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CEO Secrets : Episode 1
What does it take to grow a company decade after decade? Few companies succeed in doing this, so let’s learn from them!
50% of businesses fail by year three, so those who manage to thrive and scale their businesses are definitely part of a select club of true business heroes.
However, in our era of global competition, disruption is an everyday occurrence, so even established businesses are not immune to significant challenges.
For this reason, I have embarked on a journey of meeting business owners and CEOs who have led thriving companies for more than a decade.
I invite you to join me to learn how those business owners manage growth in the midst of change, their views of current cultural and market trends, and how they foresee the future of their businesses.
Meet Patricia Bona
Patricia Bona and her husband Jean-Jacques Bona are the co-founders of Essence Corp, a perfume distribution company. A passionate baby boomer, mother, and now grandmother, Patricia manages to balance the demands and joys of business and family.
What started with 4 people in an office in Panama in 1982 is now a thriving multicultural company with 70 employees and headquarters in Miami’s financial district.
Here’s what Patricia says are the key factors to their growth and sustained success.
Key Success Factors for Profitable Growth
1. A family philosophy and a strong desire to leave a legacy for their children are core values of Essence Corp’s culture. As the company has grown, employees still have regular, direct access to the founders.
2. Competitive compensationand benefits packages keep employees happy and turnover low.
3. A mindset of constant reinvention: Essence Corp’s business model is always evolving because they consider success an ongoing journey. They keep fresh by testing new business models and marketing strategies and expanding to new markets.Essence Corp started as a brand representative, then evolved to be a distributor of brands with tailored made services.
4. Give back to your community and stay close to your market, employees, and partners. Avoid getting caught up in the ivory tower of success and losing touch with the world around you. Patricia invests a lot of her time in listening to millennials, employees, partners, and community members through her involvement in nonprofit and business organizations. These outlets help her tap into the raw and direct pulse of the market to adapt and stay ahead of her competition.
Essence Corp grew from 12 employees in 2003 to 70 employees in 2017. Keeping up the close-knit familial culture while strengthening the organization structure to bring more focus and depth to departments like finance, marketing, and sales was a major challenge.
To overcome it, they set up processes to ensure collaboration between departments with formal regular face to face meetings, internal cross trainings, and informal group lunches.
Cultural and Market Trends
Diversity: Essence Corp embraces diversity. Their multicultural workforce spans from baby boomers to millennials. Due to the nature of the industry, there are more women than men.
Remote work: Remote work is a regular occurrence for the sales force, who travel almost 50% of the time. However, to maintain dynamic interaction, working from home is the exception, not the norm for those based in Miami.
Leadership development: Essence Corp invests in leadership development of their employees with HR webinars adapted to their workforce’s needs or paying for MBAs or language classes for key talent.
Transitioning to the next generation: A major challenge for any family business is the transition to the next generation. Essence Corp is already set up for when Jean-Jacques and Patricia decide to retire since key family members are part of the executive management, but some are non-family directors.
Globalization:Changing markets have necessitated consolidation of both brands and clients. What has not changed is the question Essence Corp keep asking: How do we bring value between the perfume brands and the final customer and stay a relevant market player?
Building First Line Management: Essence Corp is considering building another level of management below directors to sustain their growth.
First-level managers are crucial since they are the ones who directly oversee the execution of company strategy. However, most of the time they are promoted because they excel as individual contributors without being prepared to transition from worker to manager.
My recommendation to Essence Corp — and to all companies who are extended and adding a new level of management — is:
• Invest in leadership development for first-time managers so they are not part of the 60% of first time managers who fail the first year. Help them learn how to engage their team, coach for top performance, and deliver stellar results.
• Empower them to make decisions and act on opportunities instead of being caught in the trap of bureaucracy and getting overloaded with administrative tasks.
• Develop a culture of mentoring from the executive team to build a healthy pool of talent and to transmit the company culture.
Former tech executive, Cindy Montgenie is the CEO of New Skies Nation. As a high-performance strategist, keynote speaker and trainer, Cindy Montgenie helps business leaders to win in the disruptive digital era, without losing their sanity by using a game changer mindset