Continuously develop your own strengths and capabilities: I firmly believe that you cannot be a strong and empowering female leader unless you are strong and empowered yourself. I have always spent a lot of time developing myself both personally and in business, and it has paid dividends for me to be able to balance happiness and fast track career progression.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlotte Mary Brown, CEO and President of VSNRY; a millennial management consultancy that uses global, remote, high caliber talent through a community to deliver strategy and digital growth for clients. At age 27, Charlotte left a high-flying investment banking and consulting career in London to travel the world and start building a new business to disrupt the Big 3 global consulting firms: McKinsey, BCG and Bain. Now based in Hawaii, her clients around the world have successfully launched new businesses, rebranded, launched new websites and digital transformations, undergone fundraising & investment rounds, pivoted to more lucrative business models, undergone reverse merger, acquisitions, blockchain, ICO & IPO.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was raised to be a business leader.
However, I was NOT raised to be an entrepreneur.
Growing up with my fathers blinkered view of achievement and his old-fashioned definition of “success”, I was in no way, shape or form raised to pursue a life that involved risk-taking, creating social impact and working remotely from anywhere in the world.
So I consider my early career to be the “bootcamp” phase of my life. I threw myself into high profile, high intensity roles to gain the exposure and expertise that I needed to perform in the C-Suite. I turned brands into ‘Lovemarks’ at Saatchi & Saatchi. I was one of the only women in the boardroom for restructuring and M&A deals at Lazard investment bank. Then I chased opportunities for strategic growth at Centrica PLC to increase their share price by 70% over my tenure.
In 2013, I switched track at the age of 27 to explore the world, launch a management consulting startup in the USA and to start retraining myself for entrepreneurship. I taught myself how to code and build digital businesses, I advised a series of high growth US-based startups and SMEs in C-Suite, Strategic Advisor, Vice President and CTO capacities, and worked with visionary business owners to IPO, pivot their business models and put my European strategic growth experience into action in the USA. In parallel, I started hacking the personal elements of my life to embed in myself the qualities required to thrive as an entrepreneur.
5 years on, I had already started to unravel how the Big 3 Management Consulting business models had gaping holes in them. They lacked the innovation, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and collaboration that their clients and visionary business leaders deserved. So, I rolled-up my consulting and digital business into VSNRY Inc and built a customer-centric business model to take on the Big 3 consultancy brands with a completely new approach to advisory that is global, digital-first and community-driven.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Without a doubt, the introduction of publicity and the media into my life has resulted in the most interesting stories. I spent the majority of my career advising companies from within the confines of their brands, under strict NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) and as the “behind the scenes” advisor to business leaders.
It is only with the launch of VSNRY that I will start to build the online and offline innovations I believe the industry needs for management consultants, digital talent and clients to build growth communities with each other. As a result of this, I have been approached by media outlets to share my own story of millennial entrepreneurship and the insights of working with such diverse and visionary businesses around the world.
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 really struggled making the mental transition from the male-dominated corporate world to being a female, solo, nomad CEO.
I had been so used to conformity in the professional services industries of London — wearing bespoke tailored suit dresses, french manicured nails, high heels, perfect hair styling — and so on. However, when I relocated to the USA to set up my own management consulting business, I based myself in South Beach, Miami. The combination of Florida being the most humid state in America, Miami’s flooding problems, and bad parking arrangements meant that I would turn up drenched from head to toe for business meetings in my very expensive corporate attire. I looked a mess!
I soon ditched the corporate clothing and power heels for an alternative, but still very professional, work wardrobe. I’ve never looked back. I won back the creativity and feminism in how I dress, and my business is reaping the rewards. I am able to flex my clothing style each day to better match that of my clients and the situation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s definitely the customer-centric way that we’re disrupting and improving the management consulting and digital industries for business owners and executives. At VSNRY, I have thrown out the traditional partnership business model and have built the business into a digital community of global management consulting and digital execution experts that businesses anywhere in the world can tap into remotely. By pooling together the world’s best consulting and digital talent, we are able to insert some really stand-out and visionary elements into our operations. One example is how we’re reinventing the concept of a consultants “bench time” and building a VSNRY accelerator (initial industries include blockchain and retail).
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are occasions where business owners would prefer not to hire consultants or digital experts. They may not have the available capital at an important inflection point for their business, or they may enjoy a more do-it-yourself approach to growing their business.
It’s important for me that VSNRY can share knowledge with visionaries that don’t yet have access to funds. So, one of the most exciting projects that I’m working on right now is how to share our consultants’ business and digital expertise to a global wider audience via a few different mediums: Video (such as TV, Amazon or Netflix); Publication (such as print, www.Medium.com and other existing business publications); and Offline (such as retreats, coworking spaces and collaboration with corporate innovation labs).
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
We’ve seen a lot of research that gets to the heart of why women are better leaders than men. However, the one area that men are usually stronger on is their ability to deal with work-related stress and their emotional stability. As one of the most stressful jobs in the world, the best C-Suite Executives have consistency in the culture they create and they are able to deal with extremely stressful situations without worrying the rest of their team. I find that the best tools to combat this as a female CEO are through continuous self development to build high levels of self-awareness, self-worth and having what I call a “Power Circle” of advisors around me.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Empowerment and honest free-flowing communication are the two most important cornerstones for me when it comes to managing a large team in your business. The best way to incorporate these elements into a business culture is to ensure your team knows that you care about their career over the long run and that they feel the motivation and authority to make great decisions and to run with it. This way, a female leader is able to lead a large team as a fast-acting, dynamic unit. Going one step further, these two cornerstones are the foundation for being able to instill the degree of risk-taking, failure, success and innovation that your company needs to thrive.
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 have had a real lack of support along the journey to where I am today, so it’s an understatement to say that it’s been an uphill struggle for me.
My mum is one person that I am incredibly grateful towards. No matter the challenges and barriers that my mum faces herself, she finds ways to overcome them to support and encourage me to pursue the life I dream of. I am incredibly proud of her own personal growth and I would not be the person I am today without her evolving as an even more powerful and inspiring woman alongside me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have built VSNRY to have a social model at its core — designed to bring goodness to the world. We promote the remote digital and management consultants in our community to spend a percentage of their time working on innovative, moonshot projects that save the world and promote positive changes in society.
On a personal level, I am a passionate advocate for three causes: Financial literacy education, saving endangered species and facilitating women’s empowerment.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Get the right team on board and continuously develop their capabilities: One of the first business books I read was Jim Collins book Good to Great. He identifies that the companies who outperformed their competition with long-term success “got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it”. I’ve seen this point proven time and time again throughout my career and having the right team is the number one thing that I look for in all of the companies that I advise.
- Defining and effectively communicating a visionary strategy: The lack of purpose and a bold strategy in an organization can create internal fractions and lead to valuation discounts if not effectively communicated to external stakeholders. The companies that I have seen struggle most with executing growth have not had all of their stakeholders working from the same playbook. It is especially important that strategy is reviewed (at least) annually, no matter the size of your business. This is especially important for businesses that are starting up or entering into nascent industries such as blockchain or cryptocurrency.
- Continuously develop your own strengths and capabilities: I firmly believe that you cannot be a strong and empowering female leader unless you are strong and empowered yourself. I have always spent a lot of time developing myself both personally and in business, and it has paid dividends for me to be able to balance happiness and fast track career progression.
- Being respected as a female leader without adopting an aggressive management style: With such a high proportion of men in the Executive Suite of companies, it can be incredibly difficult to define yourself as a strong female leader. I believe it will continue to be a struggle throughout our generation, so it’s important for female leaders to define our own leadership style early on and to be conscious that we have every right to compete and be respected.
- Empowering rather than micromanaging: Some of the most stressful and unenjoyable environments that I have worked in have been when bosses micromanaged their teams. This is incredibly detrimental to a healthy work culture and productivity, so finding the balance between managing and empowering is one of the first leadership skills I would encourage an emerging female leader to master.
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 strongly believe that sustainable happiness, health and prosperity do not happen in isolation from each other. However, it’s well known that traditional professional service industries, such as management consulting and investment banking, do not create the best environment for their employees to be sustainably happy, healthy and thriving. I have experienced these trade-offs first hand.
Health and wellness megatrends have been positively working their way into the workplace for years now, yet the professional service industries are still struggling to find a way to translate these trends into their business model without seeing it as a detriment to employee effort and career potential.
This is ironic.
The most innovative, creative, efficient, impactful and value-accretive work that I have ever created happens when I am simultaneously happy, healthy and living in a location where I thrive. I know that I am not alone. In fact, this is why we have seen such rapid growth of the digital nomad / gig economy. However, is only half the story. The long hours, exhausting travel schedules, unhappiness, poor health and desk “face time” of professional service employees filters through to reduced quality and innovation in the advice given to clients.
It’s time for this to change.
So, the movement that I would love to inspire is one that brings convergence of sustainable happiness, health and prosperity into the professional services industries in a way that promotes both employee and client success.
This is why I set up VSNRY Inc using a completely new business model for the industry. A business model that maximizes the health, happiness and career of our remote workforce to in turn boost the innovation, creativity and value in advice we give our clients.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself.” Seth Godin
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram: @VSNRY.io (www.instagram.com/vsnry.io)
Facebook: @VSNRYinc (www.facebook.com/VSNRYInc)
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!