I’ve been fortunate to benefit from many lessons learned throughout my career, and am still trying to absorb as many as I possibly can along the way. While at Bain, for example, I had the benefit of a tremendous analytical grounding, and establishment of a core skillset that remains invaluable, even to this day, in guiding how I navigate decisions for Ten To One Rum.
Some of the most important lessons at Bain were on the softer side, including the value of building an incredible culture. While I left Bain 13 years ago, it’s always had such a strong, positive vibrant culture. And so, if you’ve been lucky enough to work at a place like that, you almost spend the rest of your career trying to find that or recreate it. When it came to Ten To One Rum, I asked myself what kind of an environment I wanted to create and foster so that my team would want to come to work everyday and feel like they are co-owners and co-architects of the culture.
A great piece of advice that I got from my mom (who has also been an entrepreneur for almost 30 years) is to never present a problem without a solution. Always look for ways to contribute, have a can-do attitude and be solution-oriented in your approach.
Throughout my career, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the value of perseverance. Having seen a couple of highs and and a couple of lows myself, it isn’t cliché for me to say that great lessons can come from even less pleasant experiences which you can apply to your future endeavors.
Trying to create a rhythm in my daily life makes a big difference in finding a healthy work/life balance; waking up consistently at the same time and carving out the first hours of the day for “me-time” allows me to rejuvenate and prepare for the day in a zen fashion, before I am consumed by work which usually goes well into the evenings. During those early hours I take the time to do things like listen to podcasts, practice yoga and call my family.
In order to do my job, I can’t live without numbers. I am very analytically-minded, so I look for the numbers to make grounded decisions and justify specific actions.
When hiring for my own team, I look for candidates with good habits. Good habits will take you a long way in life, even before you know accounting, marketing or how to make a cocktail. Examples of these habits include attention to detail, showing up on time and communicating effectively.
Hunger and passion are extremely critical. While you can teach most things in this world, you can’t teach passion, you need to decide for yourself what you love and what you want to be a part of. When applying for a job, understand what it is about a company that resonates with you.
At Starbucks, I learned the importance of brand. Brand – to me – is less about logos and colors and fonts. It is more about having a clear sense of who you are and what you stand for. For example, Howard Schultz, who I was lucky enough to work for and call a mentor, always had a clear sense of where he stood, a sense of purpose about him. Having a chance to see that up-close as a young, aspiring entrepreneur was a really critical lesson for me. It allowed me to understand that a brand is a living, breathing organism, but one that is founded on a specific bedrock that never changes - that sense of who you are and what you believe in.
I truly believe that empathy is the single most important ingredient to success both personally and professionally in this world. As an entrepreneur, my work is very personal so I look for people who want to be there in the trenches with me and are able to develop a certain emotional resonance with what we’re trying to accomplish.
Communication is key when trying to keep my team inspired and motivated. I focus on communicating honestly, frequently and with transparency. I want them to always feel that they are part of the vision and mission. At our weekly meetings, we start with the softer things - celebrations and concerns about the business. Then we move on to the numbers to make sure everyone has a line of sight into what is going on and so we can have a North Star for who and what we want to be.
Being able to put products into people’s hands is so much fun, it motivates me to continue working in this industry. Consumer products are inherently social by nature and it’s true for much of what this industry provides – whether you’re creating a menu at a restaurant or coming up with a crazy cocktail or selling a bottle of rum. Creating Ten To One Rum allowed me a unique chance to tell my story and share where I’m from while showing consumers in the US, through my lens, a different way to reimagine rum - a more elevated and authentic view of rum and the Caribbean culture.
Every time I put a new product out into the universe, it puts more fuel in my tank so I can keep on going. As an entrepreneur, launching Ten To One Rum also gave me the chance to do something disruptive, in the hopes of having an impact on the way people experience the world.