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Sharing Pledge : Quand le Capital Risque Francais devient Solidaire

By Forbes - 18/06/17 -
Lancé à l’initiative du philanthrope Alexandre Mars et de son « entreprise sociale » Epic Foundation qui se consacre, entre autres, aux jeunes, de 0 à 25 ans de tous horizons, nés « du mauvais côté de la barrière », le « Sharing Pledge » s’évertue à impulser cette notion de solidarité au sein de l’univers feutré du capital-risque afin que celui-ci s’éloigne de la seule performance financière.

« Nous encourageons particulièrement le « mouvement du pourcentage ». Nous allons à la rencontre des entreprises, sans distinction de taille et de chiffre d’affaires, en leur disant qu’il faudrait qu’elles donnent 1% de leur profit. Il ne faut jamais donner sous la contrainte, mais il faut donner. C’est tout le message porté par la Fondation Epic ». Fort de ce postulat développé lors d’un précédent entretien dans nos colonnes, Alexandre Mars joint, une fois de plus, la pratique à la théorie en annonçant le lancement du « Sharing Pledge », qui doit permettre à terme, à chaque entreprise, de prendre la mesure de son rôle et de sa responsabilité sociale en distribuant une partie de ses revenus selon des dispositifs adaptés à leur secteur d’activité. Ainsi, pour les entreprises de capital-risque – à qui cette nouvelle initiative s’adresse dans un premier temps-, les fonds de Private Equity et tous les acteurs du financement des entreprises en capital, cet engagement consiste à reverser aux organisations d’intérêt général de leur choix 1% ou plus de leur frais de gestion et/ou 1% ou plus de leurs revenus sur la performance financière. Cet engagement s’applique à tous leurs nouveaux fonds ainsi qu’aux fonds existants de leur choix. Telle est la « feuille de route » du Sharing Pledge auquel ont déjà souscrits sept acteurs de premier plan du secteur, en l’occurrence 360 Capital Partners, Blisce/, Breega, Hardware Club, Iron Capital, Serena Capital et Ventech.

Une initiative qui permet également de tordre le cou aux idées reçues et autres poncifs concernant la « mission » des capital-risqueurs et leur seule appétence pour le profit et la performance financière. Pour Alexandre Mars, le capital-risque hexagonal n’a pas vocation à se complaire dans cette posture et recherche, au contraire, un meilleur équilibre entre les objectifs de leur métier et l’importance de remplir en parallèle un rôle social — une tension qui nuit de façon croissante au recrutement des talents nécessaires à leur développement, et à l’accompagnement d’entrepreneurs en quête de sens dans leur vie y compris leur vie professionnelle. Grâce au Sharing Pledge, les capitaux-risqueurs français auront toute latitude de témoigner de leur attachement à une société solidaire au travers du financement d’organisations sociales. Une vision en parfaite adéquation avec celle de Ben Marrel, Founding Partner de Breega, l’un des sept signataires du Sharing Pledge.

« Entreprendre, c’est s’engager »

« Parce qu’entreprendre c’est s’engager pour avoir un impact sociétal, le don est pour nous une évidence depuis toujours. Rejoindre le Sharing Pledge, instrument indolore et parfaitement adapté aux entreprises du capital-risque pour contribuer activement au financement des organisations sociales, allait donc de soi. C’est par ailleurs une exigence exprimée aussi bien par nos clients et nos collaborateurs que par les entreprises que nous finançons ». Une manière de mettre en exergue le fait que « l’engagement social » n’est pas l’apanage des organisations mandatées en ce sens et que le don, sous la férule d’Alexandre Mars, peut et doit devenir la norme dans toutes les strates de la société comme il le prône depuis maintenant de nombreuses années.

« Notre société voit le fossé s’élargir entre ceux qui souffrent d’un véritable décrochage social et ceux qui réussissent extrêmement bien. Les acteurs de la société civile prennent la mesure de leur rôle et de leur responsabilité », abonde le fondateur d’Epic.

Car Alexandre Mars, fidèle à sa volonté de mettre la société civile face à ses responsabilités, continuera de faire bouger les lignes, et mettant en avant le sens du collectif, comme il le soulignait lors de notre précédente entrevue, en l’occurrence « Etre à l’avant-garde d’un mouvement qui veut faire collectivement plus. Dans un système comme le nôtre où les gouvernements n’ont plus le temps ni les moyens de répondre à tous les défis, j’estime que c’est à nous, société civile, de prendre les choses en main ». Toujours « armé » de son leitmotiv : « le succès ne sert à rien, s’il n’est pas partagé ».

https://www.forbes.fr/finance/sharing-pledge-quand-le-capital-risque-francais-devient-solidaire/

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Co-Creating with a Friend - Building on Shared Values and Passions

Safia and I met when we were 21 in Ottawa, Canada at a dinner at my house. We were introduced by a common friend. The connection was instant.

I was arrogant, know-it-all and super active. She was super smart, kind but full of doubt.

It could have been carnage. I had a habit in my twenties of destroying people who lacked self-confidence without even realising it. The opposite happened.

Her joie de vivre touched me profoundly….Both of us love laughing! We both seek joy and happiness in most situations.  We share a deep need for positivity despite adversity.

By the end of dinner, this perfect stranger was moving in. Seriously! The next day she arrived with her suitcase and invaded the guest bedroom.

It was the start of an extraordinary relationship: one without bullshit.  Our friendship is based on facing our inner evils, in order to laugh more. It is both very deep and very light.

I watched Safia struggle with food issues through her twenties.  She looked great and was externally very bubbly and sporty. But she could go for days living on Starbucks Frapuccinos. She faced in the same year a very bad breakup, addiction in her family and the cancer of her mother. She stopped eating. She lost weight, lost her hair and eventually had to leave work in full meltdown.

And then she turned it all around. She faced her fears and demons and rediscovered health. She started loving food and loving her body and loving herself.

That’s why Safia is such a good coach. She has personally been through hell and back with her relationship with food. She never judges the women she helps. She does not let them hide from their issues. Instead, she empathises and faces the issues together with her clients. She is not different from them. She is simply at a different stage of the journey and can guide them towards happiness. She is not a food coach but a lifestyle coach.

Nutrition and healthy living has been vital to my success. I was lucky enough to have Safia by my side as my mirror of truth when I slipped into workaholic habits, when I was not being quite honest with myself, when I was giving too much and not paying enough attention to my own needs, when I needed to be more tolerant towards myself. Or when I just needed to laugh and enjoy life.

I have always wanted to help more women discover the power of healthy eating and happiness.  I want to give more women access to Safia’s experience and guidance. I want to change lives by combining Safia’s knowledge and techniques with the best digital has to offer.

Last fall, we embarked on a mission to co-create TryNurtureyou.com. I am delighted to see it launch in the UK and the US. I thank my team that has worked so hard in making this new adventure come to life.

I hope that together we will build a community of like-minded successful women who respect their bodies and constantly thrive for happiness.

 

 

 

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Why Co-Creating NurtureYou is Vital to me

Nutrition and Health is at the core of long-term success and happiness

I have lived in many ways, a privileged life.

I was born with a lot of big ideas and a lot of energy to execute them.

I was successful in my career from my very early twenties.

I made money, quickly and easily.

I had a lot of freedom to define my path in life.

And I have almost always enjoyed great health.

As a child, I was never sick.

I loved sports, dance and was always super active.

I was born skinny and small, but as a child I was a real tomboy, obsessed with strength and building cabins in the woods. I dreamed of beating the boys and girls in my class at arm wrestle.

I was lucky: I grew tall and strong through exercise and hyperactivity.

I have a metabolism that eats through food and a body that constantly wants water.

I have never worried about my weight. I have always been a good eater: I loved vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds from the age of 7. My favourite Easter treat was fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce rather than chocolate eggs. As an adult, I developed a passion for fine food and cooking.

It’s fair to say I grew up seeing my body as the ideal partner to my brain and a source of fun and pleasure. This is not the case for so many women.

In my early twenties, I had very little empathy for my friends on yoyo diets, low energy cycles and recurring illnesses. I did not understand their problems. I am sure I offended many by just suggesting they go for a run or stop eating fatty foods.

I never needed much sleep and I can do marathons of work and play and still have energy.

Or so I though… At 26 I discovered illness.

I was a consultant in London, working 16 hour days, travelling non-stop. I stopped exercising, sleeping and eating. I lived on coffee and midnight sushi at the office.  My body did not accept this new regime.  It just shut down: I got the worse stomach ulcer and for 6 months I was intolerant to everything. I could not drink coffee or wine (2 passions of mine). I could not have any spices, not even salt and pepper. I could not even digest tomatoes and salads. And any desserts simply burned my stomach and the doctors could not do a thing about it. I had punched holes across all my stomach lining!

I was absolutely miserable, incapable of working effectively and my brain was mush all the time.

I was forced to take a radical look at my life.

I discovered Yoga, meditation and Chinese medicine. I started realising the importance of regular meals and superfoods. I discovered the power of simple things like lemon and hot water in the morning. In 12 months, I did not just rebuild my health. I discovered a new lifestyle where respect for oneself had to be front and centre and never take a back seat because of a job.  I started hearing my body and understanding its needs.  I was truly in sync with my body. I felt great and extremely powerful.  It’s not surprising that I started my first business venture during that period.

I won’t pretend I never relapsed into bad workaholic habits but I changed radically that year.

Everybody should wake up feeling great in the morning: body and mind. Why do we settle for anything else? I have seen so many women (and men), colleagues and friends, disrespect their bodies in favour of work or other duties or simply out of lack of education or simply lack of awareness and connection with their bodies.  I have seen so many women, strong women, struggle with body issues and depression and insecurities.

That’s why Nurture You is so important to me.

I want to bring to life a brand that is not focussed on dieting and fitting into pre-conceived and unrealistic body images imposed by society. I want to build a positive brand focussed on long-term well-being, food awareness and education and most importantly happiness.  I want to bring together a community of real, intelligent women with all their faults and insecurities, hopes and aspirations, who can share a better way of enjoying food and life. I want to build a brand focussed on celebrating food, healthy choices, exercise and passions. I want to empower woman to be successful.

I was lucky to share these aspirations with one of my best friends and NY super coach, Safia Morsly-Fikai. She has gone to hell and back with her body image and her relationship with food and wellness. She is stronger than ever and one of the most empathetic women I know.

Together with our community of strong passionate women, we will build a new vision of health and happiness.

 

Let’s be happy and successful!

 

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How to Conduct a Relevant Due Diligence of a Tech Company when you are not a CTO?

How to Conduct a Relevant Due Diligence of a Tech Company when you are not a CTO?

I have been an executive in the tech start-up space for over 15 years. I am also an investor in over 25 start-ups that all rely on technology and platforms. I have learned over the years that a bad tech platform or dysfunctional team can kill a high growth business really quickly. It can paralyze a company when the market moves faster and faster.

The variance in tech performance and productivity across companies is radical. 

How many times have we seen small teams of 10 breakthrough tech challenges that teams of 1000s have not mastered?

How many times have we seen large cash injection in tech teams result in abysmal delivery in high growth series Cs companies?

Being good at tech is about a lot more than good code. Here are some of the key questions that can help non-techies (which is pretty much any investor) deal with the technical due diligence on potential investments or M&A. They are my 6 show stopper questions. Clearly the relevance of them depends on the stage of the company you are investing in. These questions are most relevant for companies post-Series A. However, even from inception a good tech team is thinking about these 6 issues.

Question 1

Does the technology team have a common vision and approach to the technology roadmap? Can the team present the technology roadmap to you?

I recommend interviewing at least 3 people in the tech team during the due diligence: the CTO, the Dev ops lead or technical architect and a lead developer.  

All 3 should individually present the vision and roadmap of the next 6-12 months. The messages should be consistent. Ask about the architectural principals, the choice of coding languages, the approach to open source, the key milestones and how they track progress, their approach to development and deployment.

Show Stopper 1: If there is no written roadmap or architecture, the technology plan is bound to fail. Don’t Invest!

Show Stopper 2: If the 3 interviews result in very different answers, this is a dysfunctional team. Don’t Invest!

 

Question 2

Do the Business and Tech teams share common documented specifications? DO they work together on the start of new projects and features?

Show Stopper 1: If there are not written and detailed specifications across the business, the tech team is destined to fail even if they are awesome coders. Don’t Invest!

 

Question3

What is the deployment process like? Is there a staging environment? What are the roll back options? Can small elements of the code be deployed or must the entire platform be redeployed each time a new feature is developed?

Show Stopper 1: If the company does not have a clear documented deployment process with a secure staging environment, don’t invest!

Show Stopper 2: If the company does not have a component approach to their platform but instead have a single unique mega platform, the platform wont be agile. Don’t invest!

 

Question 4

Can the platform easily integrate components from third parties? Does it have simple API’s?

Show Stopper 1: If there are not simple documented API’s, this technology team will not be able to work with third parties or outsource work.  Don’t invest!

 

Question 5

How do the teams test their code, the platform, the ability to scale, latency, data integrity?

Show Stopper 1: If there aren’t clear test plans beyond basic code tests, Don’t invest!

 

Question 6

How do the tech team monitor the platform?

Show Stopper 1: If there is not monitoring of the systems, there will be massive downtime, Don’t Invest!

 

I hope this list helps all non-techy investors be comfortable to positively challenge a tech team for a future investment.

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Turning Travel From A Necessary Curse to a Source of Balance and Pleasure

Travel is part of any executive’s life. When we reach a certain level of responsibility and seniority, it becomes essential to manage our teams across the world, to connect with clients, to manage shareholders and to expand our company’ global reach. 

Travel enables essential face to face connection, a great source of pleasure. After all, why are we in business if not to connect and build great projects with other people? Travel is both a great business enabler and the path to great connections. 

But it is also very disruptive in our lives on so many levels: 

Health 

Planes and trains all have terrible air.  

They are bug infested environments.  

They force us to sit in uncomfortable positions for hours.  

Plane/train food is dreadful microwaved CRAP with no nutritional value. 

Sleeping upright or at strange angles is NOT conducive to peaceful rest. 

Love 

You are away from your home base and loved ones. 

Let’s face it, no matter how nice hotel staff is, they don’t really care about you. 

In summary, travel is exhausting, sometimes very lonely and can be terrible for your health. 

So how can we fundamentally rethink business travel? Here are a few ideas I implemented at the worse of my travel in a fast growth tech company when I was at my peak of happiness in the firm and really balanced. 

Start the day with warm water and lemon followed by a healthy smoothie.

When I first started traveling, I followed the lead of my peers: "take the first plane available departing at 6 am to arrive for the first business meeting at 9 am". That means: 

1) Wake up at 4 am (which is really the middle of the night and you get so nervous about not hearing your alarm that you start waking up at 3 AM or even earlier); 

2) Rush in the dark into a taxi to make it on time for the 5 AM security check; 

3) Get on the plane and eat a terrible tasting microwaved pastry, the worse instant coffee, and immediately get a terrible stomach ache; 

4) Land with an acid festering bloated stomach, exhausted, cranky and confuse. Grab a muffin and latte at the airport to give you energy.  

In those conditions, you are supposed to be in top form to meet a new customer or motivate the troops! But your performance is on par with how your body feels.  And your body is feeling terrible! It's full of processed food and bad sugar. It's deprived of sleep, of water, of essential nutrients, of pleasure and of exercise! 

How many negotiations, business deals have suffered due to physical deprivation and lack of focus on their business executives?

Isn’t it better to start the day at a normal hour with a warm water and lemon, followed by a healthy smoothie? Why not share breakfast with your family, then go to the airport, ignore the plane food entirely and arrive at 11 am for your first meeting? Will the 2 hours lost not actually be a productivity gain? My experience has proven so. 

Enjoy your time abroad  

Another accepted practice of business travel is to pack 18 hour days since we are not with our loved ones. We typically work twice a normal work day and book a hotel as close to the office as possible so that we can leave at 11 pm (having woken up at 4 am that morning), walk 5 minutes and just have room service whilst finishing emails. 

The impact: no time off for your brain or body and food digested whilst sleeping which will guarantee another bad night sleep. 

And then we repeat this experience until we rush to the airport to get home. We inevitably get sick on the flight and spend the weekend "recuperating and surviving”  because we are completely worn out. 

The business results are often equally disastrous.  

We send signals to our teams abroad that we are complete workaholics, with no respect for downtime or family life, which inevitably communicates to our teams that the same is expected of them. Our discomfort and lack of sleep turns into impatience and snappiness which is really destructive because they have been expecting our visits and really been looking forward to the shared experience and yet all we can focus on is the next cup of coffee to stay awake. 

Why not treat business travel as an opportunity for me-time? 

Why not leave the office with all the other local employees (and leave the computer in the office), take a stroll, have a run, visit a gallery (wow do something cultural), have a nice dinner on a terrace at a normal hour and then go to bed at a normal time? If you feel like you need to catch up on email, the plane will give you that opportunity. 

It's imperative that we respect our bodies, our brains during business travel and let it become again a source of inspiration and shared experiences rather than optimized slavery. 

Let’s be happy and successful!

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Female Leadership - Practical Tips to combine family life with CEO responsibilities

In my thirties, life as a female executive was easy: work hard, play hard; work harder, play harder. Then in my mid-thirties, I took THE leap and had children. Suddenly, there was a lot more to juggle! Being a mother and a female CEO can be overwhelming, without a doubt. Here are a few simple tips to make things easier.

1.     Create rules, tell your colleagues and stick to them

 Decide what hours you are willing to work and which ones are no-go zones.

These will probably change overtime as your children get older.

When you still have babies, making it home on time for the bath and story time is vital. Later other things take priority like dinner and homework.

When I had my first son, Sebastian, I explained to my CEO, my assistant and our office manager that it was imperative that I leave the office at a fixed time. I would not be available from 6.30-9pm for phone calls or meetings. We also informed all my direct reports. I left the office at exactly the same time every day and then picked up on urgent work after 9 pm. My CEO understood immediately as he was also a father and had a working wife. My assistant became my vital fortress to respect my commitment and to push back on any requests for meetings within the no-go zones.

One of the key learnings was: if I personally deviated from the rule, then the rule became obsolete.

Full and absolute discipline is the key to success!

2.     If a colleague repeatedly breaks the rule, make a case out of it (kindly :))

 When Chloe was 2, I started working for an American start up as MD EMEA based out of London and Paris. Time zones made things complicated and it was a lot harder for my assistant to control incoming calls from my colleagues during the no-go zone. One colleague repeatedly broke the rule and kept on calling during story telling time.  Several times, he broke the rule and I abandoned my storytelling to talk to him. Oddly, it was I who ended the calls apologizing for having to cut short.

One day it happened again and I realized it would not stop until I put my foot down. So instead of interrupting my story telling, I put my phone on speaker, introduced my colleague to my children and asked him to continue the story. He apologized profusely and tried to hang up but I refused: he had to tell a bedtime story. He laughed, accepted the “punishment” and invented an awesome story on the spot. He was a really good sport about it and told the entire office about the event, further legitimizing my right to family time.

3.     Make your life as a mother easier: take the short cuts and do things when it’s convenient to your schedule. Nobody is judging!

During the first few years as a new mother, you feel pressured to drop everything the second it involves your children. I was no exception. I tried to juggle everything and be a perfect mother, organizing great birthdays on the same week as my board meetings, travelling back and forth between countries 4 times in the week just to meet childrens’ obligation. Some weeks were a nightmare without any downtime.

Over the years I have learned to chill out. My kids’ birthdays for example used to be super stressful as they are close together, in the dead of winter and during Q4 which is usually the most intense period workwise. One day I decided birthdays did not need to be celebrated on a specific date. Obviously, we celebrate their birthdays as a family on D day. But for the celebration with friends, the kids and I jointly pick a date during the spring and space the dates out so I am less rushed. The kids love deciding when their birthdays will take place and getting involved in the preparation.

 4.     Learn to delegate things you hate

 I hate making cakes and I am terrible at it! I hate the taste of them, even their smell as they bake. I used to force myself to make cakes for birthdays and special occasions. Not anymore! I have learned to trust the coolest bakery and cake designers to make spectacular looking cakes for the special occasions. Now my kids even go to the bakery every Sunday to choose their own sweets for Sunday lunch whilst I indulge at the cheese shop.

As much as I love literature and reading, I am really not a big fan of poetry. And coaching my kids to learn the mandatory poetry for school is pure torture. I have no patience nor tolerance for it! I now delegate this task to my super home COO and nanny Bernadette. She loves it and she is so kind and patient with my children as they butcher incomprehensible sentence one after the other. I take on all the rest of the homework which I love such as maths, literature and creative writing, sciences and history.

I have learned to not feel guilty in my role as a mother. We are all doing the best we can and we do an awesome job of it. I would love to create a community where all working mothers could share their tips and demystify the role of the perfect mother.

Let’s be happy and successful!

 

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Female Leadership - Be Yourself in your work environment

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Female Leadership - how to make it happily to the top!

Be Yourself in your work environment

 

In our series of posts, we explore 4 factors to combine professional success and happiness:

1) Learn to be at one with yourself in your work environment

2) Create environments where honesty and risk-taking prevail

3) Maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body

4) Create a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance

Today’s post focusses on the importance of being yourself in the work environment.

 Throughout my career, I have experienced many pressures to “fit in and blend in” to male dominated environments.

After a brief entrepreneurial venture running my own theater company, I took a job at the age of 20, in international finance and was assigned to the international transport and aircraft leasing division. Whilst the managing partner was a man, the 35 people team was surprisingly diverse. I guess Canada has always been progressive. My direct boss was an extremely conservative and driven lady. She was excellent at her job. Whilst she wore really ugly three piece suits that my grandmother would have refused to wear, I admired her a lot. She was a great coach, always going the extra mile to teach me the inner workings of a deal. She gave me a lot of autonomy and guidance.

My first 6-month review was very strange. My female boss spent the first 30 minutes congratulating me on the quality of my work and giving me hugely insightful feedback. She then spent 30 minutes telling me that I had to radically change how I dressed and behaved at work if I wanted to progress in my career. My skirts were too short, my jewelry too flashy, my turtlenecks too tight. I made too much noise when I walked. My voice projected too much and my laughter was simply inappropriate. I also challenged my top bosses too much in team meetings and asked too many questions and showed little respect for hierarchy.

I was completely shocked and, for once, speechless.

There is no doubt that I have a really loud walk (people still comment on it: It’s a fast yet heavy masculine military-like walk). There is no doubt my voice projects (blame the first venture in theatre J) and my laugh is quite uniquely loud. As for my outfits, I have always loved bold colours and striking looks.

I could lie and say I reacted with maturity and dignity. I didn’t: I walked out and went home…The next morning I walked in to work with a very short leather skirt and a T-shirt I got custom-made overnight that said: “I am too sexy for my boss”. I wore a sweater over the t-shirt but at the pub after work, I proudly showed my t-shirt to all my work friends. My boss lost a lot of credibility and I was transferred to another part of the team. It was destructive for both of us. I genuinely believe she wanted to help. But her feedback fundamentally said “Don’t be yourself at work, if you want to be promoted”.

My next boss in finance, a woman again, was a revelation. She was a mother of 4, back from maternity leave, often with a shirt covered in bit of baby vomit from the morning breakfast, super smart, kind and soft spoken.  She was different from me in every way.

She thought my loud laughter was infectious and positive and my 1000 questions an hour healthy. She put me forward for a special program which promoted emerging leaders in the bank and gave me a 6-month assignment to radically change how the bank operated. She knew that my differentiation was an asset to create change. I thrived under her watch and eventually moved to project financing where I discovered my passion for innovation which led me to my career in start-ups and tech. She had found a fit for my exuberant nature and my desire to challenge everything. She also taught me to adapt my style as needed in more conservative environments. I accepted her feedback with ease because she was not trying to change my nature, my core but rather just to adapt the veneer.

Being true to yourself in the work environment is essential. If you are not genuine or if you mask who you are, your teams will sense it immediately and you will lose their trust. We often feel slightly alien as female leaders (or at least quite unique due to our low numbers).  We often make the mistake to mask our personalities to fit in more. But we shouldn’t as we then become fake. My philosophy is simple: Since I stand out anyhow as a woman in the board room, I might as well stand out fully and be myself.

Let’s be happy and successful!

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Female Leadership - Creating a New Eco-System of Support: Redefining Family

Creating a New Eco-System of Support - Redefining Family

Last week, in our first post focused on female leadership, we identified 4 essential factors to combine professional success and happiness. 

1) Learn to be at one with yourself in your work environment 

2) Create environments where honesty and risk-taking prevail 

3) Maintain healthy mind in a healthy body 

4) Create a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance  

Today we will tackle the new eco-system needed to support working female executives. 

There is no doubt that no matter how successful we are as female executives unless we have stay-at-home partners, we will still take the lion share of family management and administration. We are still seen by our loved ones, and other men and women as the primary caregivers. We probably see ourselves in that role as well and are not ready to let go. 

Teachers will always call the mother of the children to sort out a problem at school. Mothers will call other mothers to organize play dates.It is expected that mothers will go to the doctor’s appointments with their children. And we tend to organize after school activities, house care, dinner parties and holidays.

Even when we choose to outsource a lot of these tasks, we will remain as the heads of the household. As a female executive with children, you will constantly battle scheduling conflicts and organizational challenges.

If you want to manage both career and home, the traditional notion of a family needs to be rethought.

You might have a great partner who steps in, but you are going to need a lot more than one support. It’s not politically correct to say this: but you will not make it alone!

First: you need a great family COO; someone who is your childminder, your house minder, who looks after you and is an extension of yourself on most levels. Someone 100% focused on running the home: someone who keeps it all together and understands all the interdependencies of the family.

Try not to have a classic employer/employee relationship with that central person. The new family COO is a person that you truly partner with on all levels and that you trust 300%. They should share your values and agree with your lifestyle choices.

Bernadette has been with us since I moved my family to Paris 7 years ago. Chloe was a new-born, Sebastian was 2 and I was starting a new job as Managing Director with 150 staff and a P&L over several hundreds of millions, 2 months after giving birth, in a new industry, a new company and a new country.

Bernadette has been instrumental to my success and not a week goes by that I don’t remind her. We have chosen to intertwine our lives in many ways to form an extended family.  She also has a husband and children.

The children all come to my house after school, almost as one set of siblings which ensures Bernadette can manage my challenging diary without impacting her family negatively.

Every week I take care of her family as she takes care of mine. We have different skills and experience which we leverage to optimize both families. I manage all banking, education and legal matters for both families and she manages all our day to day activities.

We trust and empower one another fully in each area of responsibility and never feel threatened by the deep impact we have on each other’s family.

 Second: Ask for help and surround yourself with people who you can depend on. I don’t know why we are so shy when it comes to asking for help and yet how giving people are. Friends and extended family have been so generous in contributing to my children’s lives and helping out. And I do the same for all my friends.

I consider my close friends as part of my family and integrate them in my life. My kids have multiple unrelated “uncles and aunts” as one would in an Asian culture. They always have my back when at the last minute a business obligation pops up or I need a different perspective on a problem.

Third: Talk to your children about your work. No matter how wonderful your eco-system might be, there will be nights when you are across the world and cannot attend the school play. It will disappoint your children. But they will understand, as long as you talk openly to them. My children have always known that I am a business executive and that I travel a lot for work and that many people depend on me for their well-being. They are proud of it and understand that it will mean small sacrifices along the way. Recently I was featured in Challenges magazine for my work as a business angel and mentor to young entrepreneurs. My 7 year old daughter was extremely proud, read the article end to end and even brought the magazine to school to show her friends and teachers. She embraces my career.

I also impose downtime even during the working hours to have quality time with my children. I accompany them to school outings. I have a long breakfast with them on a Wednesday morning when they don’t start school until 10 am. Nobody at work has ever reproached me those moments. They think it’s awesome.

I will never pretend that it is easy to be a female executive and an active involved mother. But it is absolutely possible and hugely rewarding if you don’t sacrifice yourself along the way but rather surround yourself with the right support.

Let’s be happy and successful!

Why digital subscription is a win-win model?

Once largely confined to newspaper and magazines, the subscription economy has gone digital and expanded from online entertainment - think Netflix,Spotify and Apple Music - to a fast-growing number of sectors, from education to retail.

Why is digital subscription becoming so ubiquitous? Because it serves both customers and businesses. This is why we at Iron have made subscription our business.

Female leadership - 4 key factors to making it to the top and being happy

So much of our focus as business executives and particularly as women today, is about making it to the top, leaning in, achieving that C-level equality, making it to the board room. However, so little of our focus is on happiness, balance and joy in our workplace.

To make it to the top of the career ladder, we need to dedicate countless hours and make countless sacrifices.

How can we ensure these sacrifices are worth it?

Increasingly, women are opting out, stepping back because they are not finding their true place in the top echelons of corporations. They can Lean In and succeed but they don’t feel happy or fulfilled. Yet happiness is imperative. 

So is there a way to make it to the top whilst being happy and fulfilled?

I believe happiness in the workforce is determined by 4 key elements:

1) Learning to be at one with yourself in your working environment and not letting the environment determine who you are

2) Creating positive challenging working environments where honesty and risk-taking are valued instead of politics

3) Maintaining healthy mind in a healthy body

4) Creating a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance

I also believe these 4 elements are within our control not in the hands of our bosses, boards or shareholders.  Taking control of these elements and driving change in our working environments is a must. It’s our responsibility as individuals, as successful women leading the next generation of female talent.

In a series of blog posts in the coming weeks, we will explore each of these 4 key factors.

Let’s be happy and successful!

The Joy of emails... Seriously?!

When I left my last startup, I had to purge my email system before returning my computer. I had to do a total clean up to ensure no HR or confidential information got leaked. I discovered I had sent or responded to over 76,000 emails in 2 years. That’s 172 emails per working day. That’s insane and yet very typical of our current working habits: way too many emails! 

Let’s face it: Emails are processing time, and not thinking time. We have very few creative email moments or deeply enriching email moments. We have very few touching email moments. So we know that when we are sending or receiving too many emails, our work environment is not healthy anymore.

If inundated by email, our teams and our leaders are task mastering and not driving the business forward with great creative ideas.  We all know excessive email is a problem but what do we do to change this business destroyer. And I say this as one of the most prolific email writers of all times. I have been guilty of excessive email throughout my career. Emails became so constant in my working life that they started running by downtime. 

A year ago, I experimented a radical morning routine change following the advice of a good friend and very successful business executive. My friend asked me to resist reading any emails between 11 pm and until I left my home. Why not wake up with cuddles and kale rather than emails? I used to wake up at 7:30, read emails and respond to overseas emergencies from 7:30-7:45, wake up the children, get dressed, make the kids breakfast and then leave for the school run at 8:15. It was all extremely efficient. When my friend challenged me to break free from morning emails many awesome things happened. Other much more pleasant activities replaced email. My mind was entirely focussed on my spouse, my kids and a healthy breakfast. I started waking up slightly earlier to enjoy mornings even more. I was totally focussed on the morning conversation and exchanges rather than problem-solving in my head the issues raised in the night emails; it had no negative impact on my productivity.

Guess what: the USA was asleep at 8 AM Paris time. They were not doing an all nighter waiting for my answers. In fact, it had just the opposite impact on productivity!

Why not wake up with cuddles and kale rather than emails?!

I arrived at work in a good mood and relaxed. I had not yet been bombarded by the problems and crisis to be resolved that day. My team enjoyed the more relaxed me and I could attack the problems in a more constructive way rather than sending rushed answers between 715-730 before my morning coffee. I looked back at my emails from those mornings and they were often not well thought through and not very constructive. They sounded angry... like someone who has just woken up and has not had her coffee yet and is forced to deal with things in a rush. Imagine that!

I think it is imperative to reconsider how we start our working days. So much is influenced by our first hour after waking up. We need to harness the first few hours with creative broad thinking before plunging into to do’s or we never get around to the broad thinking. And we need to push our teams to have that same email discipline.

Another tip a fellow executive gave me during my series of interviews for this book really resonated with me and I have been following it religiously since.  Kill all email trails of more than 4 response emails with a phone call!

As soon as an email turns into a discussion or argument, this very successful CEO kills the email trail with a standard answer: “Let’s take this off email, I am calling you now (or just walking over to your desk). “ She would call the person immediately to discuss the issue offline or face to face. Her simple (and non-negotiable response) sends a very strong message to her entire teams: get off email and start talking to each other. She has "iron will" discipline in this regard, something I greatly admire. 

Let’s all implement these rules and be more productive and happy! :) 

Blending Heritage and Innovation

Today, I had the immense privilege of being invited by the House of Chanel to a private lunch with 8 great business women in Ms Chanel’s private apartment rue Cambon in Paris.

I have been a fan of Chanel since my early teens. Back then, I spent most of my pocket money on l’Officiel and Vogue and I would review and dissect all their collections. My dream was to own an Iconic Black Chanel Jacket. 30 years later, I still wonder at the beauty and creativity of each piece created by the House of Chanel. I love the energy of Karl Lagerfeld and his ability to combine innovation with a deep respect for the workmanship of the artisans that are unique to France.

 

You can imagine how excited I was to go to lunch.

Apart from being blown away by the beauty of the location, the graciousness of our host and the amazing female leaders I shared lunch with, I realised how Innovation and Heritage finally go hand in hand.

When I started my career leading digital start ups, we were all about the big D’s: Disruption, Displacement and Destruction. No wonder traditional industries like high fashion, arts and Culture felt threatened by us.

Now I am delighted we have moved to the big E’s: using digital to Empower, Enhance and Enable. We are no longer separate worlds. We combine physical and digital, old and new. We leverage good UI and UX to enhance knowledge and wisdom from traditional mentors and experts. Digital is a platform to showcase and amplify traditional talent as well as new ideas.

We are at a new equilibrium.

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How do small businesses graduate and scale up?

Advancing from start-up to a fully-fledged scale-up is still a subject of much debate and confusion for many business owners. Small business owners grapple with many questions while planning their next strategic step.

Understanding the distinction between start-up and scale-up is the key ingredient to a successful graduation. However, the risk of losing the identity built as a start-up and the associated pressure can be off-putting.

How do business leaders grow a sustainable and enduring company?

Know what you’re good at, and what you’re not

The first step in any new strategic phase is to establish an honest diagnosis of the status of your business. It’s useful to understand the realities employees are facing in all sections of the business. For example, I became an intern in each department for a week to get hands-on experience and figure out what we were uniquely good at, and where we could get better.

Understanding flaws is highly valuable and will motivate teams in the right environment to constantly innovate.

Growing and learning require transparency and honesty: you must acknowledge weaknesses, mistakes and challenges, so you can focus on solutions and keep improving. Collaboration should be part of your DNA. Sharing - internally and with the outside world – will help growing your business.

Be consistent with your identity

The next step is to be clear on your ambition and your vision. Make sure your values, identity and branding are systematically consistent, otherwise you run the risk of becoming lost, confused or even forgotten.

Values and culture drive your vision forward. Are you about action, speed and experimentation? Do you pride yourself on testing and backing your innovative ideas with hard data?

Implement a ‘entrepreneurial’ staff mentality

Making a quantum leap means scaling up dramatically, which in turn requires leverage, cash and resource. I have worked at a range of organisations that scaled up fast and industrialised processes so things could be done better and faster.

What’s the real trick to success? The answer is simple: it’s people. Creating a culture of entrepreneurs encourages the creative freedom needed to succeed. After all, a business starts and ends with its people.

Build a training ecosystem

Great ideas happen everywhere, not just within the four walls of your business.

Sharing hands-on knowledge demonstrates the desire to include others in the development and success of your business. Creating exchanges, partnerships and joint training with other players in the eco-system will enhance everybody’s creativity and success rate.

Ditching the start-up label isn’t easy, but is very manageable if armed with the right tools and the right attitude. Understanding the business’ strengths and weaknesses, solidifying brand identity, treating employees as entrepreneurs and encouraging co-collaboration will take the business to its quantum leap.

 

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Sommets du Digital 2017 (Event)

This year more than 300 tech CEO's, founders, CD0's, start ups and marketing directors driving change across the industry came together in La Clusaz (France) for the Sommets du Digital event 2017. I had the opportunity to talk about the new digital consumer and how the subscription business model is disrupting just about everything.

"Booming of subscription and the new digital consumer" presentation

"Booming of subscription and the new digital consumer" presentation

The lovely view showcasing the beauty of La Clusaz

The lovely view showcasing the beauty of La Clusaz

#somdig17

#somdig17

La Clusaz

La Clusaz

Start the week with Play & Laughter

The last 4 months of the year are always the most intense for businesses. It’s the mega period for sales and product development. Its linked to sales cycles and end of year holidays as well as Pavlovian reflexes engrained in us since we were kids on the Northern Continent.

September is Back to School month and even though it’s been years since we put name stickers on all our books, we still feel both an excitement and trepidation when September comes along.

With Q4+ growth expectations, comes pressure. It is the key period to watch out for the well-being of team members and to ensure expectations translate into dynamic energy rather than anxiety.

For me, the best way to alleviate tension is to start each week with sports and play. Each Monday at Irongroup, at our 15 minute all hands on deck company meeting, we start the week in laughter with a silly mental or physical game. Today we played a giant charade competition and within 10 minutes, the office was filled with laughter and positive competitive spirit.

I believe all companies should start Monday’s in Play and Laughter.

Collaborative Co-Creation A Must

Collaborative Co-Creation A Must

Our world is changing at a rapid pace. So are our habits and tastes. As individuals, our desire to share experiences is greater than ever. We see it in all the new sharing economy businesses. I personally love the sharing economy and the consumer benefits. I love sharing cars, sharing homes, sharing content. And my desire to control and own reduces every day.

Sharing is invigorating and helps us establish our sense of purpose. At Iron, sharing is at the centre of everything we do. We even trade-marked our motto: “We Share, we Grow”.

The next level of sharing is happening across different companies in the form of deep collaborative co-creation. Whether in design or product development, co-creation leads to breakthrough innovations and deeper quality. Each company has a unique skill, a unique DNA, a unique point of excellence, a unique point of view and unique data. Tapping into what makes a company uniquely great is magical. True co-creation enables us to leverage multiple unique competences rather than try to be moderately good at everything.

Too often, we want to co-create but as soon as a project begins or a deal starts emerging, we move back to competitive co-creation, fuelled by “not invented here” syndrome or cynicism.

True co-creation requires humility, a deep open-mindedness, and a profound ability to let go of our locus of control, thus a desire to take risk. Its requires acceptance of failure at all levels and an ability to be exposed on all levels. That’s why it is so difficult.

For European based start-ups to succeed spectacularly; they need to learn this new skill and train all their teams on cross company co-creation. This will be one of my missions across 2016 and 2017 within all my portfolio of companies as an investor, board member and CEO.