Leadership Leader

The announcement this month of Kendra Scott as the 2017 national winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year caused me to do two things: look into what this CEO and founder of Kendra Scott LLC was all about, and buy some jewelry while I was at it.

As the story goes, Scott started the business in 2002 from a spare bedroom and has grown it into a 2,000-employee, billion-dollar enterprise, with most of the explosive growth occurring just over the last few years. She opened her first jewelry store in 2010, had nine at the end of 2013, 38 at the end of 2015, and 75 today – including her first overseas store, which opened this past week in London. It was Berkshire Partners LLC minority investment in the private company last December that pushed the valuation to over $1B.

So, what’s the secret sauce behind Kendra Scott LLC? Much of it has been remaining true to its core values of “family, fashion, and philanthropy.” It’s not just a family-friendly headquarters in Austin, but Scott wants her employees to treat each other like family. Corny sounding, maybe, but all of the employees I talked to while buying my first piece of Kendra Scott jewelry certainly reflected that attitude.

Scott started designing jewelry to fill a gap in the market for “beautiful, quality designs at an affordable price,” and continues to keep an excellent customer experience the focus of every purchase. “We believe our customers are the heart and soul of our brand and we want to always offer a shopping experience that is unparalleled.”

She also makes new market decisions based on online and wholesale purchases. Yep, she goes where the customers are and directly communicates with customers about what they like – and dislike – about her designs. And in the philanthropy department, the company gave over $3.5 million and 75,000 pieces of jewelry to charities last year and is on track to hit the $5 million mark this year.

Finally, Scott knows she didn’t get where she is on her own and readily gives credit to the several mentors she’s had over the years. “I think for entrepreneurs to ask for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s an incredible sign of strength.”

With the successful introduction of her signature “Color Bar” that allows shoppers to customize their own jewelry and new Kendra Scott brand home décor products, her enterprise shows no signs of slowing down. While congratulations are in order for being the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year, we’d also like to gratulate Kendra Scott as the Triangle Performance Leadership Leader for November 2017.

Leadership Milquetoast

We had high hopes for “Uber 2.0” and Dara Khosrowshahi after he replaced Travis Kalanick as CEO in early September of this year. He was even saying the right things when he laid out his plan for fixing the culture Kalanick left broken and shameful.

That plan included some new company core values, which Khosrowshahi calls “cultural norms,” and we found a couple of the new values to be noteworthy: “We are customer obsessed. We work tirelessly to earn our customers’ trust…” and “We do the right thing. Period.”

As you might remember, there have been more than a few notable data breaches made public recently, (think Equifax, Yahoo, the Democratic Party, the Security and Exchange Commission, and the National Security Agency) and they all had one thing in common: the organizations and their leaders dragged their feet in letting those individuals whose data might have been compromised in on the secret. Unless he’s been living under a rock or in a technology-free zone for the past several years, Khosrowshahi appears to be a slow learner.

It sounded plausible when Khosrowshahi claimed just last week that he’d only recently found out about Uber’s 2016 hack and subsequent cover up. And it even sounded good when he said, “None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it.”

Recently | adverb: during a recent period of time; lately.

We acknowledge that word means different things to different people, but in our view, two months was too long to wait to let Uber users know about the breach. Even Equifax only took six weeks, and look at the flak they took.

“Come on,” you say. “It was only email addresses, passwords and PINs.” That’s not the point. Until the Wall Street Journal broke the story last week, Uber hadn’t let anyone know about the breach except a Japanese conglomerate that was considering a large investment. In fact, Uber has yet to let any of the 57 million account holders know if their data might have been compromised. If you might be one of them, don’t worry, because Uber says, “We are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection.”

In other words, “Trust me.”

Well, Dara, saying the right things is not the same thing as doing the right things. You could learn from the online image sharing community, Imgur, CEO Alan Schaaf, who took only 25 hours to go from notification on Thanksgiving Day to press advisory. (Can’t give him too many pats on the back, though, since it was a 2014 hack.)

Khosrowshahi missed an opportunity this month to demonstrate how a leader walks the talk. Instead, he’s set Uber up for a PR and legal headache for the foreseeable future. That’s a classic mistake for a Leadership Milquetoast.

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