After working as a sales representative for years, at 40, Arnaud decided to dive into human centric innovation. A unique approach born from his experience in the field, which he passionately shares with all.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Funny you should ask. I recently stumbled upon a scribbled note in one of my old school notebooks where I’d written that I wanted to make a living out of surfing.
How did it all come to be?
After business school, I started out in advertising at DDB° in Paris. It was a great career but it didn’t feel like the right place for me. I needed to be closer to nature and the ocean.
So, I moved to the South-West of France in Anglet, where I worked as an advertising assistant at Surf Session editions for a few months and then as a South-West sales rep for Etnies and 32.
After 4 years as a sales rep, I jumped at the opportunity to join the DC Shoes team as Product Manager for Europe but it was a short-lived experience since we parted ways at the end of my trial period. It was a very difficult experience both personally and professionally.
How did you bounce back from that?
I took some time off. I needed to try out other fields. I’d always been passionate about design and architecture so I started a new job as a freelance real estate agent for high-end properties in Biarritz. But 6 years later, I needed a new challenge. I dabbed around a bit and then finally just laid everything out by doing a skills assessment. I finally realized that I hadn’t wound up in sales by accident and that what really motivated me wasn’t business per say, but rather human resources and dealing with people.
Is that how you decided to go into business for yourself?
Actually, I’ve worked freelance since 2007, but unconsciously I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and go into business for myself. I therefore created U+ in September 2014. It’s a consulting and training firm that aims to develop efficiency through human centric innovation. It’s a truly innovative dynamic which allows people structure their thought process to go from ideas to action and help with decision-making. It can also be used to work on innovative brand management and in business innovation.
Where does the name U+ come from?
I wanted something short to have a brand that speaks to people internationally. I wanted it to be simple and efficient. Therefore, the U means the individual “you” but also the collective “you”. It is also the unit that links humans to the universe. There is a universal and human centered approach behind U+, it’s a state of mind.
The U shape is like a magnet that attracts the “+”. By putting yourself in “+” mode, you are putting yourself in “jumpstarting the best” mode.
“For me, starting a business is like childbirth.”
You were an employee and you decided to become an entrepreneur. Was it a difficult decision?
For me, starting a business is like childbirth. That must be my feminine side talking (laughs). When you start a business, it’s a little like an extension of yourself. It requires lots of time, energy and abnegation, which makes it all the more precious.
To be honest, if I’d been thinking mainly around money, U+ wouldn’t exist. It’s so avant-garde and such forward thinking. You meet so many people who think it’s awesome but who have a hard time grasping what exactly it is all about. Today, I want it to exist and when you bring love into your work, that in itself is a reward.
Any advice for someone starting out?
Develop your talent. Be inspired and inspire others. Cultivate curiosity and be driven. Keep a flame alive in everything you do, you have to believe in things even before they come to life. If you believe in something and you know intuitively that is is worth it, you have to go for it, even if it is a mistake. It’s the only way to succeed.
“Freedom is doing what you love and happiness is loving what you do.”
What’s a typical day like for you?
Something great about what I do, is that I live and work around a rather natural flow with challenging highs and then low key moments when I can get inspired and take the time to share with other people.
I’ve always wanted to combine work and play and for me work must help one develop on a personal level. I am driven by freedom and happiness; because freedom is doing what you love and happiness is loving what you do.
What is the advantage of being based at the Olatu Leku business center?
There are many advantages. It’s a truly rich human experience to live and exchange on a daily basis with other residents at Olatu Leku. It allows me to apply co-working; we help each other, we pool our strengths and we work together on common projects. It’s a perfect example of collaborative innovation.
Tell us about what you set up with the Olatu+ project.
Arnaud Zangrilli from U+ and Benoit Dandine from Air Océan at the origin of Olatu+
We started out from the assumption that Olatu Leku is a real opportunity but then we also thought “could we not make it even better?”. We therefore decided to bring together the 24 resident businesses for a collective brainstorming session and asked everyone: “what can we do to be, work and communicate even better together?” The answer took the shape of 3 priorities which are communication, shared business and a friendly environment. It’s a collaborative approach where the individual has a voice within the collective to bring out the best.
Today, we are working on brand management for Olatu Leku so that when we each individually do business elsewhere, we can be associated with a positive dynamic, a unique ecosystem. We are truly in the process of creating a new model.
What does being a EuroSIMA member mean to you?
It means being part of a family. To me, it’s more than just an industry. I came to Action Sports by passion and I left because I’d been burned. In the end, I sought out new experiences but I missed the Action Sports environment. Today, I am thrilled to have succeeded in aligning my interests. I am convinced that it can be an industry of excellence because there is such a unique energy in outdoor and action sports. I am convinced that if we all work together we can be innovative, exemplary and shine across the entire planet.
– U + –