Anne Lançon likes to cook. Gyoza dumplings are a specialty. But she serves them on something not even Michel Roux Jr., at his most ambitious, has so far managed – plates she has made herself.
Her dream, Anne says, is to have ‘No shop-bought items in my kitchen.’ And, to that end, she has taught herself pottery. She brings, I suspect, the same goal-oriented determination to her role at Drayton.
As Research Partner, Anne heads up all aspects of information management – whether that’s building long-lists for recruitment projects, salary benchmarking for key clients or identifying Private Equity firms who may be seeking to develop their Consumer Portfolio.
‘Our existing network of companies and leaders in the UK is extensive. But desk research is not enough and you simply have to get on the phone and talk to people. I've done that in Japan, for example, for Coca-Cola. My husband is Japanese, so I speak the language, albeit not perfectly. That's really useful for quite a few projects here at Drayton, being able to speak other languages. I speak French, Italian, and Spanish, as well, as, she says laughing, bad Japanese.'
Originally from Le Mans in France, Anne has a Masters in International Trade Law from Newcastle University. She began her career in recruitment working as a consultant but then gravitated towards research.
‘I joined another recruitment company to support the start-up of their French consumer division trading from the UK. After a number of years of successful growth, they decided to open a Paris office. I had just started maternity leave and when I returned, I decided I didn't want to move my family back to France. So, I made up my mind to concentrate on research.’
When I ask her what she likes about her role, she becomes animated and speaks quickly. It’s obvious she has a real passion for her job. ‘Firstly, diversity because, although the roles we search for are all at senior management level, the companies and opportunities are different. Anything from a Purchasing Director of a smaller private-label business in the northwest to a CEO of a European-based multinational. So, it keeps things really interesting. I think what I enjoy the most is the exploration and the creativity that goes with it. To be able to find a solution to a problem, usually, you need to get through quite a lot of that. That kind of detective work. Yes, that’s it – being a good detective.’
As our conversation develops, Anne comes back to this point again and again – the importance of being a determined problem solver.
‘I have the confidence to speak to people at all levels within an organisation. My international background and language skills are, I think, a great advantage. It allows me to have a good rapport with a very wide range of people. Resilience, too, is very important; having a real determination to solve a problem. I think there's also a bit of flair and instinct in my job and that's fine to give you an initial idea but until you’ve really spoken to somebody, had a conversation, it’s hard to be certain. Once you have managed to do that – that’s when you can really tell if a candidate might be right for a role.’
‘Even if that conversation is in bad Japanese?’ I ask. She laughs again. Then nods. ‘Yes, in research terms, even a conversation in bad Japanese is better than no conversation at all.’