New Zealand-born Simone Dauphin, Executive Assistant to Rémy Cointreau Americas CEO Ian McLernon, is a bit of a clairvoyant when it comes to the corporate world. And after 8.5 years in our Group under different CEOs, foresight is all in a day’s work.
It has taken me a while to figure out where I am best suited to utilize my skills, so I’ve been bold and experimented. I worked in banking and research in New Zealand, and then decided I wanted to do something more artistic, taking myself to television and film school. I worked in the industry both in London and New Zealand for a number of years—working very long hours in all stages of the production cycle—and eventually reached the point of wanting a more balanced life, so I left to become a registered massage therapist, working alongside an osteopath.
Your arrival to the United States?
I won a Green Card in the annual US Diversity Lottery. I was in New Zealand wondering, “What am I going to do with my life? I think I’ll enter the Green Card lottery …” I didn’t think I’d win, but once I got over the shock of receiving the call, I headed to Boston before Manhattan.
How did you find Rémy Cointreau?
I went to interview with a temp agency, which required an Excel test. The woman replied: “No one has ever gotten a 100 percent before on the Excel test, so I am going to assign you this job,” which is how I started in Rémy Cointreau on a two-week assignment. I was initially working for the CFO, and when I got along well with the team, the position turned into a full-time thing. I’ve worked directly for each of our CEOs since.
What organizational changes have you experienced in the Group?
The most positive change happened when Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet took the reigns as Global CEO. She brought a lot of much-needed structure, while humanizing the workplace, and has appointed exceptional leaders, which makes the difference. She’s amazing: powerful, but very unassuming. “The one thing about life that is guaranteed is that change will happen.” It’s a normal part of a company’s evolution and at Rémy Cointreau, I believe we’re doing it right.
Your role, in brief?
It’s troubleshooting before the trouble begins, which involves understanding the business and anticipating needs. A large part of my day is managing Ian’s travel and fluid calendar, as well as itineraries for any family or Comex members visiting the Americas region. I work closely with the Comex, as well as the executive members of the Americas team and their assistants. I value and invest in these relationships, because, aside from them being great people, being connected helps communication flow better. Every person that the CEO connects with, I also connect with.
What makes me happy is providing a seamless experience for my CEO, partnering with them to help them achieve their goals. If I’ve done that, I’ve done my job. Being given autonomy to create content for our corporate intranet, RC L!VE Americas, is an excellent use of my love for the written word and creative expression. It’s a match made in heaven, and I am enjoying creating an online community for our dynamic team, connecting people both locally and globally.
Biggest misconception about your role?
A lot of people call me “the gatekeeper.” Ian refers to me as more of a “project manager (for a person).” Strategic partner, trusted confidant, professional problem-solver, whatever … If you meet a CEO who appears to be organized and well put-together, that’s usually thanks to their assistant.
What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
“Everything truly does happen for a reason.” Over and over again, I have fretted about situations that I cannot make sense of at the time. It always works out (in its own time). There’s always a reason. I also realized that if I knew why at the time, I would have taken a different path, and I wouldn’t have learned the lesson I needed. You must be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Work environment at RCUSA HQ?
“If you bring your ‘A’ game every day, you’ll do well.” That advice echoes throughout the Americas workplace, even though it’s a pretty relaxed environment. I find it “just big enough.” We’re just over 110 in the physical New York office and about 145 sales people throughout the Americas, with two local hubs in California and in Illinois. I marvel at the HR team for consistently finding truly amazing people to fill vacant roles. The office layout is both narrow and really long, so we joke about having a scooter to go from one end of the office to the other; in fact, a prior CEO was known to utilize an electric scooter from time to time. Our office covers half a city block, so it takes about three minutes to walk it. There are two café areas, and while there is no formal lunch time, people certainly gather there.
What is unique about working with Rémy Cointreau?
It’s a family business on a global scale. Being in touch with the family members in a tactile role is a privilege. Secondly, I can rely on the product. I have confidence in knowing that there have been no corners cut. Here, we allow time to take time, and I love that we uphold this principle—even if the timelier method doesn’t seem the most financially attractive. It’s refreshing to be aligned with a company that are so passionate about excellence, and about doing things right. I’ve worked in stiff, corporate environments in prior roles, so I appreciate the importance of humanizing things. In sum, Rémy Cointreau does a great job of letting people be people.
Favorite dining spot in NYC?
For me, it’s difficult, as there are so many amazing spots. New York is one of those places where you could go out to eat every night for two years, and not come close to exhausting the restaurant population. But what I really enjoy are the basic things in life, so my pick is a little low-key, seasonal outdoor café by the Hudson River. It offers some amazing summer sunset views.