“I ignored the warning signs on a huge deal”

Forging strong alliances is part of the job for Benoit Balagny, a director at video-streaming service Rakuten TV, so he’s learned to think long term

As European business development director for Rakuten TV, much of Benoit Balagny’s job is about making deals. And, while that involves a certain amount of salesmanship, he learned early on in his career that a transaction built only on short-term gain is doomed to failure. Here, he explains why sometimes, you need to pull the plug on some business partnerships before they turn toxic.

I’ve always worked in the video and entertainment business, and created and sold a company a few years ago to a publishing group in France. I believe in the entrepreneur mindset, and know that to be successful you have to keep track of what the customer is looking for and innovate your business to deliver it. That’s just what Rakuten is all about and why I enjoy working there.

You have to do what needs to be done when you’re trying to close a deal. Once, I had the opportunity to sign some great business with a potential client in Paris, but he wanted to fit in a quick yoga session first. He asked me to join him and I said yes, despite having never done it before. I closed the deal, but the next day I felt like I had been hit by a train! My body was battered.

That said, I won’t do a deal at any cost. This is one of the key things I’ve learned in business: partnerships have to work for the long term. It’s not about short-term quick wins, it’s about building relationships. Which leads me to my mistake…

In a previous role, the media company I was working for was looking to acquire a sports company. I was in charge of liaising between the two parties and on paper it was a good match. But, as time went on, I could sense this wasn’t the sort of deal that was going to suit either of us. I just knew it wasn’t a good fit. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t say anything and the deal went through. Sure enough, the relationship soon broke down. Most of the executives left and it was a hugely expensive mistake.

You need to be healthy to deal with pressure. The working world moves quickly and you need to be focused in business. Running allows me to clear my mind, concentrate on other things and get a fresh perspective. I go for a run every morning – I never know when my working day will end, so I find it’s best to get exercise out of the way first thing. The beauty of running is that you don’t need a gym or a pool or anything. I always have my trainers with me wherever I am in the world.

Rakuten enjoys a close relationship with FC Barcelona and we share many values, such as empowerment. It’s more than a club: they have beliefs and work together, on the pitch and in every area, to achieve their goals.

I had the chance to go backstage at Camp Nou once and to use the stairs that the players take just before going out on to the pitch. I was surprised to see that, just before the field, there is a small room for players to use for prayer. It’s incredible that, amid all the noise of 100,000 spectators, there’s still space for quiet reflection. I am not religious, but feel that finding time to be on your own is very important.

We have a close team. We talk to each other every day – even at weekends, if we need to. Some of us are close friends and meet with each other’s families. It’s part of the modern way of working. Sometimes you’re ‘on’ and sometimes you’re ‘off’ and, thanks to technology, it’s easy to react and take care of a work priority before enjoying home time again. I certainly understand how important it is for our people to recharge with their families.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/