Did you know Sharmadean Read is speaking at TNW2020 this year? Check out their session on ‘Business by women, for women’ here.
Sharmadean Reid defines herself as a “very philosophical and strategic entrepreneur,” someone who is able to look at the details and visualize a project from start to finish.
“I’m the type of entrepreneur who likes to have a thesis behind everything I do, and then build the right team around me to execute it,” she tells Growth Quarters.
It seems this strategy has so far paid off. Known in UK tech circles as the woman responsible for fixing beauty tech, Reid is the founder of BeautyStack, an online booking service that highlights the work of individual artists and creators.
She set up the business after founding WAH Nails — a nail salon business she opened in London’s Soho — which closed down following several years of trading.
Reid’s close ties with technology aren’t new either. While at university, she created a hip hop fanzine called ‘WAH,’ using her Mac Mini and after teaching herself how to use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.
She’s long experimented with beauty and emerging new technologies, such as a VR Nail Design app, and is firmly on a mission to use tech to empower women — economically, socially, and culturally.
[Read: 4 ridiculously easy ways you can be more eco-friendly]
Reid’s tried and tested productivity hacks
For all intents and purposes, Reid is the kind of entrepreneur we all need in 2020. She’s constantly innovating and able to re-invent herself and her businesses based on consumer and market needs — but how exactly does she manage to do this over and over again?
It’s mostly down to compartmentalization, she says.
“I like to chunk up my time […] I try not to do any external meetings on Mondays or Fridays,” adds Reid, explaining how switching from one task to the next can cause her (and you) to lose 25 minutes at a time.
Other productivity hacks that work well for her include setting up a morning call with her team, taking frequent breaks, and clearing her inbox once a month.
As far as her creative process goes, Reid insists it isn’t structured, instead she makes a concerted effort to observe what is happening in her industry, and subsequently enters full-on research mode.
“I do a whole bunch of research into macro trends but I also listen to users,” she notes.
Creativity without structure
One of the hardest things about being a serial entrepreneur is coming up with ideas that help to solve real-world problems — and inspiration isn’t always easy to come by.
Reid says she gets her best ideas while she’s out walking. “I then call my smartest friends and tell them what I’m thinking and stress test my thoughts on them. I then wait to see whether they are receptive or if they’ve got any push back and think my idea is stupid,” she adds.
While some entrepreneurs swear by note-taking, Reid prefers to keep everything in her head.
She says she’s the type of “annoying creative” who wouldn’t have had a sketchbook to show off at art school — instead opting for thinking about what’s actually required and building it then and there.
This approach, she adds, has changed somewhat over the years, after acknowledging that she doesn’t always have the right answers or solutions.
Her experience has taught her that relying on her team and taking their expertise and insight on board is always a good idea.
To get this point across, Reid uses a party planning analogy: “Imagine I tell them that we’re going to have a party with 30 silver balloons … They may come back to me and say, well, the silver balloons are more expensive so we’ve decided to go for purple or black.”
Laissez faire — but be clear
This may seem like a straightforward decision to make, particularly if it helps to stay within budget, but it’s actually about much more than that.
It’s a concerted effort to let employees work autonomously and to refrain from micromanaging — a notion that many entrepreneurs, founders, and managers struggle with all too often.
“If I start micromanaging it’s because I’m concerned that my vision isn’t going to be fulfilled,” Reid says, attributing this to poor communication on her part.
“I’m of the view that if this happens it’s because I haven’t communicated my vision properly. So I try to clarify what I’ve said as opposed to actually micromanaging,” she explains.
This isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, particularly now that many teams are working remotely and much of the nuance we have in face-to-face interactions is lost.
It’s therefore crucial that this clarification doesn’t come across like micromanaging. You need to be cautious and make it clear that you’re simply trying to articulate your vision more clearly to make it easier for everyone involved.
Reid is a firm believer in compassionate leadership — and says that the best advice she’s ever been given is to “know who to kick and who to hug.”
Building communities, not just brands
The brands she’s created are intrinsically tied with the notion of community, but building audiences hasn’t always been straight-forward.
“I think it’s really about identifying who the gatekeepers are and trying to unlock the various factions of the community you want to access,” Reid says.
Once again, Reid uses an analogy, this time resorting to a school canteen.
“Every single table at the school has a different crew or posse,” she begins, adding “You have the jocks, the popular girls, and music students. There’s someone on every table that’s going to be the person and ask you to pull up a chair and sit with them.”
The key here, she adds, is figuring out who that person is. Once you do, you’ll be able to access all the other people sitting at that table.
“I don’t go for scale in these early days because it’d be pointless to try and get all 10 people when you haven’t been co-signed by anyone and your message isn’t aligned,” she concludes.
All in all, success is what may keep Reid going, but her learnings are undoubtedly what have made her into the entrepreneur and business leader she is today.
If you too want to be productive and reach your goals, remember to:
Compartmentalize your time.
Take frequent breaks to keep focused.
Make a point of clearing your Inbox on the same day every month.
Be a compassionate leader but be firm when needed.
Take matters into your own hands. Do something that inspires you and stress-test your ideas with your network.
Build communities takes time. Figure out who the gatekeepers are and focus on quality, not quantity.
So you like our media brand Growth Quarters? You should join our Growth Quarters event track at TNW2020, where you’ll hear how the most successful founders kickstarted and grew their companies.