Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Tal: I grew up in a kibbutz in Israel. A very small socialist community where everyone knows each other and shares ownership of all properties and services. A community that believes in giving what you can and getting what you need. Very very different from where I am today.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Tal: The Woops! journey began in 2012 when my three friends and I joined together to open a macaron pop-up shop in the heart of New York City at the Holiday Shops in Bryant Park. We treated it as a side kick, almost like a gig. We all had full time jobs elsewhere and we really were just hoping to cover our cost and try something new. With the power of friendship, hard work, and a little bit of hope we somehow made it happen, selling over 100,000 macarons in less than 9 weeks! And then we realized that “Woops!” we had a business! We were naive in the beginning, and trusted leasing agents that if they charged us high rents it must be justified. We grew very quickly in the first year and finished the year with 12 locations that we managed on our own. The first setbacks were understanding that not every location is Bryant Park in NYC and that operating 12 locations alone is very hard operationally. We also realized that we need to be much more careful with our selection of locations and our rents. So after the first year ended we regrouped and changed our approach and started to be very careful as to where we open and who we work with. The biggest setbacks always came when we thought we can cut corners and were tempted to think that someone from the outside can ‘come and save us’ and do the work for us. We’ve learned the hard way that we can only trust ourselves at the end of the day.
Adam: In your experience, what are defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Tal: For me leadership is all about leading by example. If your team sees that you work the hardest, that you care about every detail, that everything is important whether its small or big, that you’re always on time, that you’re always passionate, that you don’t shy away from scrubbing floors and working behind the counter in subzero temperatures – then they will follow you. Also, acknowledge your team’s hard work, be thankful, let them grow internally, give them the opportunity to voice their opinions. It’s all about team work at the end of the day. I expect a lot from my team. In food business and retail there’s no stopping. No weekends or holidays. My teams knows that they can’t take a vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, for instance, because that’s our busiest week in the year. Its 24/7. But they see me work the hardest so they join the effort. It can be intense but it has its rewards. Our team is like family to us. And while being very demanding, we also respect their personal life and personal time and we allow a lot of flexibility in days and hours.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
- Lead by example. Don’t expect anyone to do things you don’t or didn’t do yourself.
- Know you’re in it for the long run. This journey is full of moments of desperation and failures but you’ve got to pull yourself together and move on, while learning from each experience. There will also be moments of joy.
- Build a strong team and trust your team. You can’t possibly do everything on your own.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Tal: Don’t compare yourself to others. Learn and get inspired, but don’t compare. That can easily make you resentful. Barbara Corcoran said somewhere that “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” You have to trust your instinct that what you’re doing is right. And not get distracted with what others are doing.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Tal: Be positive. It’s hard sometimes, but so important.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Tal: My hobbies are good food and good friends. Always have been. And then traveling all over the world. My partners are my friends and my friends are my family and we will do everything for each other. Traveling opens your mind and heart and teaches you perspective and modesty. It reminds me again and again how fortunate I am to have what I have, to live where I live, and to be free to make my own choices.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Tal: As a woman, a mom and as a perfectionist, I struggled every day with finding balance and living with the constant guilt of never having enough time to be everywhere I should be and do everything I should do. I am always behind on something. I’ve been searching that “balance” for so long until I realized that it may just not exist for me, and I would be much better off accepting that and being ok with that. And it’s been a little easier to handle it all since. Forgive yourself because in today’s world, if you want to be a mom, and have a business, and spend time with friends, you can’t be perfect. And that’s ok.