Master the art of being assertive. Find a balance between being seen as a bully and a wimp. This is where you use your emotional intelligence to determine when being assertive will be motivating and laying low will be appropriate.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Kajiya. Amy is an established Profit & Loss Executive that has demonstrated success accelerating sales growth and increasing profitability across a multitude of businesses. A dynamic and accomplished leader, she brings over 18 years of experience in the domestic and international consumer packaged goods to Fusion Naturals. Amy’s background includes first-hand experience with Top Box distribution as well as competitive positioning across various markets. She is dedicated, innovative, and is always focused on improving accessibility of quality products to consumers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
A combination of luck, right timing and just dedication. My career started actually in banking — more of an entry level banker and I realized very fast that what I was making just wasn’t going to cut it. So we decided to start an online drugstore while holding down a full time job in 2000 and started by buying goods from Costco when a customer would order the item (no inventory model). That business eventually grew out of the garage into three distribution centers and about 60 employees. This story was my entry to CPG. I learned the power of consumable, innovations and the product cycles. At Fusion Naturals, we innovate to bring affordable, high quality goods to consumers. We understand the product life cycles and staying at the forefront of innovation is key to sustainability.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
So this happened in my early 20’s. It was 3pm on another sunny day in Downtown LA. I was ready in my business suit and rushing to make a meeting on time.These 2 young men pulled a knife out at me and said “give us all your money!” I looked at them and made a little “urh” sound like “seriously?”, this is not a good time and walked right passed them. I looked back at a pair of shocked faces a few steps later and hurried away. I reflect on the event that day realized years later the amount of confidence and strength it took to do what I did and recognized that I’m a risk taker.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I didn’t know you needed an international customs form to ship internationally. Our first order on that e-commerce came back as “return to sender” because we didn’t include a customs form — who knew!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Fusion Naturals stand out is all of our Associates and company culture. There’s not one task too big or too small for anyone. When something needs to get done — it gets done right and fast. I found our CFO and Art Director geared up in manufacturing suits in the assembly line when we were unexpectedly short staffed and had a large order to fill. We also share our lunches & eat together. It’s a team building ritual we do that’s not mandated by upper management via an employment handbook. It started organically and that speaks volumes.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on a project involving the largest retailer in America — umm, you probably can guess. It’s about bringing jobs to America, sustainability and responsible sourcing.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Just be yourself, treat others as you would want to be treated, ask for help when needed and always say your “please” and “thank you”’s.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Delegate, trust but verify, over communicate and stay very organized. If you have kids, I find correlation between raising children and managing staff — it’s very similar. The way I manage my children is that I set my expectations, set boundaries, give children space, praise them, correct them, encourage them and inspire them to dream.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m super grateful for my dad. Everything I know in business is because of his wise words. He passed away when I was 16 so I didn’t know him very long. I guess it’s the image of him that continues to inspire me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We’ve been involved with a high school internship program for the last five years where we get students every quarter to work on projects. I’ve worked with students on social media campaigns, accounting and even some created marketing videos. Lately though, we are coming up with projects where the students have to use the phone. With the introduction of mobile devices (a.k.a. Androids and Iphones) these kids have very little verbal communication skills. We like to think that’s bring some goodness to the world!
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t manage people; instead, facilitate them. Especially the smart ones; never tell them what to do or how to do it. Just explain the “why” and give them space.
- Be gracious and humble about your successes. Give others the opportunity to shine when possible.
- Develop a culture of trust. Leaders need to surround themselves with people who will challenge their ideas and tell it like it is.
- Master the art of being assertive. Find a balance between being seen as a bully and a wimp. This is where you use your emotional intelligence to determine when being assertive will be motivating and laying low will be appropriate.
- You can’t manage others when you can’t manage yourself. So, get it together.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would make it illegal for anyone under 13 to watch YouTube and post on Instagram. I want our future leaders to have communication skills beyond just texting and using emojis. Not having access to digital devices will teach children delayed gratification and patience.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Organization will set you free”. I organize my space when I’m overwhelmed or directionally unclear about a project. Space is defined as your desktop, paperfiles, car, garage, closet etc. There’s something about a clutter space that leads to a cluttered mind.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Sheryl Sandberg — she’s just so inspiring.