The COVID-19 crisis may have pushed us apart physically, but it’s also motivated us to find new ways of staying engaged and connected – both with each other and with our wider communities. In an uncertain climate, communication and information are more important than ever.

With this in mind, Salesforce hosted a series of virtual roundtables with business trailblazers from around the world. These sessions allowed participants to come together and share valuable insights on what to expect in the ‘Never Normal’, what might come next, and how businesses can overcome adversity to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Renowned Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini joined one of the sessions hosted by Carmina Coenen, Belgium deputy country leader, to share his essential ingredients for success and to explain how his business has navigated the crisis – all while leading a live tasting session of his finest chocolates.

Courage is everything: How Pierre Marcolini delivers the sweet life

It’s clear from both his product and his personality that Pierre Marcolini is a passionate person. The bubbly Belgian chocolatier has been in business for over 25 years, and if there’s one thing that’s driven him throughout the decades it’s his obsession with quality.

For Marcolini, setting the bar high means that while other chocolate makers are happy working with the “couverture chocolate” they have on hand, he’s busy exploring the globe to find the world’s best cocoa beans. Marcolini is dedicated to ethical, sustainable production, and he’s perfected the art of making artisanal chocolate from bean to bar. For Marcolini, being merely ‘good’ isn’t good enough, and businesses need to have the courage to do whatever it takes to become the best they can be.

Of course not every business can travel the world searching for perfection or be an alchemist in the kitchen, but without a passion for their products or services, organisations will find it difficult to compete in the Never Normal and beyond.

Here are Pierre Marcolini’s three ingredients for business success:

Ingredient #1: Innovation

When Pierre Marcolini started out 25 years ago, the chocolate world was in a bit of a rut. It was divided into territories such as Swiss chocolate and Belgian chocolate, but most chocolatiers bought couverture chocolate from the same producer. This meant that most end products were created from the same original product. To say there was a lack of diversity in the market is an understatement.

When Marcolini stepped into this world, the need to be different was evident. As Peter Hinssen mentioned during this roundtable talk – good leaders are the ones who are open to change and can see “the day after tomorrow”. Marcolini immediately seized the opportunity to create something different and set out to build a powerful new brand based around artisanal beans and refined processes.

Ingredient #2: Passion

“The only door between dream and reality is courage,” Marcolini says. He always had the desire to go further and experiment more, which led to him choosing the finest ingredients, such as Piedmont hazelnuts and Vietnamese Cashews. In a uniform world where single-source couverture was still the norm, this was an avant-garde move at the time, but one that would clearly differentiate and define the brand.

Ingredient #3: Agility

Pierre Marcolini believes that SMEs like his have an advantage in the Never Normal, as they’re agile enough to react quickly to market disruptions. For example, when it became evident that food habits were changing in the crisis, Maison Marcolini quickly adapted by reducing the size of their chocolates.

Being agile also enables businesses to turbo-charge their online channels when needed, as Maison Marcolini did when its stores closed. Marcolini thinks that the big ecommerce gains that were made during lockdown will be permanent, as people who might have taken longer to go online were pushed by the events, but are now there to stay. That doesn’t mean that Marcolini thinks stores will be obsolete, however. He sees them as places where people will go to have brand experiences, discover new things, and learn along with a sales expert. We all seek connection, after all, and being part of the real world isn’t going to go away. That’s great news for Pierre Marcolini, as right now in some faraway jungle, the perfect cocoa bean is just starting to grow.

A final word

Our thanks to Pierre Marcolini for some memorable words of wisdom and some amazing chocolates. He ended his tasting session with the degustation of a ‘Séduction heart’ made with fresh raspberry pulp, a sweet summation of Marcolini’s philosophy: do things from the heart, innovate, and let yourself be surprised. Food for thought indeed.

For further insights about doing business in the wake of a crisis, check out part one of our virtual roundtable discussion with Peter Hinnsen, where he shares his thoughts on the ‘Never Normal’.

Additionally, you can read our Covid-19 response playbook introducing a framework for companies to lead and build resilience in the new normal.

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