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A man whose hugely successful career had many ups and downs, including the failed launch of a new window cleaning product after it was rejected by his boss's wife, spoke to students at Uxbridge College.

André Lacroix, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Euro Disney, and former President of Burger King, talked about his latest role as Group Chief Executive of the world's leading international automotive retail group Inchcape plc, and about his experiences in business.

In addition to André's visit, Inchcape donated seven cars to the College's workshop, including Vauxhalls and Fords, for use by motor vehicle mechanics trainees.

At Mr Lacroix's talk about his career and Inchcape's work, on 1 February, he took questions from the BTEC and A-Level Business students. One asked him whether there had been times in his career when things had not gone so well.

The 46-year-old Frenchman told them he had been working for Colgate in Paris where he was in charge of Ajax cleaning products - which he described as a very challenging experience. However, he hoped he might make some impact by launching a lemon-scented version, at that time only available in America.

He said: "We wanted to be the first and I got the whole organization ready to launch it. Everything had been tested and the factory was ready to run. But I had forgotten to talk to the CEO of the company about my launch."

When André finally consulted the CEO, he was asked for a sample of the product which his boss would take home to his wife to try out. However, she did not prove to be a fan.

André said: "He told me: my wife has a problem because she thinks it does not smell like lemons. It was really frustrating because I had put a plan together but I had forgotten to involve the management. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes."

Speaking afterwards, BTEC Business student Nimisha Patel (19), said: "I thought his talk was really good - he spoke to us as a person, not just a CEO. When I have thought of what a CEO was like before, I didn't think of someone who had their ideas or opinions, just someone who had a job - but that's changed now. I think listening to André has helped me quite a bit personally because it has given me an insight into someone in a high position who has had his ups and downs."

Caroline Jones, Director of Technology at Uxbridge College, said: "It has been terrific to have André Lacroix here to talk to our business students - he really engaged them and taught them an enormous amount. His visit also reflects the College's commitment to grounding all its vocational teaching in the real world of work.

"We are delighted to have links with Inchcape in terms of both our agenda and the Government's in bringing education and industry together.

"André also did a great job of showing that while qualifications matter, softer skills such as good communication, presentation and punctuality are vital to anyone who wants to get on in a business career.

"We would also like to say a huge thank you to Inchcape for its extremely generous donation of seven cars for use by apprentices in our motor vehicle mechanics workshop - it will certainly enhance their learning experience." Inchcape plc is a leading international automotive retailer, with scale operations in Australia, Belgium, Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. The Group also has operations in a number of other markets, including Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Russia and South America. In addition to growing its core businesses, Inchcape is looking to develop scale operations in new and emerging regions. It represents leading automotive brands and operates either a retail, or a vertically integrated retail model (i.e. exclusive distribution and retail), depending on the market. Inchcape's current key manufacturer partners are Toyota/Lexus, Subaru, BMW, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, PAG, Volkswagen, Audi and Honda.


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