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5 Questions with Joy Chen

Wednesday, September 11, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Joy Chen is the CEO of Yes To Inc., which specializes in natural skincare. In less than three years, Chen has catapulted the brand to number two in the natural personal care category. Prior to Yes To Inc., Chen spent 16 years at the Clorox Company in senior leadership positions in marketing, sales and operations. The San Francisco Business Times recognized her in 2012 as Most Admired CEO of the Year and in 2013 as one of the Most Influential Women in Business.

Yes To Inc. has a diverse workforce and 60 percent of the company’s leadership roles are held by women. How does this make the company stronger?

I believe a diverse workforce brings diversity of thought, which ultimately translates to better business performance. When I first joined the company in 2009, we had 80 percent men, 20 percent women, and it was a turnaround business situation. Fast forward three years, we have grown the business four times, increased the value of the company by five times, rose to become the number-two brand in the natural personal care category and the number-one facial brand in naturals.

These results would not have happened if we did not have a diverse team. Diversity at Yes To is beyond gender; it includes ethnicity, small vs. large company background, beauty vs. non-beauty experience, to list a few. I have no doubt that the breadth of diversity here has contributed to the way we approach problems and opportunities, which ultimately led to our accelerated success in the marketplace.

You've created a work environment that allows employees to be authentic, free to talk about their personal lives and what matters outside of work. Why is this important?

As a CEO, it is really important to me to create a trusting, safe culture that allows people to be themselves and to share their thoughts freely about both their professional and personal lives. I want us to be a family, not just a working unit. This type of culture increases team engagement, which ultimately leads to better business results. The challenge is how we maintain this type of culture as we get larger as a company.

You have said your job is to "rally the team and get them excited about where we're taking the company." What are some of the ways you do that?

I have team meetings frequently to get people charged up about our business results and remind everyone of our company goals and priorities to keep us focused. More importantly, we celebrate wins, both personal and professional, and recognize team members for outstanding work and effort for enabling our business strategy.

I also installed a bell in the office so any team member can ring it to share their wins with everyone on the team at anytime. Celebrating wins is a key part of our culture. With accelerated growth, I also can offer career growth. Most of our team likes to be challenged and yearns for personal and professional growth, and when the company grows rapidly, it opens up new opportunities for everyone.

Aside from working hard, we also play hard. We do a great deal of team events together ranging from going to the San Francisco Giants’ opening day game to giving back to our community by devoting our time to a good cause to a Vegas weekend. Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! 

How is Yes To Inc. nurturing its talent pipeline?

It’s pretty easy for an entrepreneurial company like Yes To to experience a tremendous amount of growth. With accelerated double-digit growth year over year, we expanded the team to support the growth. This has opened up a great deal of career growth and advancement for the Yes To team. We also send our folks to training courses as part of their development so they can build expertise in their work. Finally, NEW has offered great development tools we have used to strengthen our team’s leadership and other skill sets.

What traits do you look for in emerging leaders?

It is so important for any emerging leader to be able to see the art of the possible and communicate that vision. This usually means this leader won’t settle for the status quo but looks to achieve an extraordinary outcome. While it is important for a leader to set the right level of expectation for success, it is just as critical that he or she also exhibits warmth and care for the team and the people around them. Above all else, a great leader will always stay true to and never compromise their values. These three traits will shape a leader that others will want to follow.

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