Only three years after Emmanuel had left for Geneva he was leaving me his old job. With a phone call I was promoted to Global Director of the CMS. By this time, I’d been with the company fourteen years, had eleven bosses, and a dozen offices. The one constant throughout - doing TrenzWalks. Today, my list of inspiring global destinations includes Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta, Berlin, London, Milan, Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Copenhagen, Zurich, Tel Aviv, and Toronto. Culturally, each city has its own unique thumbprint in everything from language, architecture, and mass transit, to its fashion, smell, and taste. Where the commonality resides, worldwide, is in each city’s edgier, more artsy neighborhoods. And they all have one.
In the last twenty-three years I’ve led about five hundred TrenzWalks with thousands of customers, colleagues, and conference attendees. Except for a few weather-related situations, they have all been without incident. No one ever got lost, injured, or in trouble, shy of being yelled at by a shop owner for taking pictures in their store. The biggest group I ever led was around thirty-five people, including our Firmenich team, and the smallest was just a private walk-about with an important customer that had an afternoon free to be inspired. In general, TrenzWalks average around twelve people, which is ideal in most cases, but the smaller the streets, the smaller the shops, and the harder it becomes to accommodate everyone without making a scene and looking like a bunch of tourists in khakis and polo shirts at the zoo. Other than that, they begin to all blend together, where what I remember most is the routes in the cities themselves, and the occasional special spot we ended up in for the debrief and wrap-up following a successful day.
Revisiting many of these cities' on a consecutive basis, I've witnessed the marketing machine of gentrification turn their edgier neighborhoods into family-friendly malls. First displacing the artists that made it cool in the first place, then the landlords who give in to the developers, followed by the local mom-n-pops that are forced out by higher rents to allow in the name brands. It's upsetting at times, but it's inevitable and predictable. (If only I had connections in real estate.) There are fortunes to be made with foresight, and my job on a TrenzWalk is to bring the real time inspiration to those looking to create the future.