Earn loyalty with your team, not demand it. Rather than having the mindset that team members should be inherently loyal to their business and simply grateful to have a job, I’ve found that it’s instead important to earn that loyalty through my actions. That is, ensuring I take the time recognize work well done and to provide a well-deserved pay rise even though the team member may not have raised this themselves. From doing this and ensuring our team is well looked after, I’ve found that when critical times arise for the business those team members demonstrate incredible loyalty in return.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miranda Gillespie.
Miranda is the CEO and Founder of Luxe.It.Fwd. Luxe.It.Fwd is a sustainable luxury e-commerce platform stocking a curated selection of luxury handbags such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci at up to 60% off the RRP new. Not only bringing accessibility to luxury for its buyers, Luxe.It.Fwd also provides sellers a hassle-free way for them to “luxe it forward” by selling their unwanted luxury items.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been an avid online shopper, even in the early days before online shopping was as mainstream as it is now. I love the simplicity and ease of it, and always had in the back of my mind that I’d love to start a business in the e-commerce lifestyle or fashion space.
At the time having worked in law for almost 10 years, I’d grown to not enjoy it anymore and ultimately left my career as a lawyer to start and grow Luxe.It.Fwd — a sustainable shopping platform for the re-sale of pre-owned luxury handbags and accessories.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The first year of starting Luxe.It.Fwd was definitely the hardest part of my business journey. There are just so many tasks and things to get done simply to get the business off the ground, and as a solo founder who myself was self-funding the business, that meant that I had to learn how to do and then actually do every single one of them on my own.
The included things like learning how to take and edit professional product photos for the website, when beforehand I didn’t even know what a DSLR camera was! It wasn’t until around 1.5 years in that the company had grown to a level that I could hire our very first employee, who not only shared the workload but the mental load too of overcoming every single issue myself.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I really wanted and needed the business to work, both because I had invested a very significant sum of my own funds in the business and also because I’d dreamed of a fulfilling career as a business owner in e-commerce rather than my then-career in law. The concept of moving back to a career I didn’t enjoy and losing a significant sum of my own funds in the event that Luxe.It.Fwd didn’t work out was something I really feared. That fear of failure is effectively what drove me to continue to grow and push forward with the business, even when in the early days every minute of every day was just so hard and it all seemed uphill.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Luxe.It.Fwd is now five years in and we have grown considerably year-on-year to have achieved more than 2 million dollars in revenue in the last financial year alone.
Prior to starting Luxe.It.Fwd I assumed it would be hard work, although nothing prepared me for how many constant setbacks I would encounter along the way and the level of sheer grit that needs to be applied to each of those setbacks to overcome them and keep moving forward. I do feel that the traits of grit and resilience are perhaps somewhat underrated in the business journey, because a person may have the greatest business idea ever but without these traits a business simply can’t survive.
The positive aspect of constantly applying grit to overcome setbacks is that you do build incredible resilience along the way and become much better equipped and less affected by future setbacks.
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?
At the very start I ran the business from a spare bedroom of my house, but that didn’t sound very professional to put that on the Luxe.It.Fwd site. Therefore I hired a virtual office in the city to use as our address to sound more fancy, meaning I could use the address to have mail sent there but didn’t physically work from there.
That was all good until a customer selling a bag to us advised she will drop in her handbag rather than posting it because she noticed she works in the ‘office next door’ to our address! **cue freakout as to how I get around this** I managed to scramble saying that I’d be happy to walk over to her to pick up the bag to save her the trouble, which allowed me to save face from having to admit that my fancy city office didn’t actually exist. Certainly I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it as need be, although I’ve learned to be prepared to have a backup excuse if your façade falls through!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Luxe.It.Fwd stand out is that we don’t just sell luxury handbags, but rather we provide a full luxury experience from start to finish that is reflected in every part of our customer journey. From our beautiful and personalized packaging, through to fast courier delivery, authenticity guarantee and highly responsive customer service, we execute every single detail to be wow our customers.
While seemingly small on their own, when done in totality across every aspect of the customer experience, this is incredibly impactful for our customers. When our buyers receive their delivery, the most common feedback we receive is not only how much they love their item but also how “you made me feel so special” — which is how we know we’ve achieved what we set out to.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I can probably act as a cautionary tale of what not to do in the early days of founding a company! I first founded Luxe.It.Fwd as a side hustle until it was successful enough that I could quit my day job to work on Luxe.It.Fwd exclusively, meaning I worked insane hours from quite literally 7am to 11pm every day and most of the weekend juggling Luxe.It.Fwd and my day job together. About one year in I also became pregnant and battled all-day nausea for the entire pregnancy, while working those crazy hours.
I managed to keep going working the extreme hours for around two years, but I was undeniably burned out and emotionally exhausted underneath it all. As the business has grown and I’ve been able to hire more team members, I’ve been able to delegate more responsibility which in turn means that I now work much more sustainable hours than at that time.
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?
Prior to starting Luxe.It.Fwd I worked as a lawyer for almost 10 years. During that time I had the most amazing supervisor and mentor who taught me so many invaluable skills that really prepared me to be able to launch a business of my own. I particularly learned how to recruit and develop a great team in order to get the best out of people, and how to show leadership even in more difficult times.
However most importantly my mentor subtly instilled self-confidence in me to believe that I could achieve whatever I aspired to, and to disregard that fear of failure. Without having developed this skill through his mentoring, I doubt that I would have had the self-belief to leave my career and start a business which I had no prior experience in.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have always been a big advocate for buying quality products and only what I will use. In recent years there has been a strong emergence of fast fashion across the world which creates so much unnecessary waste of items which are often discarded into landfill after very few uses.
To counter this, I am very proud that Luxe.It.Fwd advocates and provides a sustainable platform where quality items can be re-used over and again to their fullest extent, reducing unnecessary waste and the unneeded production of new items.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Success often doesn’t happen immediately. Despite hearing of many overnight success stories for start-ups, more often it takes at least a few years to reach real success. It took Luxe.It.Fwd around two to three years to break-even financially, however our profit margin has continued to grow significantly since that time for us to now become a very strong and healthy company. In my experience a company doesn’t need to be successful immediately in order to be ultimately successful.
- A lightning bolt of bad news is around the corner. There will regularly be unexpected problems that arise from left field to pose a threat to the business and there are times when you feel that luck is constantly against you. For Luxe.It.Fwd, this was everything from supplier issues to missing packages worth thousands of dollars to dealing with fraudsters attempting to purchase items with stolen credit cards. When you’re in business, there’s always a problem of some sort and you need serious resilience to always keep on top of those issues that inevitably arise.
- Competitors don’t play fairly. In business, I like to run my own race so to speak and to compete by having a better offering. Unfortunately I’ve found that some competitors don’t play by those same rules. We’ve had to defend against competitors engaging in a whole raft of unscrupulous and anti-competitive behavior, from them imitating customers in order to sleuth for operational information, plagiarising our material and faking reports on social media campaigns.
While it shouldn’t be the case, being in business is very much about defensive (ie. defending against these kinds of behaviors) as it is about offensive (ie. having a great offering for customers).
- Most skills are learnable. In any new business funds are just so tight however it’s also imperative to invest in the necessary areas in order to grow the business. In the early days of Luxe.It.Fwd, we invested so much money in various digital marketers in order to grow the business, however many didn’t have the necessary care factor and were on incredibly high monthly retainers.
I’ve since learned that if you or your team are willing to invest the considerable time and effort, that so many skills performed by external consultants can actually be learned and often done to a higher level when in-house. Our team invested significant time in learning everything from to Facebook ads, and we now achieve better results than we did and have saved thousands of dollars per month in taking this in-house.
- Earn loyalty with your team, not demand it. Rather than having the mindset that team members should be inherently loyal to their business and simply grateful to have a job, I’ve found that it’s instead important to earn that loyalty through my actions. That is, ensuring I take the time recognize work well done and to provide a well-deserved pay rise even though the team member may not have raised this themselves. From doing this and ensuring our team is well looked after, I’ve found that when critical times arise for the business those team members demonstrate incredible loyalty in return.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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’m very passionate about wanting people to be in a career that they really enjoy and are motivated by. We spend so many hours in the day and years of our life at work and that time shouldn’t be spent suffering through.
For a number of years I had a successful career as a lawyer on the outside but on the inside I was so unhappy as I just didn’t enjoy the role. It took a lot of nerve for me to walk away from my legal career to pursue a completely new business in a field where I had no prior experience, but it was perhaps the best decision in my life that I’ve ever made.
For others who are similarly unhappy in their career, I hope I can serve an example that we’re not each stuck in one career and that if you are unsatisfied in your role, it’s never too late to change paths.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!