Tu-Hien Le of BeauGen: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times
Communicate clearly and honestly with your team. Don’t try to downplay or breeze over the situation at hand. Transparently share the situation the company is in and your plan on how to manage this. Be sure to reiterate that this is not a time to freak out or worry. There is no progress with worry and stress. We create a plan to mitigate as much risk as we can and we stick to it. If your team knows the full picture of the situation and that you are looking into all possible ways to handle it, they are more likely to be open and honest with you and pitch in with their ideas when they can.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tu-Hien Le.
Tu-Hien Le is a 7-figure entrepreneur & leader who built her e-commerce business BeauGen from an idea to a thriving online business. From this experience, she created a spinoff community and podcast show called The Mamaverse that focuses on self-care and wellness. Tu-Hien also mentors other entrepreneurs on how to lead and build their online business. Her mission is to share her knowledge with entrepreneurs, teach them how to build a thriving company and how to be a leader in their industry.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Back in 2015, I had a life-changing event and became a new parent! Through the experience, I discovered challenges thousands of women experience everyday with painful breastfeeding. With the help of my husband in product development, we created a unique product to address the pain and discomfort women feel while using a breast pump. In 2016, my company BeauGen and flagship product, the breast pump cushion, was introduced to the market.
Since then, I have worked to build my community of new moms and educate those on a solution to painful breast pumping. At Beaugen, we have served over 100,000 moms worldwide and continue to reach new moms around the globe every day.
From my experience building and scaling BeauGen from idea to a 7-figure business, I was constantly learning and trying new ideas, concepts, and strategies. In addition to running my e-commerce business, I also work with other direct to consumer business owners in consulting and coaching them through the same challenges I had in scaling my business. My goal is to help them streamline and grow their business to success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Even though I made several mistakes throughout my journey in building BeauGen to a 7-figure business, they all served a critical role in my professional and personal development. Whether it was trying out a marketing strategy that was too complicated or not addressing a customer complaint well enough, each helped me strengthen my business processes and strategies in the future.
However, I think the funniest mistake I made in the early stages of building my business was not trusting myself. I would constantly question my capability and competence in an area which always made me pause. I had a lot of self-doubt when it came to speaking to others about my business or was really uncertain when sharing my idea with other mentors and investors. It took me another 5 years to build my inner confidence and accept that all the roadblocks, self-doubt, and stories I had about myself were all part of my evolution and development into the stronger, more confident leader I am today.
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?
I am extremely grateful for my husband Chris Chang. Without his continued support and belief in me, I would not have been able to challenge myself and take my company as far as I have. He always challenged me to do and be better. During the beginning phases of building my business BeauGen, I had a lot of doubts. I would constantly question my knowledge and ability to make the right decisions. My husband would always come back to me and ask why I was constantly holding myself back from being the great leader he knew I could be. He would remind me that the only person that is holding me back from becoming who I want to be and from growing BeauGen to the big success it could be was me. Once I got out of my own way, I started to hit my stride. He was right.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
My vision was to build a product that customers worldwide could use to help them in their motherhood journey. My purpose was to positively impact 1,000,000 moms in making their parenting journey even better.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Times of uncertainty are the best opportunities to show your team what kind of leader you truly are. It’s easy to lead when things are going well. It’s much harder to show up and take charge when you’re scared or unsure.
In 2020, the world experienced a very unique event that shut down the world and had us isolated at home for months, and for some, even years. With this once-in-a-lifetime event, there were massive amounts of unknowns and uncertainty in the market. People started stocking up on food, toilet paper, water and stopped buying non-essentials. This took a toll on my company. However, I did not wait to see what our monthly financial results were before formulating a plan forward.
I reacted swiftly. I immediately gathered with my leadership team to understand what they observed in the market and listened to what they were most concerned about. I wanted to hear them out and assure them as much as I could that if we stick together and put our heads together, we can figure out how to navigate these times.
From there, I held an all-hands meeting with my team. I communicated transparently that my number one priority is to protect and preserve the team. We were preparing to trim down our expenses and focus on essential business operations for the time being until we had a better sense of what was going to happen. I wanted to make it clear with my team that I depended on them as much as they depended on me. I wanted to include them in the planning process so that they could also buy into the plan forward. Together, we would battle and maneuver the situation of the Pandemic and find a way to come out stronger and better for it.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
At that moment, giving up was not an option. I had too many people, my team and family, depending on me. Tough times are not when a leader gives up. When times are hard is when a leader steps up and shines.
I’ve always been internally motivated. I’ve never needed anyone to tell me I should do something. I always wanted to proactively go and achieve my goals. It’s knowing that others depend on me to keep pushing forward and need somebody to follow that keeps me determined to keep going.
I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?
Reading and learning are two of the most important skills a leader should have. You need to stay humble in your pursuit of excellence and learning from other experts is one of the best ways. A book that has impacted me in being a great leader is the autobiography of Former President Geroge W. Bush. He was the President during a challenging time during our history, 9/11, war on terrorism, and the start of the financial crisis in 2008 to name a few. In hindsight, some of the decisions he made ended up being wrong, but he also made a lot of right decisions for the betterment of the country and the American people. I learned that during scary and difficult times, a leader needs to be strong in their morals and beliefs, make a decision, and follow through. What happens after that is out of your hands but you can always make plans to mitigate risks and potential mistakes.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
In my opinion, a leader who can make quick decisive decisions and lead with confidence are critical during challenging times. This is when your team is looking to you the most on how they should think and feel about the situation. You want to show that your people can trust you to make the best decision with the information you have at the time with their best interest at heart.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
A great way to boost morale during uncertain times is to leave space for them to express their thoughts and concerns. A lot of times, people just want to be seen, heard and validated. Although the situation may be challenging with the future unknown, if you can show empathy and understanding of their feelings, they are more likely to gain trust and follow your lead on the direction you take.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
If possible, communicate difficult news in-person. If you work with a remote team, meet with your team to share the news openly and honestly but most importantly, leave space for them to respond, ask questions, and express concerns. The team wants to know if they are safe and what they can do to help the situation. Don’t try to sugarcoat or hide the truth from the team. You will gain more respect by being transparent so they can understand the difficulty and perhaps help provide a solution for the team.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
All a leader can do is to identify and mitigate potential risks. Work with your leadership and communicate with the team to help formulate the plans when possible to get buy-in. Leaders cannot see the future so we can only have a strategy in case certain situations arise.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Be prepared to adjust and pivot your plan at any moment.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
First, they don’t plan ahead. It is the business owner’s job to foresee when difficulties will come and plan for the worst case scenario. Some are so deep into the weeds of the business that they don’t take time to look ahead and see what trends are happening right before them and make the proper adjustments. That’s like a captain who’s supposed to be steering the boat and looking ahead for storms that could be brewing but instead they are sweeping the deck and in the engine room turning the cranks.
Secondly, they don’t take accountability. Whether the difficult times were due to the lack of preparation or not, it is the business owner’s responsibility to take ownership of the situation, make decisions to improve, and deal with the outcomes. Things may not be perfect, but without action, the business may be left in a worse state. It’s critical that the owner does not pass the blame or try to avoid the situation but deal with it head on. Strong leadership requires courage and stepping up when things are uncertain. As long as they put their best efforts forward, they will have to live with the outcome.
Finally, they don’t seek guidance or help. It’s impossible for one person to know everything. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with more experienced mentors and colleagues who can share their learnings and experiences. Tap into the power of a community who are all trying to navigate uncertain times together. With knowledge sharing and helping one another out, you may find that the results are much better than if you tried to solve a problem by yourself in isolation.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
My top 5 leadership rules during uncertain time are:
- Communicate clearly and honestly with your team. Don’t try to downplay or breeze over the situation at hand. Transparently share the situation the company is in and your plan on how to manage this. Be sure to reiterate that this is not a time to freak out or worry. There is no progress with worry and stress. We create a plan to mitigate as much risk as we can and we stick to it. If your team knows the full picture of the situation and that you are looking into all possible ways to handle it, they are more likely to be open and honest with you and pitch in with their ideas when they can.
- Create a level of safety for your team so they can perform at their best. The most important asset you have during uncertain and turbulent times is the strength of your team. Protect them and take care of them. Ensure them that if they ride this storm with you, that you will do what you can to either compensate or thank them in future. Right now, you depend on everyone to chip in and help keep the company going. If all goes well and you get through unscathed, those who stick around to help will be rewarded.
- Seek guidance from mentors. Surround yourself with specialists, experts, and advisors in the industry you are in. Tap into their knowledge and experience. See if they have gone through similar situations before and ask what they did to manage through it. There is always something useful in learning from history. Also, don’t discount the power of a community and network of business owners who may also be trying to solve the same challenges you are experiencing. You never know what you can learn from them.
- Think outside of the box. Unique challenges require unique solutions. If what you are doing is not working, try something different. See what others are doing in different industries to see if it is applicable to what you are trying to do. Always keep your mind open to solutions. You never know where inspiration might come from.
- Take ownership and responsibility for outcomes. No matter what, the buck stops with you. It is ultimately your decision on what direction you want to go in and what strategy to implement. Whether it was the right one or not, you do not want to pass the blame on to anyone else. Taking responsibility for outcomes shows strength in your leadership.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite life quotes is to “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” This quote encompasses everything we discussed. To only hope does not help you in a situation that is challenging. You should have a plan and a backup plan in case things don’t go your way.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Tu-Hien Le of BeauGen: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.