How to accelerate learning. Fireside chat with entrepreneurs at Google Launchpad

For a Fireside chat

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fireside-chat-with-ex-ceo-of-lancome-loreal-group-on-branding-marketing-and-startups-tickets-38898167466

invited by the energizing Shuonan Chen General Partner at Agile VC (early stage investor), I’ve discovered Shinect (Share Inspire Connect), a nonprofit community for 3000+ entrepreneurs and engineers from leading tech companies and Alumni of Harvard, Standford, Berkeley, etc…

Here are a few insights from the conversation with Shuo. A lot of you connected after on Linked in for a follow-up, let’s keep in touch.

I was happy to see parity in the room when we met.

– Top lessons you wish you knew when you first started your career + how to accelerate learning

NEGOTIATE FOR OTHERS BUT ALSO FOR YOU!

In July, I was lucky enough to attend a week at Stanford about leadership. We had a great teacher Margaret Ann Neale, explaining that an 8$K negotiation could lead to 6 years of difference as a working life for the same result. I wish I had negotiated from the beginning of my career.

I thought that people would see my performance and financial results. After a few years at l’Oréal as a young CMO, I was near to resign, even having a few interviews at the key competitor in NY ( group Lauder) to finally be promoted and have a better package. I’m not sure it was the right way to lead a negotiation, as being very upset.

I’ve discovered that many women are pretty good at negotiating for our teams. But you guys are also good at negotiating for yourselves J.

Our cognitive biases come from our education (parents, school, peers, context). If we’re more aware, we can be more pro-active.

Learnings: Fight cognitive biases (including yours !).

TAKE CARE OF PEOPLE.

I’m embarrassed to acknowledge that it took me a lot of time to understand that « first people matter », …then innovation, product development, and new ideas.

I had a few coaches in my thirties explaining to me that my management was great at developing people, with high expectations, but leaving some people feeling scared to meet me and reluctant to give feedback in meetings.

French are very « straightforward » in their management, radical candor is part of it. I had a first aha moment in NY.

I finally realized by myself how important people are, and as a leader, you need to inspire them, but also listen to them in the daily life and make them participate in the decision making.

I became even more aware of it as changing of industry where I was not in my comfort zone: coming from a business culture to an engineer one. I learned a lot having to ask open questions as the newcomer in a Tech world.

I’ve learned to make sure to define an outcome and listen to people, I mean really listen to them!

Now when I choose founders to support them, if I see they’re not a good listener and « people first », even if a great startup and business model, I don’t accept to work with them, as I know they will have issues to scale. Strong leaders build an inspiring culture, a company where people feel they belong.

My advice: ask open questions to your team (and don’t say what you think at the beginning !), make sure all people can participate. Diversity is essential to creativity and innovation.

– Toughest challenges + proudest achievements of building a company

Saying No.

Convincing my Big Boss, he was wrong, and that my team and I were right (not saying it for sure !). It’s now a more than half a billion dollars skincare franchise. As the story was built supported by the Research and labs team, and we asked customers what they thoughts, I felt empowered.

Remember: Trust the experts, listen to your customers, fight for your ideas.

Starting from scratch.

Starting my job as a Chief Strategy and Data Officer, with 10 people, only 2 of them Data Scientists (contrasting with the huge budget in Communication and Media, and a team of more than 200 hundred directly reporting to me).

18 months after, we animated a community of 600 « data-driven » people across all teams: IT architects, business owners, designers, developers, privacy, and security expert…We signed great partnerships with the big platforms and early stage and agile startups. And first and foremost it was an exciting human adventure enabling great improvements in the Customer Experience and also to save a lot of money. I felt rewarded as in the core of the business and participating in the strategy for the future.

Learnings: horizontal organization, project management, open ecosystem, all help to innovate. Be ready to take new challenges

– Challenges in being a good leader through different company stages

BE OBSESSED BY YOUR CULTURE!

I like chatting with Founders that care about having a positive impact in people’s life.

Founders that are « mission-driven » (and not just product addict), are inspiring leaders when they share their mission, ambition, and values.

The most difficult thing is to practice it every day.

I advise Founders: in an early stage, you have a lot to do to have a product that works and hire the core team, then in series A or B, you scale, and with the size comes the complexity.

Keeping things simple, still implementing processes and a governance and not losing the culture is the challenge.

My advice: write your manifesto, values, and mission statement, and put bigs posters just behind you, on the wall. You won’t forget to practice it every day when you come at your desk, neither will your guests or team when they come to chat with you.

– How to hire a great team + build a strong board

IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUST…

I always give the example of a couple in life. Partner for many years, building a family or having projects together ( a house, or traveling…).

The same for Co-Founders and the core team.

I respect and admire Founders and CEO that communicate to their Co-Founders that they need to leave if not helping to scale the company. It’s not easy, it’s tough decisions to make.

Some people are great in the chaos, and then adapt themselves to a later stage. You need to give feedback to people to help them to grow or find a company that better fits who they are and what they’re good at.

The better you’re surrounded by people that raise their voice, the better. You need a strong team.

AND SELF AWARENESS.

I believe that Seed stage Founders enough wise to have mentors, then advisors, go faster!

They have a « circle of trust » where they can share expectations, but also doubts and concerns. They can have honest feedback. Investors and employees have a lot at stake, so the conversations are not exactly the same. Still asking feedback can help.

They will be ready in the future to listen to independent Board Members (and for sure great Investors they have carefully chosen) helping them to grow their business and define priorities.

I see too many Boards with only white male 40 plus, and not even a woman. I see also many Boards with only Tech people and investors, nobody to advise on the vertical, knowing the ecosystem. Diversity can help to go deeper in the topics.

– Advise for female founders and experienced engineers on how to think about starting vs joining a startup

Being an entrepreneur is a tough job.

You must not only have a vision, be a great leader inspiring others, but also be in excellent health, and have the ability not to worry every day and sleep well at night.

Not all people are born for that. If you feel it, trust yourself, surround you with great people, and people that are not like you! (diversity).

I have been a hard worker for many years. Working for yourself is rewarding and gives freedom. As an Executive, you make some decision with your partner in life ( for me, moving to NY for 2 years was decided with my husband as it was impacting his career and also our children), as an Entrepreneur just make sure not to forget your beloved.

I see too many Founders so obsessed by their startup that in dinners and parties! That’s great, but also meet people for the pleasure to discover new things, and continue to learn. Don’t be too self-centered.

If joining a startup, be ready for uncertainties, not all people feel comfortable not knowing what’s going on in the near future.

Practical solutions to challenges female founders may face in male-dominated industries ex. tech

First, let’s be clear: We need Men. They’re half of the population!

We need to fight when behaviors are not acceptable.

I believe in facts and figures: the more we share grids to hire candidates or evaluate people to avoid cognitive biases, the better.

At the same time, any woman I’ve met who have been successful had a guy that one day promoted her, or put her forward. So let’s not underestimate that we need to be role models to move forward: helping people to understand their cognitive biases, avoid stereotypes on both sides.

Choose Mentors you trust. But also keep time for conversations with other people to give back.

Be grateful for what you have learned, and about continuing to meet new people.

And if doing so you can be particularly obsessed by showing solidarity with other women, and help some of them, you’re doing good, and you help things move forward.

Men, mentors, give back!

– Q&A from the audience :

As many of you asked me how to learn seeing other founders pitches in seed or early stage, please attend Angels networks meeting (Bay Angels bayangels.com does one every month, B2C and B2B) or great incubators DemoDay ( this week it was 500 startups, 3 weeks ago IndieBio, …).

If you’re interested in the Beauty industry (and also fashion, and retail), please join the @BeautyTechSF (twitter account) meetup community with 200 entrepreneurs and investors. The next meeting will take place January 25th, with a limited number of tickets so rush if you are an entrepreneur in the Bay. We have a meeting every 4 to 6 months with great entrepreneurs and VC on stage sharing their insights.

 

Check out San Francisco Beauty&Tech meet up. Data&Mission driven http://meetu.ps/c/39XtM/w4m3m/a

Do I need a deck? Absolutely, even if not used, and improve it learning from your different conversations.

How to find your Mentor or Advisor? Meet people in conferences and meet-ups, grab a coffee, if after 2 or 3 conversations you’re still both excited to meet each other, that’s a good sign! Remember: it’s all about trust.

Background reminding, sharing a bit more on how I started

I’ve spent a large part of my career with major brands in the field of beauty and luxury as an executive with L’Oréal, Yves Saint Laurent and Bourjois (group Chanel). While with L’Oréal, I managed the Lancôme brand in France and the United States and became President/ CEO Lancôme in 2006 (#1 Worldwide Cosmetic Brand in Luxury Retail). I was the first female CEO at Lancôme, and one of the first female CEO in the top 3 global brands for l’Oréal.

Life would be boring if not continuing to learn, so I moved to another vertical 8 years ago. From a business and brand culture, where 20 percent of revenues are generated by new products every year, and a company where marketers are the leaders, to an engineer and tech culture

I was most recently the Chief Strategy and Data Officer at Orange (a leading $40 billion+ market cap French telco in 30 EMEA markets with 350 million customers), where I reported to the CEO. I previously served as SVP of Brand and Communications and SVP of Marketing for the company.

I’m now in my third life! Energized by meetings when I came for Orange every 4 to 6 months, I chose to come with my husband to California. It’s now 2 years we live in San Francisco.

I’m an Advisor for Startups in B2C, Fintech, Data Analytics and…Beauty, helping them to grow and build a strong culture and strong teams.

I’m also an Advisor in Residence with Next World Capital, working with the firm’s portfolio companies (B2B, series B, and C) as they expand into international leaders. And I also help them as they build their portfolio Ever Green Fund (premium organic brands, including beauty brands). I’m an advisor at The Hive Data, Palo Alto (startups in Artificial intelligence).

I’m also a Board Member and a Business Angel.

And the proud mentor of great founders!