IMD International

Decision time

How the IMD EMBA helped Hervé Flutto answer two big questions

November 21, 2014

Herve Flutto

When Hervé Flutto started his EMBA at IMD in 2008, he had two questions on his mind. Had he made the right career choice by working for smaller companies? And could he make the transition from finance specialist to general manager?

Flutto, who is French, had begun his career at large companies, in business development at Rhone Poulenc (now Aventis), and in global corporate consulting roles at General Electric and Novartis. Working in global organizations was exciting, and he learned a lot, but after a few years he fancied a change of scene.

So he then worked for smaller private equity-owned companies undergoing rapid transformation. He used his finance and business background to drive change, and moved into more senior roles.

“Working for smaller companies was a nice shift, because they are more nimble and you see more of your own imprint on the business,” Flutto says.

By 2008, it was decision time.

“I’d reached a point where I wanted to take my learning from my early days at large companies with global footprints, and then more recently at smaller companies, and capitalize on that,” he says.

Flutto chose the IMD EMBA for its international outlook, the experience of the other participants, and the access to excellent networks. Once he was on the program, he reflected on his career so far and started to answer those two questions to map out his future path.

First, he realized that small companies were indeed where he belonged. Classes on organizational dynamics with IMD Professor Phil Rosenzweig “were a real eye-opener,” and included discussion of small, open companies that operate with a network of partners.

There was also a strong start-up flavor to Flutto’s EMBA class that encouraged the sharing of ideas about smaller businesses. Several participants were working for start-ups or fast-growing companies, and the whole EMBA class went on the traditional discovery expedition to Silicon Valley.

Second, the EMBA convinced Flutto that he could make the shift to general manager. “That was the big driver for doing the EMBA,” he says.

He found the EMBA classes on managing innovation particularly useful in this regard.

“In relatively high-cost countries such as Switzerland or Germany, you can’t play on the low-cost commodity side. You have to focus on innovation and how you manage that,” he says.

Having answered his questions, Flutto looked for a way to put his EMBA learning and reflection into practice. And he found one in October 2011 when he helped to start Flowcastings, a company that makes complex technical parts for aircraft engines and gas turbines original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The young company is already establishing supply relationships with leading turbine manufacturers such as Safran, Alstom, General Electric and Rolls-Royce.

As general manager of Flowcastings, Flutto’s main priorities are managing the company’s commercial development in Europe, driving manufacturing efficiency at its plant near Frankfurt, building and enhancing the talent pool of engineers, and managing the innovation process. He is also very engaged in securing financing to help the company move into the next stage of growth.

“I don’t have an engineering background, but what I bring is a way to manage process innovation that focuses on resolving customers’ critical problems around turbine performance,” he says.

He stays in regular contact with IMD and his EMBA class. When Flowcastings was about to enter discussions with a Russian customer two years ago, Flutto got in touch with his Russian EMBA classmates. As well as briefing him on doing business with Russian companies, they got him an introduction to the company he was going to address.

More recently, in late September this year, Flutto came to IMD’s Biennial International Alumni Event. The gathering focused on the digital revolution, its impact on business, society and individuals, and its relevance to industrial companies such as General Electric.

“The future belongs to small, nimble, expert companies in an evolving network that can provide value to the customer. Executing on innovation is the key,” he says.

These days Flutto lives with his family between Zurich and Basel and travels a lot, including to Flowcastings’ key European customers and technology partners, and to its plant in Germany. But his career goals are well grounded, thanks in part to his time at IMD.

“My initial beliefs crystallized within the EMBA,” he says.

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