Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Pierre-François Palloy (1754 - 1835), early #VUCA Sales entrepreneur

Bonne Fête  Nationale  Joyeux  Quatorze  Juillet

Back in Revolutionary France of 1789 it would be fair to say things were-

and ambiguous.

It was a VUCA period back then. VUCA is not, it appears, a peculiarly  21st century phenomenon.

Pierre-François Palloy was born in 1755 in Paris. Leaving school at the age of fifteen he joined the French Royal Army. On leaving his military career he married the daughter of a building contractor and joined the trade himself, eventually taking over his new family's business.

By 1789 he had made the company one of the largest building firms in Paris, employing 400 workers.

 To be a successful sales entrepreneur in 1789, you needed to have vision on how to respond to the volatility of the politics ,
 understanding how to tackle the uncertainly of social upheaval,
 a clarity of  thought to work through the complexity of revolution
and not a little agility to turn the ambiguities of the times to your commercial advantage.

The  Bastille prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming but was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy.

When the Bastille fell on 14 July 1789 there was some debate as to what should replace it, or indeed if it should remain as a monument to the past.

However, Palloy knew  what he wanted to do and by the evening had begun the process of dismantling the structure; he secured the contract to demolish the building two days later.

Although Palloy did not receive the official payment for several years, he knew how to profit from the possession of such an iconic structure.

Diversification into Tourism

Remember in Revolutionary France, we are back in the era of Madame Tussaud and her first wax figure of Voltaire in 1777 , Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris.  In 1794 she inherited a vast collection of wax models and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. Tourism was developing !
So at the Bastille, Palloy's staff conducted tours, for a fee, to show the public around the basements and dungeons with skeletons as props! 

 Palloy labelled himself a patriot ( vainqueur)  and emphasised the symbolism of the Bastille, writing speeches, painting pictures, and even arranging celebratory festivals and theatrical reconstructions of the day the Bastille fell.

The ruins of the Bastille rapidly became iconic across France..Palloy had an altar set up on the site in February 1790, formed out of iron chains and restraints from the prison.

 Old bones, thought to have been of 15th century soldiers, were discovered during the clearance work in April and, presented as the skeletons of former prisoners, were exhumed and ceremonially reburied in Saint-Paul's cemetery.

Events management

 In the summer, a huge ball was held by Palloy on the site for the National Guardsmen visiting Paris for the 14 July celebrations of 1790.

Memorabilia Industry

A memorabilia industry surrounding the fall of the Bastille was already flourishing and as the work on the demolition project finally dried up, Palloy started producing and selling memorabilia of the Bastille.

 Palloy's products, which he called "relics of freedom", celebrated the national unity that the events of July 1789 had generated across all classes of the citizens of France  and included a very wide range of items.

 Palloy also sent models of the Bastille, carved from the fortress's stones, as gifts to the French provinces at his own expense to spread the revolutionary message.

Successful selling requires an understanding of the VUCA context in which we find ourselves. 

Over the next few decades a new set of selling practices and skills will need to be adopted. Sales professionals need to rethink their sales approach.

Considering the VUCA world of today and the challenge this has for buyers and sellers we need to adapt with similar deftness  as one  Pierre-François Palloy showed back in the day.

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