One of the most compelling things about multinational hearing care retailer, Amplifon, is that it is a pioneer with purpose. Founded in Milan in 1950, the company began distributing hearing aids locally, leveraging new radio technology to transform the lives of Italy’s hearing impaired. Today, the company’s reach extends to 25 countries, and Amplifon occupies a leadership position at the intersection of digital innovation, healthcare and retail. Cedric de Thysebaert is General Manager for Amplifon Belgium. Working for this organisation, he says, is amazing.
This is a company with the mission to empower people to rediscover all the emotions of sound, all over the world. Our impact is stunning and our reach is huge. It is amazing to be associated with this kind of purpose.
At the crossroads between healthcare, retail and innovation
It’s also exciting. De Thysebaert is responsible for more than 200 employees in Belgium—a large team of audiologists and experts—who are laser-focused on leveraging technology not only to transform people’s lives, but to play their part in building awareness and breaking down stigmas that persist around hearing loss and wearable devices.
“It’s such a cool place to be. We sit at this crossroads between healthcare, fast-moving retail and digital innovation. At Amplifon, we get to play with tech: working with connection and connectability, with smartphones and smart TV, to reframe the way we think about hearing devices, overcome reluctance and grow knowledge.”
De Thysebaert joined the company in 2019, a chance to return to his native Belgium, he says, after almost two decades’ managerial experience across Europe. His career has included brand and marketing leadership positions in very large organisations such as Danone. And although Amplifon is smaller in scale than some of the biggest players in fast-moving retail, the ambition to grow is “palpable at every level of the company—from HR to digital to marketing.”
“The whole concept of hearing devices might feel kind of old-fashioned from the outside, but it’s a surprisingly dynamic sector. There’s a strong focus on R&D and digital apps, so the tech aspect is really important,” he says. “This is a modern, advanced organisation, with the same levels of professionalism, systems and processes as any of the biggest companies—and the same focus on the future.”
Managing Amplifon in Belgium, no two days are alike, says de Thysebaert. A key function of his role is to coordinate and communicate with every business function within the organisation, building the collaboration to drive performance and reach objectives. It is a leadership position that he likens to that of an orchestral conductor: ensuring that things run smoothly and in harmony. Getting it right hinges on empowering the success of the people around him, he says.
“I think effective leadership is about being a point of reference and an inspiration to others to achieve the most they can. For me, a very clear remit of leadership is to share a clear vision but then to work with others to build the road map. And that means making space to hear different voices and really collect the feedback from across the organisation.”
While routine brainstorming with hundreds of people is impractical, making contact with colleagues—particularly those on the frontline—is critical, says de Thysebaert; and it is something he prioritises several times a month. Getting out and into shops, listening to colleagues and customers is the direct route to customer-centricity, he insists: and to pinpointing ways to improve processes, protocols and the customer experience in each of Amplifon’s hearing centres.
Then there’s the issue of trust.
“For me as a leader, trust is really the number one. I want my reports to always feel acknowledged and supported, so continuous feedback matters. Working and playing hard are important too,” he adds.
Being together, discussing things openly, going for ambitious projects, and celebrating our successes together—all these things help people grow as leaders of the company
Leading national operations for an organisation like Amplifon is also built on a certain optimism, says de Thysebaert. It’s critical to have the courage to make bold choices where necessary, and the resilience to stay the course; to ride the lows as well as the highs, and keep a positive eye on the future in a way that is helpful to yourself as well as others.
“I started my career as a young man in a multinational food-products corporation in Milan, with no Italian. So that was a courageous choice, in a sense. And certainly it helped me develop the optimism and the staying power to stick with things, “he says. “Working in a business is a bit like playing a competitive sport. You have to work for your targets and objectives every day, looking for the opportunities and making the space to take bold decisions.”
The keys to success
For de Thysebaert, CEMS was a great launching board for a world in business. His foundational student years gave him both the international connections, the network and the exposure to multicultural collaboration to drive a career in five different countries and to make bold decisions for his work and life. And his advice to young people at the start of their own career journey would be to be bold too in their choices; to find and follow a passion and remain open to diverse trajectories and opportunities.
Would Amplifon constitute a diverse opportunity for a CEMsie? Absolutely, says de Thysebaert.
“We operate an amazing international programme for young graduates that takes them to different countries, different positions within the organisation and different types of assignments. And at Amplifon, they will find a company with a strong purpose and a strong focus on people,” he says.
“Here, you can build expertise in different areas in every dept, and have a direct impact – we are not a big machine. We give the keys of the car to young people to really make their mark.”
Amplifon will be participating in the CEMS Career Forum 2023, on November 10 and 11, in ESADE Sant Cugat, Spain. Make sure to drop by their stand and explore the opportunities they offer. Find out more on the CEMS Career Forum website.