Diana Nguyen of ‘Lux Second Chance’: “Humour keeps me sane even in the most stressful of circumstances”

Working remotely is about finding the right tools to stay connected and working in harmony regardless of where you are. Managers need to be able to set out clear goals they expect from their employees. Weekly goals must be addressed either by video call, voice call or email. As a part of our series about the […]

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Working remotely is about finding the right tools to stay connected and working in harmony regardless of where you are. Managers need to be able to set out clear goals they expect from their employees. Weekly goals must be addressed either by video call, voice call or email.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Nguyen.

Diana Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Lux Second Chance. She Immigrated at a young age with her parents from Vietnam to Canada. Diana learned early on the value of hard work. She also learned how to be savvy with her finances, always making money go further without making compromises.

Though she worked in a highly male-dominated industry in finance, Diana always felt comfortable standing out as herself, wearing her personal style and being true to herself.

When Diana’s banking career took her overseas, she discovered her love of designer luxury goods. The pre-loved consignment market in Asia was much more advanced compared to North American markets. It gave her a chance to buy new and previously loved classic items alongside in-trend pieces without having to dish out full retail prices. From then, Diana was hooked.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I love shopping luxury consignment. I’ve been a fan of this way of shopping for more than 15 years — before it became popular to buy hard-to-acquire items. It’s not about the brand itself — as a minimalist, for me it’s about the quality. I started my company, Lux Second Chance so I could help give others their first luxury experience. I believe how you look on the outside reflects how you feel on the inside.

When you carry a luxury piece, it empowers you with confidence and makes you stand tall and stand out. Dress for your boss’ boss’ job, and you WILL get there!

From the beginning, I was determined to give this feeling to others around the world. In fact, I first funded my entrepreneurial venture by selling 23 of my own luxury handbags to my first customers on the original version of the Lux Second Chance website!

I took my knowledge as a bond trader, and applied it to the global consignment industry. I built a proprietary platform and algorithm that in essence, created an interconnected global marketplace for fully authenticated, high-end consigned designer luxury goods — all conveniently available in one destination: Lux Second Chance. Why shouldn’t we be able to buy our fave Louis Vuitton bag in our pyjamas? Sometimes I think I started this business to give to others what I personally wanted for myself.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My dad wanted me to be an accountant so I went to university thinking that’s what I wanted, but in reality it was to make my parents happy. My first job was at an accounting firm, and within the first six months I couldn’t help but think ‘this is this life?’ It didn’t work for me. I couldn’t imagine doing it for the rest of my life. While there, I met a coworker who introduced me to the banking industry. That resonated with me.

My first banking job was as an assistant to a broker at a large Canadian bank. I worked with high net worth clients but pushed myself to do more. Before I knew much about derivatives, I applied to work on the derivatives desk. During the interview I pleaded my case to the hiring manager since I had no experience with derivatives. I told him, “give me a chance and you will not regret hiring me.” He gave me a leaflet of derivatives products, told me to go home and learn them. If I could prove to him that I had learned these products, he’d give me a chance. Three days later, I did the second interview. He asked me questions, I answered them and his face was so stoic that I thought I had failed. One week later, they sent me an offer letter and my banking career took off. Eventually Citibank moved me overseas where I lived and worked in south-east Asia for seven years before moving back to Canada.

Besides wearing and loving high-end clothing, I didn’t have a traditional fashion background. I didn’t go to design school, and I didn’t know anything about running a company, but as with my whole career, I figured it out, and I pushed myself.

My career as a trader helped me build Lux Second Chance, it was a different type of marketplace but utilized the same skills — buying and selling. I traded one trading job for another, but this time in fashion! I’m building a fashion version of the markets.

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 don’t know if it’s necessarily a mistake, but it was definitely funny. I started Lux Second Chance without overthinking it. I just went for it as I’ve done with everything in my career. One of the people that I was seeking advice from asked me if I had a lookbook, and I said ‘what’s that?’ I didn’t even know what that was and I’m supposed to be in fashion! When I look back, I giggle at myself.

Professionally speaking, one of the mistakes I made was asking my male mentors for their advice. Even though I was starting a platform for women, I would seek the advice of men because that’s who I had been surrounded by in my banking career. They would ask me questions like how Lux Second Chance was going to differ from eBay and Amazon. I would counter by saying, selling 100% guaranteed authentic and only high-end designer brands would differentiate us. They wouldn’t know the value of this because they’re not the ones buying the luxury goods. I was asking the wrong people for advice on the business, and I wasn’t asking the people who would directly benefit from the Lux Second Chance platform. At the end of the day, I wanted to build a tech company but all they could see was a website that sold handbags (I started with just handbags in version 1.0).

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

I embrace my morning ritual by starting my morning at 6am with meditation. I choose to start my day with a focus on taking care of myself instead of busting out of bed like a rocket and having to jump right into work!

I used to give up exercise because I made excuses that that time should be spent working. I would deal with stress by eating comfort foods like Cheetos and coke. I can’t even imagine that now. That did not help my burnout or stress levels, it just increased my waistline. Exercise can be any form of movement. Start with small goals to keep you exercising on a regular basis. Exercise is not only beneficial physically but also mentally satisfying.

Life goes by fast. We get consumed with our day-to-day work. Have you forgotten what you want out of life? It’s easy to lose track of time and even easier to forget about what makes us feel alive. To bring back that focus, start journaling or take a day or even an entire weekend and write your purpose. Putting my intentions into writing, I’ve discovered that stepping back and looking at my life as a whole has a way of putting the stresses of the moment into perspective.

Stay connected with loved ones. See family and friends as much as possible. Yes, it’s likely hard to physically see them during a pandemic but with all the technology around us, there are plenty of ways to communicate on a regular basis.

Humour keeps me sane even in the most stressful of circumstances. Laughter is fun and a great way to reduce stress. Better yet, finding ways to make others laugh reduces stress for everyone. It’s a source of fun and laughter with friends and colleagues.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

When I first started my company five years ago, I always knew I wanted a remote team and there are many reasons for that. Mainly cost. I bootstrapped this company and office space was just another added expense I could not justify. I needed all the money I had to hire people to help me build a company. I didn’t want to hire people that were within ‘distance to the office’ since that would limit the talent I was looking for and I didn’t have the deep pockets to relocate anyone. I knew with the use of technology, we could all stay connected remotely. Lastly was time spent commuting. Who enjoys commuting! That’s wasted time and productively.

Fast forward to 2020, and working remotely is the new necessary norm. I feel strongly that success is for those who can pivot based on current conditions. Running a remote team is just one of those necessary pivots.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

When everyone is in the same room, it’s easier to communicate whenever we want. Watercooler chats spark ideas. That communication is harder when working remotely — things can be missed.

Working remotely is about finding the right tools to stay connected and working in harmony regardless of where you are. Managers need to be able to set out clear goals they expect from their employees. Weekly goals must be addressed either by video call, voice call or email.

Employees should know what is expected of them, and as a manager, you must be disciplined enough to set daily and weekly checklists and targets. No one method is better than the other, it’s about finding what works for your team and your business.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

These long standing barriers of distributed workforces can be solved by technology. These are some of the tools we use to collaborate productively, creatively, and seamlessly:

Slack — doesn’t matter if you’re down the hall or across the world, Slack is real time team chat. It spares your inboxes and reduces the number of CCs. Plus, you can create around departments or groups, projects, etc.

Video chats — Google Hangouts and Zoom are great. Both can support dozens of participants.

For Time management use Timely. It’s a great app to carve out chunks of time to work on dedicated projects. Timely allows you to schedule tasks and track in real time the time you spend on a project.

Goal focus — it’s about quality of time spent not quantity. It’s actually more desirable since you save more time.

Have a flexible schedule. I can’t stress how important that is. It allows employees to juggle hobbies and work reducing workplace stress and having a positive relationship with work.

I acknowledge that there are downsides. People that work remotely have a hard time unplugging. Also, some people can feel lonely, and miss the communication and human connection.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I’m very open and honest and I like to get to the point. There’s two ways to give feedback depending on who you’re talking to. If you know your employee is more sensitive, you have to approach their feedback differently. Massage your message. For the sensitive person, start with an appreciation.

For the employees that don’t need massaging, I get straight to the point because if you need to get stuff done, that person needs to know what is expected of them. I say what I need to because I know that person can handle it. They know what is expected of them and they want to adjust accordingly and accomplish quickly.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

When you’re delivering criticism, the first step is to be kind. No one likes to be blasted with negativity right away.

I like using the word yet. Yet indicates that the work is good but not quite finished, and needs slight tweaks or improvements. Also, when you ask for something say, ‘could you’orwould you’instead of ‘do this and do that’. Express that you want to see completion and milestones. Include points and deadlines. Emphasize that progress is very important.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

As humans we are habitual. We’re comfortable with what we’re used to, and happy with the norm. Until the pandemic, most employees worked in an office, and that’s what we’ve become accustomed to. But when it comes down to it, how you work is a mindset. If you can look at all the positives of working remotely, then over time you form new habits and it becomes the norm.

If you don’t think of it as a forced thing to do, then it changes how you approach WFH. Reframing and reshaping your mindset is everything. Remember the days of bumper-to-bumper traffic just to get to work? It’s nice to have no commute time and feel less stress because of it.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Thank you is the most sustainable way to motivate employees. And then go into specific actions or directions.

Use every opportunity to celebrate moments — birthdays, goals, milestones, engagements! It’s the little things that you do as a team that make a big difference. I acknowledge my team’s contributions and work by sending a simple ‘thank you.’ It’s one way to keep us connected and efficient.

As a small startup, we don’t need a lot of meetings as much as the corporate world, so everyone does their own thing. I’ve set it up so that everyone is self sufficient and things can run on their own. I’ve done that by deciding what the long term goals are, and what each individual person wants to accomplish. As a team we decide what needs to get done on a monthly basis, then further break it down into weeks, and then daily. I trust and rely on my team to get it done, so you don’t need a lot of micro management and monitoring of the team, and can avoid having too many lengthy meetings.

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. 🙂


Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?


Thank you for these great insights!

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