Office Hours: I am the COO of Haus and previously Chief of Staff and Head of Talent at Glossier. I'm Amy Snook.Featured

Hi Everyone! I’m Amy Snook, COO at Haus, a company that makes delicious low ABV aperitifs. I’ve spent my career launching and scaling high-growth startups in New York and San Francisco. I led a New York-based team of marketing and communications experts to develop innovative launch strategies and creative always-on marketing plans for consumer startups through my work at VSC Consulting, I’ve led in-house communications teams at two prominent NYC startups, SeatGeek and Glossier, served as the Chief of Staff to Glossier’s CEO and Founder, and was Glossier’s Head of Talent, overseeing the entire People function. I’ve been the COO at Haus for the past 10 months, and my primary responsibility is to ensure we’re growing the business in a smart, customer-first, operationally sound way. I have an undergraduate degree in international comparative studies and Arabic from Duke University. I live in Los Angeles with my mini Aussie, Lucy, and enjoy spending time writing, making all sorts of carbs (homemade pasta is my favorite), running on the beach, and reading as many books as humanly possible. Ask me about growing startups, leading teams, marketing, communications, building consumer brands, building strong teams, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us, @amysnook. Elphas: please reply in the comments with your questions for @amysnook before this Friday. She may not have time to answer every single question, so please emoji upvote the ones that interest you most. Thanks!!
Thank you again for joining us, @amysnook! I would love to learn more about what you think are the most valuable skills for a Chief of Staff to have and what type of person is best fit for the role. Additionally, do you think it is best for the Chief of Staff to be promoted from the inside (have many years of experience at the company? Or are external hires constructive as well?
Seconding Jessica's question. Would be really curious to hear about the skills needed to be a CoS. How would you describe the role (knowing it's slightly different at each company)? How would you market/brand yourself for it? I'd also love to hear how you parlayed your marketing and CoS experience to a Head of People role. I was a corporate lawyer and moved to a seed-stage startup as an early-hire generalist. I ended up leading People & Ops (with no HR experience). It'd be great to hear about your experience navigating the transition to Head of People from a non-traditional background. Thanks so much!
It's so interesting, I see that transition often--a leader on the legal team overseeing HR! In fact, that happened a couple times at Glossier. As far as branding and marketing yourself for it, because the role is so different depending on the company and executive, I think the best thing to do is pitch yourself as the perfect complement to your executive. A creative marketing exec probably doesn't need another super creative CoS, she'd likely do better with a more operational counterpart to help ensure her visionary projects and campaigns come to life. A chief strategy officer likely spends her days in meetings working on 5-10 year plans, so she'd probably enjoy working with someone a little more tactical who can help execute on a lot of the work that's being created. Aside from that, I think the most important things to demonstrate are: curiosity, eagerness to learn, "no project too big or small" mentality, proactivity, organizational skills, and communication skills. In terms of my transition from CoS to Head of People, that was largely circumstantial (although highly serendipitous, because I knew even when I was Head of Comms that I was really interested in the People function). When I became CoS, we were in the process of transitioning a new Head of People out of the company. It was not ideal timing because the company very much needed a Head of People (I firmly believe that any company with over 30ish employees or so needs a Head of People and we were around 150+); however, I really enjoyed that work so I started working closely with an HR consultant that we hired to do some big HR projects for us (comp bands and leveling). I learned a TON from working with the consultant, and then I spent a lot of time connecting with other HR leaders in NY and SF, and picked their brains on how to organize and grow the People function. This meant that almost 50%, if not more, of my time while I was CoS was spent on the People team. We were doing a big search for a really senior Chief People Officer, but as anyone who has done that search knows, it can take a long time to find the perfect person, so I asked my CEO if I could take over the role until we found a CPO (and then laid out how my role would evolve once a CPO was hired). Because I had months of "running" this team as a Chief of Staff, I had already built trust with the People team and the other executives, so it was a pretty seamless transition!
Another great question that has a long and nuanced answer :D A Chief of Staff's primary responsibility, in my opinion, is to make the executive that they're supporting the best version of themselves that they can be--help them make the best decisions possible, help them manage their executive team effectively, help lead or execute projects or new initiatives that will propel the business forward in their particular function, etc. Given that, the role is completely dependent on the executive that you're working for. If you've got a super creative, visionary executive that you're supporting, they'll likely rely on you to bring more operational and management expertise. You'll add a lot of value by finding ways to operationalize their vision, by ensuring people across the company understand and can work towards the vision, and by implementing processes that hold both the executive and their team accountable. If you're supporting a highly analytical executive in a data-driven company, your role might be more project-driven. I've found that it also depends on the rest of the executive team--if you're supporting a CEO, but there's no CTO in place, for example, you might be tasked with managing the technology product roadmap, or helping guide or represent the tech team in meetings and larger company-wide decisions. As far as skills go, one of the most important things is that the CoS be an excellent communicator. In my experience, you're often acting as a translator--you interact constantly with employees, you start to hear themes emerge (people love the new creative project the company is launching, people are concerned about hitting revenue goals, people wish there were better management SOPs in place), and you have to figure out how to 1) ascertain whether these issues are issues worth raising to your executive / executive team, and 2) communicate to the executive team in a way that's solutions-oriented and doesn't cause greater problems. You also have to do a lot of translating between the executive you support and the rest of the executive team. You have to be able to go beyond what people tell you, and actually understand what they're saying/what's motivating them/how to apply that to the business where necessary. You also need to be very proactive and organized--you'll have people coming to you constantly with questions, suggestions, and problems that need to be solved, and if you're not careful with time management and prioritization, you'll find yourself drowning in meetings and constantly playing defense. I think it's generally a lot easier if the CoS is promoted internally because the learning curve is a lot smaller; however, the downside is that the CoS will have to do extra work to remove themselves from whatever role they were doing before and earn the trust of the executive team in this new position. I think both internal and external hires can be highly successful, I would just guess that internal hires can ramp up much faster.
Wow, this is so fantastic, @amysnook! Thank you so, so much for the incredibly thoughtful, detailed, and helpful answer. Loved the points on how it would depend on the organization structure, the tactful communications and leadership focuses, and the internal vs. external experience differences!
Hi @amysnook - thank you so much for taking the time to help out this wonderful group of women! My question is around the duties of a COO. I would love to move into a COO job as my next position, and I am involved in conversations with a couple of companies around openings with that title (in the past I've run marketing for software B2B companies and at the moment I'm finishing my MBA). Each company I'm speaking with has a different idea of what the duties of someone with that title should be. I did a lot of research around the topic as well, and there seems to be a wide range of options for how people parse out CEO vs COO vs other C-level positions. What are your thoughts on the matter? What did you look for when you took the position of COO at Haus? What have you seen in the past?
Great question! There are SO many varying definitions of a COO, and it's understandably quite confusing. In general, I believe a COO's role is to deeply understand the long-term vision set by the CEO, and translate that vision into a roadmap that enables the team to operate soundly in the present, but also have the tools to scale efficiently and quickly as you work towards the future. The reason, I believe, why there are so many iterations of a COO's job title is because every company has a different business model; additionally, the make up of each executive team is different. So if you're looking at a COO role at a SaaS company, I'm guessing there might be more emphasis on biz dev, finance, product development, and general biz ops. If you're looking at a consumer products company, you'll likely spend more time on physical product operations (supply chain, fulfillment, planning), biz ops, and maybe things like technology and finance (depending on the maturity of the company). Now if you're looking at the SaaS company and that company has a really strong SVP of Sales, or a Chief Revenue Officer, your role will likely exclude biz dev and/or marketing, and will focus more on biz ops (maybe HR and legal are included here) and product development. If you're looking at a consumer products company who has a strong CFO and CMO in place, your COO role may be mostly focused on technology and physical product operations. My advice to you is to have a really strong sense for what your individual strengths are, and try to assess where the current gaps in leadership are in the companies you're talking to. It sounds like you've got some marketing and general biz ops/GM experience for software companies, so perhaps try focusing your search on COO roles at smaller companies where you can oversee marketing, HR, finance, legal, etc. If you want to keep marketing as your differentiator, it would probably be best to look for companies who don't already have a senior marketing executive in place. In general, a COO is expected to be highly process oriented, be able to create order from chaos, have strong team management and leadership qualities, be relatively analytical, understand how to scale teams/processes/systems quickly and efficiently, and be able to manage well through crises. Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response @amysnook! It’s really helpful! And I’ve really been enjoying reading all of your other answers as well - they’re all very well thought out and informative.
Hi Amy! Thanks for doing this. Love Haus. I’m the founder of a seed funded consumer brand. Would love to hear what are scalable strategies you used at the startups you’ve been part of to grow awareness and sales and what metrics you tracked in the earlier days.
Thanks so much for your kind words about Haus! Glad to hear you like it :) Scalable growth strategies largely depend on what kind of business you're trying to build. At Haus, I knew we wanted much of our early growth to be driven by organic marketing vs. paid marketing, so we focused heavily on creating a strong brand, doing smaller in-person events, investing in content, and investing in PR. About 6 months into our existence, we started experimenting with Facebook and Instagram ads, and 8 months in we hired a Head of Growth to really start building out our paid media strategy, with the understanding that we still wanted to primarily be driven by organic marketing. We don't ever want to be dependent on ads to drive our growth (which we know also means that our growth won't be as fast and predictable as other brands who do rely heavily on ads), and we try to keep a 70/30 organic/paid split. Unfortunately, organic growth also isn't as scalable as paid growth, but I'd recommend investing heavily in your brand (voice, images, creative, etc.), finding a really strong head of comms or PR agency, creating compelling content, spending a lot of time making your customer service top notch, and creating a community around your products. The most important metrics to us were (and still are) repeat rate, LTV, CAC, and conversion rate.
“What does a CoS even do?”“It’s just a glorified EA.”I’m an Engineer at Apple and plan to join a startup for CoS role soon.I’m sensing lots of hatred and ignorance for this role. Many men seem to refuse to believe that a woman could be fast-tracked to the executive level. I just ignore these people, because all I need is learning how to run a company then a few years from now I can start my own🥰 but i still imagine having to explain a lot about this role.
There is certainly a lot of confusion around the role, but that's understandable because it truly varies greatly from company to company, and even within the company from executive to executive! When I was CoS for Emily at Glossier, I spent a ton of my time working on HR, org design, exec team management, exec hiring, and internal communications. Glossier's previous COO also had a CoS, and she spent her time working on strategic projects (valuing new potential products, figuring out how to scale different teams or programs), investor relations (decks for board meetings, fundraising materials) and external communications for the COO. I do think it's extremely important to clearly outline the scope of your role when you join the company. People will need to know your role in meetings (are you there to take notes? make decisions? lead the meeting?), your role in decision-making (when can you make decisions on behalf of your executive and when is your job to get the decision directly from your executive?), and when they should meet with you vs. meet with the executive you're working for. If you do all of this and people are still dismissive, ignore them! This role is a great way to learn the inner workings of a business, and you'll be so thankful for the experience. Good luck, you'll be great!
What are some guiding principles or themes you've drawn from your communications background into your talent/people then COO roles? I'm personally curious as the veteran of a startup that did not hire senior people into talent-related roles until the company was quite large, and I thought it was a big "miss" for internal growth and improvement.
Hopefully this answers your question, but I really do believe that communications and talent/people are inextricably linked. I don't think you can be great at recruiting, hiring, managing, or developing people unless you're a strong communicator. As far as guiding principles or themes, here's what I'd say:1) Try to assume that everyone WANTS to be doing a good job. No one wants to show up to work and miss their goals or disappoint people. If there's a performance issue with someone on the team, more often than not it's due to a lack of communication between the manager and employee. As a manager, you have to realize that there may be a big difference between what you're saying and what the employee is hearing. If you feel like you're repeating yourself over and over, try saying it in a different way and see if your employee starts to actually hear you. 2) Someone told me this recently, and I love it: there's a difference between anticipation and expectation. Most managers have expectations, but those expectations are often not based in reality nor are they clearly communicated to their employees. Instead, managers should anticipate: anticipate what your employees will need in order to do their best work, anticipate what problems they might have along the way and proactively try to help them through these issues, and anticipate the questions that your employees will have. 3) Make sure goals and KPIs are crystal clear. If people don't understand what they're working towards, or how what they're working on fits into the larger vision, they'll become disengaged. 4) Context is king (queen)! When communicating a message, make sure it makes sense to both the most tenured employee in the room and the most recently hired employee. Give context to your requests, to your reports, to your meetings, to your data, to everything. There's no such thing as too much context!5) Make results measurable. If employees don't understand how they're being assessed, or they feel like goalposts are constantly moving, they're going to become discouraged and they'll start to live in fear of being let go.
this is so helpful - thank you for taking the time and sharing!
I'd love to hear more about building brands that have a positive relationship with their customers. I understand the landscape of "marketing" has had to change, but I also see a real bitterness against "Ads" among my peer group. Both Glossier and Haus, however, seem to avoid this ire and have some very happy customers. To what specific actions do you attribute those positive relationships?
I think the single most important thing that both companies have done is ensure that the customer, and customer experience, is always the "north star" for decision-making. For example, if there's an issue in the warehouse and packages aren't going to ship on time, be proactive with communication and preemptively offer a discount code or just send an extra product as a surprise and delight. Don't wait for the customers to start angrily emailing you and asking where their product is and if they can get a refund or discount on their next purchase. In terms of marketing, both companies also find it super important for their customers to be able to see themselves in the creative that we use. So, first, that requires you knowing a lot about your customers, and it also requires very thoughtful campaigns that are relatable to your customers. Finally, both companies do a great job of noticing existing customer behavior and building marketing programs and initiatives around that behavior. For example, at Glossier a few years ago we saw that our customers were putting their referral links in their Instagram bios and doing Glossier product reviews and referencing the referral link in bio. Those referral links were actually driving a surprisingly large number of sales, so we decided to trial a rep program that would give customers their very own unique landing page that featured their favorite Glossier products and a quick video on their beauty routine. First time customers shopping those pages would get a discount on their first purchase, the reps would get a % of the sale, and they'd continue to create content about Glossier on their channels. We started to build a really interesting community program at Haus, which was put on pause because of COVID, but was built from customer behavior around hosting and serving Haus at dinner parties. In short, I think both companies have such strong relationships with their customers because they invest a lot of time and resources in understanding their customers (what motivates them, what they wish was better, what other lifestyle things are important to them), building programs around existing customer behavior (vs. trying to get the customers to do something unnatural that only benefits the business), and ensuring that marketing campaigns actually reflect who their customers truly are.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I'm 6 weeks into to a new role as CoS at a Series A biotech startup. I'm the first business-side hire (we also just hired a VP of Sales). What advice do you wish someone shared with you when you were at this stage of your CoS role?
How exciting! Congrats on the role! A few pieces of advice come to mind:1) Make sure your role is clearly defined. I mention this in another response, but it's really important that people understand your role in meetings, what kinds of decisions you make vs. you help your executive make, your role in the executive team, etc. This role can be quite confusing, and I see tension and friction arise when there's a lack of clarity in scope. 2) Try not to bear everyone's burden! People will likely start to come to you, often, with problems they want you to solve, general complaints, new ideas that they feel strongly about, or just looking for general advice. It can feel tempting to want to solve everyone's problems, but there's simply not enough time in the day to do that, plus it's not what you should be focused on! This isn't to say you shouldn't listen or help--you absolutely should--but don't feel like you have to solve every single problem. Instead, try to listen for themes--are employees disengaged because they don't understand the vision? Are employees frustrated because they feel like objectives keep changing? Do people feel like they don't have concrete KPIs to work towards? If you're seeing patterns, then you can try to think of ways to move the entire company forward vs. solving individual problems. 3) Don't be afraid to use your voice. CoS is a tricky role because you're often representing your executive, which means you have to be their mouthpiece, but it's also important that the rest of the executive team hear YOUR voice. It will be hard for them to know how to trust you and your judgment if they feel that you're only a duplicate of the executive you support vs. your own person. I hope this helps!
Thank you for this response and your participation in this AMA! There are plenty of nuggets and tactical pieces that I'm bookmarking to be able to reference going forward. Many thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with the Elpha community!
Hi @amysnook - thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. I've been researching the ways in which seasoned communicators (like you) make the jump into roles other than communications and eventually ascend to CEO/COO roles. As you may have seen first hand transitioning beyond comms at Glossier- the list of executives who have been able to do this is quite short. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have the chance to learn from someone with such an interesting career path! My question: did you have a master career plan that helped guide you from comms, to becoming a CoS, to talent, to operations? What advice would you have for other communicators who are looking to move to something more directly aligned with running a P&L?
Great question! I did not have a master career plan :) I've always approached things very opportunistically, just moving when something felt really right. In reflecting on my experience, though, I do have some tips that might help. I think the biggest reason why I was able to transition from Comms to CoS to COO is because I've worked for women who tremendously value communications. When I was Head of Comms at Glossier, I worked extremely closely with Emily, the CEO, because she is a master storyteller. She fully understands the value of amazing comms and she is an incredible communicator, so she really enjoyed working closely with me and having a strong hand in the comms strategy and execution. Because I got to work so closely with her in that role, we formed a really strong relationship and I was able to start helping her with other aspects of her role beyond just comms. At one point I made a matrix of all the different "roles" she had to play on a daily basis (manager, executive, founder, leader, woman, influencer, etc.) and recommended that she look for a CoS to help her manage all of these responsibilities. When we started talking about it, we both realized that the most obvious person to help do all of this was me, given how much I understood about her role, who she was as a leader, and the company already. Helena is the co-founder of Haus, and she's very similar--her background is comms and she appreciates my skillset more than perhaps a highly analytical founder would.So, my advice if you're looking to transition from comms to a more operational or P+L focused role, is to work for an executive, or at least work at a company, that highly values your comms skillset. If you do that, you'll have a lot of exposure to the executive team, be able to gain trust quickly, and start to work on projects that deviate a bit from the standard comms scope. It's also easier to do this at smaller companies that are more open to fluidity among roles vs. more mature companies that have pretty clear swim lanes for different roles.
Thanks! Very helpful/insightful!
Hi Amy! I’d love to know what data & analytics companies *wish* they had to help inform diversity & inclusion practices. There are stats available, but the stats alone don’t explain the why and the how.
Great question! I wish I had more time to put even more thought into this (and I probably will, and will respond again) but off the top of my head, I think I'd like to see more stats around what works vs. what doesn't work. I've been through a number of D&I trainings, and I've read the research, and it's mostly data around how dangerous a lack of inclusivity and diversity is in the workplace. That data is helpful, but we also already know it to be true! I want to see a lot more data around what is proven to work, and also how you can measure the D&I health of your own organization. Also, I think a lot of D&I practices revolve around the hiring process--how do you remove bias in hiring, how do you set goals and ensure you're hiring diverse teams, etc. While all of that is super important, I'd like to see the same (if not more) information around managing diverse teams and truly creating an environment of inclusivity. If your company creates a metric around hiring diverse teams, and people are doing it just to meet KPIs, and then you've got a great diverse team in place but you don't have an environment where diverse teams can thrive.
Thanks for the thoughtful response, Amy! I’ve been thinking over this a lot, since I’m working on my company in this space. One of our revenue streams would be the data & insights we provide for companies, and the *how* is a big one. I’d imagine the “why is this happening within my organization” or what behaviors managers are exhibiting would be useful, so that we can provide the how to tackle.
Hi @amysnook, I am late to the game (just joined the community) but I would love to add another question: "Post COVID-19, many brands are moving to eCommerce. As a result, many great eCommerce talents have been scooped up. As a smaller startup with less funding to pay a huge salary compared to larger companies and startups, what advice do you have on building a strong marketing team? Is this the time to be moving to agency? What balance of junior and senior talent would you recommend for a Seed level company?"Our company is AVA (, a smart indoor "Nespresso for gardening" device that has seen a TON of increase in organic interest, but having a hard time keeping up because we don't have a senior marketing person leading our eComm strategy.Thanks so much for your time in advance!
Good question! I personally think it's better to build an in-house marketing team, or to at least have one senior person in-house who can lead the strategy and bring on an agency if they feel it's appropriate. As for hiring, have you tried looking at consultants? There are a ton of freelancers out there right now who have experienced a real drop in clients because of COVID and the financial impact, and my guess is you could get away with having a senior marketing person giving 20ish hours/week and maybe managing a more junior person or an agency. If you really do need someone full time, then you should lean into equity as being a big incentive for a great talent to join your company now, and senior execs typically really understand and value the benefits of equity at a really early stage company. For a seed stage company, I'd recommend bringing on someone mid-senior level. You'll need them to have had experience independently running marketing, but they also need to be familiar with how to actually execute on the strategy since you likely have a lean team.
Great tips - thank you very much! We've been mainly looking at either senior talent or a marketing agency, but nothing in between like a consultant.
Thanks @amysnook ! I feel like it's unusual for someone from a data, tech, or analytics background to move into a C-level role besides CTO. Do you agree? How would you recommend someone make that move and/or what skills should they focus on and promote?
I think someone with that background could also ultimately move into a CFO, CPO, or COO role! If you're coming from a data role, I feel like it would be pretty easy to translate that into financial analysis experience, maybe try to take a job in an FP&A (financial planning and analysis) team and work your way up through finance that way. If your background is stronger on the tech side, a Chief Product Officer role could be really great for you (and you can start by being a Product Manager or Director of Product). It depends on how technical you are/want to be--if you're not super technical, try to find a CPO role at a company where the differentiator is *not* engineering and technology. If you've got a great blend of all of these backgrounds, you could definitely grow into a COO role at an analytical or software company. If COO is the direction you want to go, I'd recommend trying to find a GM or business ops role so that you can get some scaling/strategy experience.
Thank you!
Hi @amysnook! Impressive background, thanks for taking on our questions! I’m in marketing and strategy currently in fashion tech and am interested in CoS roles. What do you think are the key ingredients to success in these types of roles? I know CoS responsibilities can vary widely across companies/industries, but in your experience what has made for success? Any other bits of advice? Competencies to highlight in cover letters? Thanks!
Hi! That's awesome, CoS roles are such a great way to learn :) I think I've answered most of your questions in various responses to similar questions, but let me know if you read through the answers and there's something you still want to learn about! Best of luck!
Thanks Amy!
Hi @amysnook! I appreciate you joining us; Haus + Glossier are certainly inspirational brands for me as a first marketing hire of a new B2B2C app in the verified identity space, Merit. As you think about building Haus in a customer-first way, what brands do you hope to emulate and why? And who (people, publications, brands, etc.) are your favorite follows in the space that you seek inspiration from? THANK YOU!
Thank you for your kind words about Haus and Glossier! It's funny, I get this question a lot and I don't have a great answer. Truthfully, I don't look towards other brands or companies holistically and think "I want to emulate them", but I look at different aspects of other companies and try to piece best practices together from all sorts of brands. For example, I think Nike is the ultimate brand--it's the only company that I know of that can both sell products at a discount at Norstrom Rack, have a huge presence in retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods, but then also command a multi-block line down the street in NYC of sneakerheads waiting to buy the next coolest $250 sneaker. They are the ultimate brand inspiration for me. I think Warby Parker did a really great job with retail--I love how they infuse local elements from the cities their stores are in, but there's also a consistency that really works from a brand perspective. I look to restaurants as a source of inspiration for customer service, because I like to think of CX as hospitality, not just a team of people answering emails and phone calls. What about you? What are some inspirational brands for you?
Awesome answer. As a marketer, I love to hear a lot of your answers revolving around customer experience. I think that's the beauty of being at a small company as you have the chance to actually pick up the phone and call customers -- and then deliver on what you hear. Here are a couple of brands I love right now: - Superhuman - their strategy to gain product market fit among a very discreet high expectation customer (and then use that growth to expand into audiences) 👌 - Sweetgreen - they've created a 'cult' brand by standing for health; they're a lot more than a salad bar in they eyes of their fans -- and like you mentioned with Warby, they've done a nice job of resonating locally when they expand into new towns. - Agree with you on Nike - they showed you don't have to spend gobs on production to create impactful work that moves people to action with their 'play inside' iniative during COVID, very meaningful stuff.Thank you for your very insightful answers here!
Which Haus flavor is your favorite?
Oh man, this is a tough one! Citrus Flower is my current favorite, but that's probably because it's warmer outside now :) Rose Rose, which launched today, is either a close second or tied with Citrus Flower!
Hi Amy! What are “the good”, “the bad” and “the ugly” faces to a CoS role? BestPenny
This is a fun one! The good: you get to be the eyes and ears for your executive and for the entire company. People trust you, they want to get your advice on things, you're given a lot of responsibility, and you have a lot of visibility within the company. I often found myself sitting in meetings with people who had many more years of experience than me in their respective functions and thinking, "wow I can't believe I get to sit next to these people and help make these decisions!"The bad: It's a super stressful job! You often feel the weight of everyone--your executive's stress, the stress of employees, the stress of the rest of the executive team, not to mention your own stress. It can feel like you're getting pulled in a million directions, and it can also be lonely. You can't really confide in people or get too truly friendly with other employees, otherwise you won't be able to do your job as well. You also can't be unapproachable or standoffish, because people won't trust you and you won't be able to talk to people and understand how to help. The ugly: You have to understand the "power" you have in this role, and the implications of that. People will try to befriend you or get close to you because they want access to information or to your executive, other people may be jealous of your position, people might try to influence you in the hopes you'll influence the executive you support. Even with the bad and the ugly, I really believe the good outweighs both. I wouldn't trade the CoS experience I had for the world, despite how stressful it was at times. I've never learned more faster, and I was constantly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the people I did. There's no better way to get a glimpse into how a company operates and how executive teams function.
Hi Amy, thank you so much for your intro. Your experience sounds incredibly exciting. I'm the CEO of a small emotional health startup, Paradym. Since we're still a small team, I also run people and hiring. I'd love to hear more about the processes that you found to be the most effective in long term growth of team members at the various companies you've worked with. What are the best practices you can share? Thank you so much for your time and graciously sharing your wisdom!
People and hiring, two of my favorite things :) I know you asked about growth, but there is also one quick thing I want to mention on hiring.1) I strongly recommend writing job descriptions in "6 month expectations" and "12 month expectations" vs. "Responsibilities" and "Qualifications". There are a few reasons for this: first, it answers the number one question you always need to answer when hiring someone, which is "what does success look like in this role?" It might sound really obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many hiring managers can't answer that question when they go to open a role! Second, it centers the hiring conversations around output vs. years of experience and other "qualifications" that actually don't matter. If you're hiring a Head of Comms and you need her to put together a 12 month comms plan inclusive of thought leadership, business comms, internal comms, and consumer comms, you know you need to find someone who has deep experience building and executing on these plans. That person could have 5 years of experience at intense high growth startups or 15 years of experience at different kinds of companies. Finally, it starts the performance management process on day 0 for the employee. They come into the job knowing exactly what they're responsible for delivering. Of course, things will change, as is the nature of startups, but in general I've found this practice to be really helpful. 2) Don't over title people as a way to make up for compensation since you're a small company. So many companies do this--they'll offer someone with 5 years of experience a Head of Marketing title, or they'll let someone with no management experience take on a team of 5 people. This causes all sorts of complications as you scale, especially because you'll just have to keep inflating titles (at some point you'll need to hire over your junior Head of Marketing, and the only option you'll have is to hire a CMO, but your company may not be ready for a CMO and/or you'll end up hiring a junior CMO and when you actually DO need a CMO you'll be in a really tough spot). 3) Give people stretch projects and assignments that align with their strengths. I find that the reason many people join smaller companies is because they know they'll get to take things on outside of their technical job scope. Reward that desire by proactively thinking of ways to let employees take on new challenges!4) Find ways to give feedback, both positive and constructive, in the moment and be specific. I'll call employees after meetings (we're all remote) and say "You did a great job setting the context at the beginning of the meeting, but next time when you end the meeting be sure to recap the next steps and give action items to specific people." If I waited until a formal review to tell an employee that they need to be better about giving clear direction during meetings, their growth is going to be much slower. 5) Always make sure to "bring people along". When you're growing so quickly, especially at the beginning, it can be easy to dismiss taking time to give context, explain rationale, etc. You'll likely just want to tell people what to execute on, and get on to the next thing. It's so, so important to take the time to explain things and make sure your employees are truly engaged with you and what you're building.
Thanks so much Amy, that’s helpful! A quick follow up question - were there metrics you set for your PR agency? Once you started paid growth, were there channels other than FB that worked? - OP
It's hard to set metrics for a PR agency--instead of metrics, I would just be really clear about what's important to you. Is it a couple of big feature pieces that do some great storytelling? Is it business press that appeals to investors? Is it a ton of small consumer hits that do a lot for SEO? Do you also want the agency to handle influencers and events (when those are possible again)? We're seeing some early success with influencers on YouTube, but it's too soon to tell how big of a channel it'll be. We just launched direct mail so that's TBD!
Hi @amysnook, thanks so much for sharing your time with us. As a COO myself, I'd love to hear about your favorite tools/processes you rely on to keep the "haus" under control? I sometimes feel like, despite the many solutions there are out there, due to the unique nature of each business, the operations part doesn't get as much attention as it should. I myself have defaulted to creating custom solutions to fit our business needs so often, but would love to hear what are some of the other "hacks" operations executives rely on. Thanks!
Happy to help, but would love to get more specific. Do you mean "hacks" from a business operations perspective? Or from a product operations perspective?
How do you approach sustainable growth? Thinking of hiring planning in particular!
Great question! I think it's really important to think about what someone will be doing 12 months from now, not just today. A lot of times people get overwhelmed with how much work is on their plate, so they hire someone to support and take on some of that work, but then business plans change or the project that they're working on launches, and all of a sudden that new hire doesn't really have much to work on. Companies also often hire people who are perfect for "right now", but can't scale as fast as the company scales. Think about what kinds of problems you'll need to solve in 12-18 months and ensure that the people you're hiring are the people you'd trust to solve those problems, too.
I'm curious about the fashion tech intersection- any thoughts on switching industries within tech to a startup focused on (coming from edtech & martech/saas products in sf)
Happy to try to help, but do you mind being more specific? Are you looking for general thoughts on the fashion industry, or do you need advice on how to translate your EdTech/SaaS background to beauty and fashion? If the latter, do you mind telling me what kind of role you're in now?
Hi Amy!I just ordered 2 bottles for my friend's birthday. We can't wait to try Haus! Looking forward to learning more about your business and experience.
Awesome!!! Hope you love it! Let me know what you think :)
Hi Amy! I'm a marketing student, interested in branding to help market myself and my services. I'm looking to expand my knowledge/experience of marketing and branding beyond the classroom. Are there any resources (platforms, books, or free seminars) you recommend for extremely eager-beavers like me?Thank you for you time!
Hi Amy so many good nuggets of guidance from previous posts! I’m curious your perspective on what are the best marketing, brand and growth metrics. These metrics definitely evolve based on growth stage or category. Many brands (my company’s brand included) hero Glossier as an exceptional brand (and Haus too for that matter!). What metrics put Glossier on that path especially in such a competitive beauty category? Above and beyond ltv and cac. For context, we are a small Vc backed hardware company focused on women’s health and motherhood. I’m the head of marketing / brand and trying to figure out the best goals to give my team.
Amy, whenever you want to practice your Arabic just let me know!