it is understandable that potential MBA candidates hesitate to take the plunge.

If you are thinking of applying this year, we can offer you the professional assistance and coaching you need to help you reach your objective. Make sure you keep the MBA calendar deadlines in sharp focus.

If you are serious about an MBA, then our advice is do it, to coin a phrase. There are excellent choices just about everywhere depending on your status, financing capabilities and locality. I remember when European MBA programs were not highly thought of. Today, this is bunk. Top European business schools are world class. Whether you want to study in Europe is another issue. Australia and Asia also have excellent options.

Here are a few keys to consider:
* Eleven of the top 100 programmes cost +$100k in the USA. European programs are a bargain in comparison.

* In India and China, many MBA candidates prefer to stay at home rather than go abroad. Cost is one factor. Recent MBA Graduates testify that the Asia-Pacific region has the highest growth rates and offers the best job opportunities. Is it any wonder that people are looking for alternative solutions?

Professionals at all levels in their career evolution are questioning whether there are alternative paths to building and fostering positive career change. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs. The business schools continue to scramble and adapt. If I look at one more brochure which mentions leadership, I think I’ll choke. You would think this is the only important criteria to business education. Leadership is important. However, most people are not leaders in the real meaning of the term. They are good managers, who want more out of their careers.

Look at the changes institutionally. Take for example, the recent trend for MBAs interested in social enterprises or sustainability. Previously not taught, now these domains are given the full coverage they deserve.

Profiling
The traditional MBA degree program still dominates the North American market. Part of this is historical, and the other part has to do with redefining, yet again, the profiling by the business schools of which age groups they want to attract. Young or recent undergrads are solicited to apply sooner than later. If you are 26-28, do you want to study with 21-22 year olds? Most don’t. Simply put, they want to be with their peers.

In Europe, there have also been drastic shifts in both what an MBA can do for career enhancement and the multiplicity of degrees on offer and their value in the job market. Pre-experience Masters in Management degrees still dominate although, there is change afoot. This has more to do with how the business education system is built rather than a degree preference. For example in France, business school students within the “Grandes Ecoles” system are all awarded a Masters degree.

Is this the equivalent of an “American” masters? Clearly it is not. However, the Europeans have blended the undergrad curriculum with the masters to deliver these diplomas. Many students therefore, do not feel the immediate need to do an MBA.

First, when they graduate they are older than their North American counterparts, and secondly, these programs have required internship components built into their education cursus. Some have also benefited from Erasmus exchange programs. European partnerships with leading Asian institutions have also created a two-way traffic, giving students exposure and internships in constituent countries.

Europeans who do decide to do an MBA therefore, have a different profile and professional requirements. They tend to be +26, have real professional experience, and know better where they want to push their careers. They also do not want or need a 2-year program. Schools such as INSEAD, IMD, and IE Business School for example, offer one-year accelerated programs to meet this demand. Many Europeans also wait until their thirties and then opt for an EMBA program when they feel there is more to gain in terms of seniority.

Although the Americans invented the MBA curriculum, global audiences are looking for different variants and forms of program delivery. Take ISB (Hyderabad) and Ceibs (China) for example. The Indian School of Management in Hydrabad offers a great education and the school is successfully placing grads in leading firms from Mumbai to Bangalore.

Ceibs is clearly the business school beacon in China. If you really want to capitalise on doing business in China, then perhaps you should be here.

These changes are forcing many American business schools to start changing their business models. The Dean of Columbia Business School in New York was quoted stating: “I think people may want to get an MBA in a slightly different way”. Clearly the dean was referring to another trend, which is gathering steam: blending classroom-based learning with online teaching.

Online options
Kenan-Flagler at UNC launched MBA@UNC in 2011. Is it successful? Ask UNC for direct feedback. Online learning is not for everyone. Another key issue the business schools are grappling with deals with culture. What impact does culture or should culture have on teaching business? As one analyst puts it, “business schools will need to move from content to the context in which the business operates”.

There is much food for thought here.

Up close and personal
The current dean at Stanford GSB, Garth Saloner, who was appointed in 2009 has been responsible for instituting sweeping reforms and changes. The key term here is his “personalized” approach. This is something many business schools still don’t get. If you create a factory, you get factory workers. A personalized approach to education delivers people who are innovative, creative, and go on to do amazing things.

Just to prove my point, it has the smallest class size of any American MBA: 397. That’s less than half the class size of either Harvard or Wharton. Their career services department is outstanding and the school has facilities second to none. Perhaps, Stanford will become the business education template of what a business school can become if it puts its mind to generating real business leadership.

Coursera
Just think, a revolutionary course delivery system has left the Stanford entrepreneurial incubator. Tom Freidman of the New York Times waxed lyrically over Coursera, which is an NGO dedicated to delivering free classes online.

That’s right folks: F-R-E-E!

The catch is that there is no credit or pedigree. However, the plus side is quite impressive. We stand on the cusp of a complete rethink on the value of education and its delivery to those who do not possess the financial means to buy their pedigree.

Article Title: Should I Apply For An MBA
Photograph curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on | MBA Admissions | Career Management | Personal Brand Management | Talent Development | Life & Career Coaching |

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Confucius The Ninja Of Balance

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“More than mere fortune cookie wisdom…”

Exorcising the mean sounds like witchcraft or a Sergio Leone movie. Nobody tackles this better than Confucius. Given today’s economic climatic, you have to wonder. Business as usual is not the way forward. Confucius offers us a cogent alternative.

Now, I know what you are thinking. This guy’s been at the Moo Shu again. Quite the contrary. The teachings of Confucius are perfect for our times. Understanding and navigating change is not tied to one culture. Confucius has the power to challenge your perceptions and deliver some down to earth answers. Management is a rough and tumble game. There are rules. However, there are players who are happy to break the rules. Here is a snip of Confucius to give you a broader picture:

“When happiness, anger, grief and joy are not expressed, this is called the Mean; when they do find expression in a restrained and balanced way, this is called Harmony. The Mean is a great root of the world, Harmony is the great Way of the world”.

Sounds like quite a mouth full. The term harmony concerns balance. It also entails compromise. Forget the gunslinger’s approach. The mechanics of teamwork are always subtle. Individuals on a team project do not have to like one another. They should however, work together effectively. Do not confuse chemistry and personality with performance. Great teams are not composed of “yes” men and women. They are built with distinctive individuals who have unique qualities. This is the true definition of harmony.

Understanding this principal, will give you a better handle on managing team environments. When it comes to exercising judgment, there is a thin line. One of my colleagues calls this “walking on the edge of a razor blade”. Don’t worry about results. Results will manifest.

Do not be fussed by the methodology either. Use what is appropriate for your situation. Appropriate does not mean committing the “Discourses” of Niccolo Machiavelli to heart. Nor does it mean tattooing his descriptions of conniving and cunning to your chest. It entails avoiding the extremes. Remember Confucius was not pedantic. He walked the talk. Born a meager, impoverished young boy, he recognized that the way forward was based on values most people hold dear. For this reason, Confucius put so much stress on ethics.

Confucius also promoted the ideal character: modesty, honesty, and unity through education in action. His fundamental belief was that all individuals should have the same educational rights. Confucius coupled this teaching to the values of community. He was not keen on the dog eat dog approach.

In theory, education releases a business leader’s potential to make good decisions for the community. With his guiding hand, Confucius proved in practice that people could create and exploit opportunities. See reality as it is not necessarily how you would like to see it. When favorable or unfavorable outcomes are put aside, this is the Mean. Now you can decide with authority and take action. Tackling these choices is done from a position of rationality and sustainability.

By understanding the mechanics of your own heart, you are ready for true leadership. Working and guiding others with harmony will be as easy as listening to the gentle sound of the wind through wisteria. After all, Confucius was not adverse to a good cup of Pu-erh.

Article Title: Confucius The Ninja Of Balance
About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on | Talent Development | Career Management | Personal Brand Management | MBA Admissions | Life & Career Coaching |

Let Careo start by celebrating your success story. We hold to the principle that it is not how good you are, but how good you would like to become. We are honored to have been recommended across the French media in – Le Figaro, L’Express, Capital – and by Success & Career in Switzerland.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”.

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