A Successful CEO Shares the One Thing You Need to Lead
If you have aspirations to reach CEO status one day (or hope to be a powerful female leader), you'll know that the road there isn't just about climbing the ladder. It takes grit, determination, and willpower to succeed, but according to Beautycounter founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew, the one thing all women really need to lead is confidence. Acquiring this kind of bold courage doesn't come solely from reading books (although it definitely helps), it takes experience and practice. It's certainly how Gregg acquired hers. The mother-of-three launched leading bridal registry company Wedding List (which she later sold to Martha Stewart Living), and she has been hired as a marketing and branding consultant for major industry players including Intermix and Jessica Alba. In 2013, she founded Beautycounter, a highly successful, super-chic and clean beauty brand, dedicated to high-performing products that are safer for your health. In fact, it has one of the most stringent ingredient-selection processes in the industry. Despite all of her achievements, Gregg admits that "all leaders, women or men, are a little bit scared some of the time." Scroll down for more of Renfrew's top business advice, morning rituals, and what it means to "have it all."
MYDOMAINE: When did you first discover beauty could be a business and a career?
GREGG RENFREW: As an entrepreneur, I see business opportunities in most things I love. So it was probably at the start of my search for safer products that I realised there was a business opportunity around products I was passionate about.
MD: How has the beauty industry changed since you first launched?
GR: Over the past three years since we launched, we’ve seen a significant increase around the demand for safer products. There has been a real movement away from eco-, green, and natural toward redefining what clean and safer products mean. People are far more focused on clean than green right now. Clean products are often more environmentally friendly anyway.
MD: Do you think it's harder or easier for female entrepreneurs to start out today?
GR: Technology has made it easier to bring entrepreneurs—female or male—closer to sources of capital, consumers, etc., then ever before. I don’t think it’s about being a woman or a man.
MD: Do you think women need a mentor in order to break through the glass ceiling?
GR: No, women need confidence. I’m still waiting for my big break, but nothing comes without hard work, perseverance, passion, and determination.
MD: What is your best business advice for women who want to launch a startup or aspire to build their own unicorn?
GR: Always follow your gut instincts, have confidence in your own abilities, and remember that all leaders, women or men, are a little bit scared some of time.
MD: Who has been your greatest mentor?
GR: My mother.
MD: What's your morning ritual? How does it set you up for a successful day?
GR: I get up before my children are awake to either work out or just have a few minutes to myself when the house is still. Then I make all my children breakfast, and also make their lunches; that is extremely important to me.
MD: How do you adjust to scale as your business grows?
GR: I hire great people, delegate more and more, and try to become more narrowly focused where I believe I have the most value, and leave the rest up to the team.
MD: What does "having it all" mean to you?
GR: You can have everything, but you can’t have everything in the same day.
MD: If there was one lady boss you could power brunch with, who would it be?
GR: Anna Wintour. I’m a sucker for fashion.
MD: Do you have a group of women around you that inspire and drive you?
GR: The 14,000 plus women who are independent consultants at Beautycounter inspire me every day. Their dedication to move our mission forward and create financial stability for themselves makes me very proud.
MD: What advice do you have for women looking to achieve your success in business?
GR: Put your efforts into areas you’re passionate about and persevere. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Again, follow your gut, and don’t wait for doors to open, open them for yourself.
MD: What attributes do you look for in your staff at Beautycounter?
GR: Passion, teamwork, leadership, and flexibility.
MD: What are some of the key questions you always ask in an interview?
GR: What are you not good at? Where are you strong, and where are you weak? It’s always good to know where people need support around them.
MD: How important is a good résumé or cover letter?
GR: To me, the most important thing is that there are no typos and that you’re great at writing a thank-you note. The résumé and cover letter are less significant.
MD: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who want to cold-email a CEO?
GR: Do it early in the morning. Successful people are often alone in their office in the morning. Don’t stalk them. Don’t send kitschy emails. Write from the heart.
MD: What mistakes have you learned from and even benefited from in your career?
GR: Trying to keep everyone happy; hiring friends; thinking I can do it all and do it all in one day—I simply cannot.
MD: What advice or tips do you have to foster confidence in oneself?
GR: Set small goals and achieve them. Through achievement, you will gain confidence; through confidence, you will reach further; and pretty soon, not only will you have a seat at the table, you will be making decisions yourself. Also, pick one outfit you love, and wear that to your most important meetings always, so that going into those meetings, you’ll always feel your best and infinitely more confident.
MD: What does it take to be a leader?
GR: To be a strong leader, you have to have a very clear vision, you have to be extremely authentic, passionate, and you have to be willing to go the distance on your own and with your team. Always remember that business is about people: They are your No. 1 customers, so be kind to them. I have a poster in my office that I live by: "Work hard and be nice to people."
If you're ready to lead, start building your confidence with our top career reads below.
To discover more about Gregg's successful company, visit Beautycounter.
What do you think it takes to be a successful leader? Is confidence the key? Share your ideas below.