By Guest Contributor Sophie Trelles-Tvede
There is something really odd about being a founder/CEO, which is that there is actually no definition for your role. A salesperson does sales, a social media role does everything around social media, but the founder? Not even the internet can give a real answer.
I guess the reason is that it is an incredibly diverse role which changes massively depending on which company the founder is working in and what stage that company is in. When we started with invisibobble, leadership played no role at all (mostly because we had no employees), so the goal of each day was simply to get things done to push the business forward.
Early Management Mistakes
At some point you reach the stage where it makes sense to hire your first employee, then your second, and then it starts rolling and suddenly you have a little team. Before we knew it, we had a responsibility over other people- not just to pay their salary at the end of the month, but also over their personal development and their general happiness and motivation at the company. Given we were so young and had no prior working experience, this was probably one of the hardest things for us.
We made mistakes like hiring the wrong people, firing people without warning, and even basic things like not giving the team feedback talks and development opportunities. In the early days I’m not even sure that mattered so much for the team because everyone felt like we were working together towards the same goal. We won together and we lost together. Of course, this changes when the team gets larger and you move beyond the capacity of all sitting in one room, and then don’t even directly work with all team members on a daily basis.
Curating the right mindsets
What we also learned was that in the business we run, we expect our employees to think like entrepreneurs themselves. Concretely that means that everyone takes decisions on the basis of ‘if this were my company and my money, how would I do it?’, which is a very important mindset to have because it ensures people behave in the best interest of the company. This mindset comes with the right culture fit rather than with the right skillset. We realized that it’s less important that people are from the field or have prior experience, and more important that they have the right mindset and culture fit.
A good example of when we had a clash in culture fit was when we hired our first more senior person. He ticked all the boxes, and in the end, we also had a really good run with him and reached a lot of success together, however we were off to a rough start. A few days after he joined the company, we were hosting our biggest press event yet to showcase all our new items. Since we were a small team (under 10 people), we didn’t have a PR and events team to organize all of this. We did it ourselves. Everyone helped out, from the founders to everyone else, carrying boxes, unloading products, hanging up posters, setting out drinks and food etc. However, our new senior team member simply refused to do it. He was ‘overqualified’ to unpack boxes, and kindly excused himself and went home and worked from there.
For us it was an issue because we were one man down, which meant the rest of us had to work into the late hours of the evening to get everything finished. In that moment it doesn’t matter who is qualified for what, we pull the strings together to achieve a mutual goal.
We learned that leadership isn’t about delegating or playing the big boss.
We quickly found that leadership is about hiring the right people into your team and empowering them to make decisions and take responsibility. What happens when you allow for that to happen, is that leadership grows beyond yourself, and is spread out to first the more senior members in the company, and then eventually everyone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sophie Trelles-Tvede calls herself a “Third Culture Kid”. She was born in Denmark, went to school in Zurich, studied in England and now works in Munich. After founding Invisibobble in 2012, the idea of the spiral hair tie became a true success story. In 2016 Sophie was honoured by Forbes Magazine 30 under 30.
Learn more about 100 Million Hair Ties and a Vodka Tonic
“Why didn’t I think of that genius idea?” This is the remarkable, at times funny, story of a young entrepreneur who, aged 18 and with $4,000 and no other funding, started up invisibobble – the revolutionary hair ties that have taken the haircare industry by storm. Today, Sophie Trelles-Tvede’s company has sold over 100 million hair ties around the world and turns over $15 million.
As a first-year university student, getting ready for a party, Sophie spotted an old telephone cord and decided to use it to tie her hair with. The next morning, she noticed something different with her hair: she did not have a headache after untying the cord and there was not much of a mark (or kink) in her hair. The genius idea of invisibobble was born right there! This is the story of the idea and thereafter – the ups and downs, funny and serious moments, of an entrepreneur’s journey that will inspire others and reveal what it takes to succeed.
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