Annie Young-Scrivner, CEO of the Wella Company, poses in an undated photo. Courtesy of the Wella Company / via REUTERS
January 8, 2021
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – As a little girl who didn’t speak English when she moved to the US from Taiwan, Annie Young-Scrivner faced challenging times early on.
However, the new CEO of Germany-based hair care company Wella AG likes to remind people that nothing is impossible even in a pandemic.
“Look at me, a little Chinese girl who couldn’t speak a bit of English, right?” she said, adding that her recipe for success is simple. “Dream big, find your own fate, take calculated risks, don’t be afraid of failure.”
On December 1, Young-Scrivner joined Wella from Godiva Chocolatier where she had been CEO. Wella, which employs around 6,000 people in 100 countries, became an independent company late last year after KKR & Co Inc acquired 60% of Wella from Coty Inc.
The 52-year-old Young Scrivner chatted with Reuters about thriving in any circumstances and moving to a new job. Edited excerpts can be found below.
Question: What were your first lessons about work?
A. When I was 10 I knew I was going to run a business. I sold perfume on our block. I would take small candies and dissolve them in water and put them in perfume bottles and sell them. It didn’t work very well, but it was a fun exercise.
When my family emigrated to the United States, my father worked for a shipping company and my mother was an accountant, but they also had business on the side. We had a restaurant, we had a jade shop and a video arcade. I grew up with entrepreneurs.
It showed me that when you run a company you can create your own culture. You can really make a difference.
Question: What was your toughest job?
A. When I was 12, I picked strawberries. I used to go to the strawberry fields and think, “Wow, I could get paid to do something I love.” It was a terrible experience because to make money you didn’t just pick the best strawberries. They had to pick strawberries that weren’t perfect, every strawberry in the field.
I didn’t quit, but I learned that if you want to do something that is fun, you should really understand what it means to have to do it every day. Many years later, I haven’t eaten strawberries.
Question: What is it like to be a leader now?
A. Every transition is about people. It really makes sure you understand what you are going through and learn the business as best you can.
I’ve taken audio tours, met with groups of 12-25 people and asked them, “What works for you, what doesn’t, and if you had a magic wand, what three things would you change tomorrow to make the business better? “Then we synthesize that and bring it back to the executive team weekly so we can decide how to go about it.
Question: How does working from home affect the nursing business?
A. We are very fortunate to have hair and nails as there are a lot more video conferencing.
I’ve never seen myself as often as since then because when you talk to someone you usually don’t see a mirror of yourself. Now you look at yourself all the time.
We explained how to do the one-minute groom before a chat. What are you doing to make your hair look right for your audience? Which hair products can help?
We serve nearly 400,000 salons and millions upon millions of hairdressers. We communicated with them and used this time to conduct additional training on the products. So when things open up, employees are ready to serve their clients and customers.
Question: What is your biggest business challenge?
A. It’s available 24/7, especially if you work in a global company. The sun is always somewhere in the world. And with availability, it’s so easy to always stay in touch.
Even before the pandemic, it was difficult for me to draw that line. I’m trying to get back into yoga. It gives me a sense of peace, a little time to reflect every day.
Question: How do you go about putting together a team?
A. I often see myself as an orchestra leader. You hear all these different instruments and they play at different speeds. Their volume is different, but they play along with a sheet of music.
A team should be very focused on a plan. But there has to be diversity, because if everyone played exactly the same it would be really, really boring.
(Reporting by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in New York; Editing by Lauren Young and Matthew Lewis)
This article originally appeared on www.oann.com