30 Most Inspiring Leaders to Watch 2021
The Silicon Review
Simon&Co Sàrl is a global Public Relations (PR) and communications agency founded by Virginie Simon, which is developing and implementing meaningful strategies to build strong brands to empower its clients. It develops tailor-made strategies for business clients to support their brand on a long-term basis. The firm is based in Lausanne, with offices in Sion and Zurich in Switzerland, Madrid and Almeria in Spain, and London, UK.
To highlight and further understand what Simon&Co Sàrl stands for and seeks to explore in this segment, I sat down with Virginie Simon, who serves as the company’s PR, Communications, and Business Strategist.
Below is an excerpt
Q. What’s your story? And what led you to the establishment of Simon&Co Sàrl?
I create my career around my interests. I started by studying visual arts as the main subject area. Then, I picked psychology at University before changing to Sociology and Political Sciences. When finishing my master in International relations, I decided to analyze the political, economic, and social issues of the H5N1 pandemic from an international political economy point of view. This made me get a job at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health during the H1N1 pandemic. After a few months in a communication agency, I was in charge of national campaigns of prevention and communication projects (flu, vaccines, HIV, etc.). At the same time, I decided to get a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Marketing Management at HEC Business School before leaving for a Medtech multinational from the Silicon Valley and then Burson-Marsteller, the leading network of PR agencies where I was a PR associate in Geneva.
This experience allowed me to work on national and international projects, such as a launch in more than 30 countries or the biggest redundancy Geneva has ever experienced. I then joined another PR and communication agency as a Senior Consultant and Head of the Geneva office. After three years, I wanted a change as I was working day in and day out, managing all international and national clients for this company. I had a lot of launches and events and needed a rest. I also wanted to study, which I did by traveling to London to get the Advanced Diploma in Strategic Brand Management from the London School of Business and Finance. But the rest didn’t last too long as the first clients came very quickly. Word of mouth is so powerful that I was recommended to support a Brazilian lady launching a new skincare line for men and a Korean-based multinational settling down in Switzerland.
Q. Tell me about a situation where you were under a great deal of pressure because of numerous demands competing for your time and attention. How did you handle the situation?
When Covid started, I didn’t know what to expect as an entrepreneur. I decided back then to be careful with the cash flow and make sure to make the right decisions for the agency. When I expected less work, which was the case in the first month and a half, then it got crazy. Since then, I have been working like rarely before. I was lucky that I have built a network of people I can rely on, with the same ethics and strategic mindset. I think the most difficult part of growing a company is to surround yourself with the right people, and I am happy to say that we are a great team right now.
Q. Who do you look up to and why?
I like Richard Branson’s vision and leadership. He is really true to himself; he focuses on the well-being of his employees and their health, not on KPIs and outcomes only. His ideas are fresh; he thinks differently and believes in letting people learn from their mistakes. He is able to rise in times of distress and major changes, while his leadership also reflects social values.
Q. ‘We develop tailor-made strategies that make the most out of our clients to broaden awareness and stimulate engagement.’ Splendid! Would you like to talk about this family a bit more?
We truly are PR consultants, coming with experience, interests, and education from different fields. When clients ask us to launch a new product or service or would like to implement some media relations, we always define together their need and their business strategy on a short and long-term basis to ensure that the actions they want to implement align with those goals. Communication is, therefore, a tool we use to reach wider business goals. We always try to make the most of our clients’ internal strengths and prefer to coach them and provide them the tools they need to move forward than taking over the whole project if this is not necessary. Lastly, our job is based on our networks and knowledge of the market. To broaden awareness and stimulate engagement, you have to put your clients in touch with the right people at the right moment. Long-term relationships with key opinion leaders, customers, journalists, and prospects, for instance, are key when working on their positive reputation. You also have to know how consumers think and expect your brand to stimulate engagement.
Q. That’s not all Simon&Co Sàrl does. What are its other focus areas?
Simon&Co offers you a strategic-minded and client-oriented consultancy that supports your business development at any stage. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the agency collaborates with national and international networks of professionals from relevant sectors to provide the best-integrated services for your tailored strategy.
We know that time is valuable. Therefore, we remain your single point of contact, ensuring that all providers offer you the best quality services according to your projects. As an orchestra conductor, we guarantee that your values, vision, and mission are shared in each implemented action.
Simon&Co has proven experience with start-ups, SMEs, and multinational corporations active in the B2C and B2B sectors as well as with NGOs and associations. Our services include strategic counsel, business development, public relations, crisis and change management, corporate communications, reputation management, media relations, campaigns, public affairs, influencers, and much more.
Q. Could you describe your typical management style and the type of employee that works well with you?
My management style is very flat in the sense that there is no hierarchy between us. We all provide different types of expertise and have an interesting point of view on each project. I gave my employees guidelines, training, and support to move forward with their projects. I am always available whenever they have a question or require some help but at the same time, let them come with their own ideas and suggestions as this is what I think allows us to get better at making the most of each project. The ambiance is relaxed, and we like to joke between us even if the projects are challenging and sometimes not so open to this. This culture makes us wake up in the morning happy to go to work. Each consultant decides on which projects they want to work on, according to their interests or the competencies they would like to work on.
Q. What plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?
We are currently developing workshops around issues that are growing within companies, focusing on employees’ well-being and the creation of a safe workplace. As employees are the main ambassadors of a company and are part of its image outside of it, it is important to make sure that internal communications and the way they are considered and treated are done in the best way possible. These kinds of problematics are relevant as employees are more and more working from home and have less interaction or other types of interactions with other employees. The pandemic has changed how we work and interact, but some issues remain the same or are even growing.
The Charismatic Leader at the Helm of Simon&Co Sàrl
Virginie Simon is the Founder and serves as PR, Communications, and Business Strategist of Simon&Co Sàrl. She is a highly motivated, multicultural, diligent, and passionate PR strategist and brand-builder with more than 12 years of proven track record in delivering strategic communications campaigns, reputation management plans, and high-level change and crisis counseling. She has gained experience in the public sector, Swiss and international agencies, start-ups, nonprofit and multinational corporations, which allows her to understand and analyze all types of organizations.