5 Lessons for First-Time CEOs From The Founder Of Goxip, Juliette Gimenez
Juliette Gimenez, the co-founder and CEO of online fashion search engine platform Goxip, describes herself as a straightforward and honest boss—but one that places great emphasis on listening to her employees.
Leading a team of 30 across Asia, her leadership style has led Goxip to international success. The startup stocks over 36,000 brands and more than five million products. It also has a strong social presence, with over 200,000 likes on Facebook.
Founded in 2017, Gimenez says she started Goxip because she was “bad at styling”.
“I was always looking online for fashion inspiration from cool celebrities to see what they were wearing, but I found that I was always spending over an hour online to find the style,” she says. “And then you still need to compare the prices and shipping policies.”
She recalls having all these different tabs open with different retailers, just trying to find one pair of jeans when it dawned on her: “If I’ve had this issue, tons of other people would have had it too. So I realised, I might as well create a platform that could facilitate it all.”
Along with her co-founder YC Lau, Gimenez created an online search engine that allows users to snap a photo of the clothing item they like—online or in a magazine—and Goxip’s search engine will find the the same, or similar, items that match your image from 500 different retailers across the globe.
Here, Gimenez shares five important lessons any future CEO needs to know before they get started.
1/5 Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!
“I learnt that the hard way,” Gimenez laughs. “When I was working at my first startup, Groupon, I was so overwhelmed and no matter how many hours I worked, it just wouldn’t be enough. At the time, I never planned my day or week and it was a real wake-up call.”
Now, Gimenez plans her schedule two weeks in advance and breaks down her daily schedule into 30 minute blocks. “I start every day planning what I want to do every half-hour, and I also try not to put similar things in the same time frame, so that I can have variation in my schedule and stay productive.”
For Gimenez, scheduling didn’t just help her organise her time, it also helped her ease her mind by giving her more time to prepare for upcoming meetings and events. “I made sure to budget time into my schedule to prepare and now in meetings I’m extremely efficient, especially when it comes to knowing what I need to discuss. I get a lot more tasks done.”
It’s important to remember that as a founder, you’ll always be overwhelmed by different tasks—whether it’s driving your product, recruiting or getting funding, you’ll always have a multitude of different tasks on hand, says Gimenez, so the most important thing is how you plan and schedule your time.
2/5 It’s Your Job To Drive The Culture You Believe In
“As a founder, you set the culture and when you set the culture you want you attract and retain the right talent as well,” Gimenez says.
Some startup founders might be more inclined to be more flexible and others are driven completely by KPIs—and different styles work for different founders because workplace culture is linked directly to a founder’s character, she says. “It really doesn’t matter what style you adopt, but you need to drive the culture you believe in otherwise it will result in the wrong feel in the company and in a startup, that will kill it.”
Gimenez describes her personal workplace culture as straightforward, honest and performance-driven. But her workplace culture preference has changed over time, she says. “It’s driven by a number of factors like my age and the lessons I’ve learnt over time.”
In her early career, Gimenez prioritised productivity, “but it burnt out a lot of people, including myself. We were always striving to the point that we were literally overworking ourselves.” She soon realised that if you are too focused on the current it limits your ability to step back and see the bigger picture—impacting your ability to think ahead and determine what to focus on next.
“Now, I try my best to strike a better balance—we’re still working like nuts here though. In the early days of a startup, it’s hard to have a good work-life balance, but some people enjoy that and it’s fuel for them to achieve the unachieveable.”
I learnt that if you open up and you’re able to own up to your mistakes, you don’t need to be strong all the time and that actually sets you up for success
— Juliette Gimenez
3/5 Tame Your Ego And Tell Your Employees You Make Mistakes
“Most founders, including myself, definitely have a lot of ego,” Gimenez says. “But we need to believe in ourselves, and whether we call it ego or not, we do believe in ourselves.” But that can lead to a lack of ability to show vulnerability, she says. “We mightn’t want to tell people our mistakes because we worry that our teammates will look at us differently because we’re the driver of the ship.”
“But I learnt that if you open up and you’re able to own up to your mistakes, you don’t need to be strong all the time—and that actually sets you up for success.”. It goes back to leading by example, when employees see that their boss has and will make mistakes it normalises the idea of trying and, sometimes, failing. “It actually encourages people to do it better next time and shows them that there are ways to improve,” she says. “It also helps to remove the fear of making mistakes, because we can’t avoid ever making mistakes.The worst thing is an employee who is too afraid of making mistakes and decides not to try—this is what kills a lot of startups, and it’s something that needs to come from the top.”
There is no shame in making a bold decision as long as you’re able to learn from your experiences, and the earlier the better
— Juliette Gimenez
4/5 Learn How To Make A Solid Decision—Fast
“In the early days we’re often diving into uncharted zones, and some leaders might be hesitant to make decisions because they’re afraid to make the wrong choice. But if you worry about it too much then you’ll find that you’re unable to execute your plan in a timely manner, and it limits your ability to tweak your decisions based on previous failures,” Gimenez says. “There is no shame in making a bold decision as long as you’re able to learn from your experiences, and the earlier the better.”
And if you make the wrong decision, you need to realise that that’s okay, because it provides you with the opportunity to turn your failures around much faster than someone who continues to stay afraid of making mistakes, Gimenez says.
So what does Gimenez turn to when she has a major decision to make? Her gut feeling. “It’s because a lot of decisions that CEOs and founders make aren’t just performance-based. For that you can turn to data, but a lot of decisions are very non-work related, like whether to hire this person, or whether this year you’ll be changing any medical schemes and how it will impact you financially, or which investor you’re going to pitch—a VC or a billionaire who you resonate with,” she says. “Those kinds of decisions are made all the time, there’s no data at all and you’re forced to make a decision fast.”
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 was Gimenez’s latest decision-making test. She explains the rapid nature of the outbreak meant she needed to think and execute fast. From deciding whether to let employees work from home to determining what remote working system to use, Gimenez stresses the importance of not wasting precious time doing excessive analysis. Instead she believes you’d be better served using that time to organise and prepare your team to transition smoothly to a new style of working.
5/5 It’s Not Just About Growth—It’s About Profit
“When we start a business we’re super excited about the idea, and a lot of us—including myself—are over-optimistic about our business.We think it’s all going to work, our forecast will go according to plan, as will the profits and prospects,” Gimenez says. “But 90 percent of that will not work. You’ll probably change direction halfway and then everything changes. That’s why it’s important to focus on profit, not just growth.”
“I learnt this lesson by seeing how many companies died without being able to make it to their next funding [round], especially startups,” Gimenez says. “But the bottom line—regardless of whether it’s raised by an investor or yourself—is that your business has to be sustainable, and further down the line, can it be profitable? That tends to change your judgment when you [consider profit] along the way, and leads to a better long-term strategy,” she says.
Gimenez stresses that it’s not about being profitable in three months; it’s about aligning your forecasts with eventual profit to ensure that if an issue like the coronavirus occurs again, you’re able to survive the storm. “Because if you can survive that storm, you’re eliminating a lot of businesses and competitors who didn’t survive—and you came out stronger because of that emphasis on profitability.”
See honourees from the Technology section of the Gen.T List 2019.