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Inside Job: Jo Malone
September 13th 2014
The Creative Director of Jo Loves gives us a glimpse into her illustrious career, including the highs, the lows and what it takes to rise to the top
With a name synonymous with some of the most iconic perfumes and fragrances in recent times, Jo Malone has the kind of career that most could only dream of. Having led the company named after her to the top of its game, the entrepreneur then turned her attention to Jo Loves, one of our favourite beauty brands around thanks its impressive selection of uniquely blended scents that lay testament to the fact that lightening can indeed strike twice.
The woman with the golden touch when it comes to creating profitable and successful businesses in the beauty industry, we sat down with Jo to ask her about the ins and outs of her job, how she maintains a healthy work life balance and her career advice when it comes to building and creating a new company from scratch. A true inspiration when it comes to balancing creativity with commercial acumen and overcoming the biggest of hurdles with a great sense of perspective, her words of wisdom are sure to provide a invaluable guide whether you’re starting a new venture or taking your first steps into the beauty industry.
GTG: How did you land your job?
JM: I created it myself. After leaving Jo Malone and after a five year lock out, I was miserable, utterly miserable and I sat there thinking what to do with the rest of my life. I was still in my forties and I still loved the industry and so I started again at my kitchen table, founded Jo Loves and created my role as Creative Director and lots of other people’s jobs in the process too.
GTG: How would you describe what you do?
JM: I’m a Creative Director, so my job is to come up with creative ideas and creative ways of marketing and packaging etc. I’m involved in everything you see, the scents you smell and everything your hands feel. However, I’m not good at the structure of a business - my husband is though. We’ve been married for 29 years, and through all the time of running the business together, there is not one day where I have regretted the decision. I’m not sure he’d say the same though!
GTG: What advice do you have for anyone getting into this industry?
JM: Surround yourself with people you admire and learn from and hold onto those relationships. These are the tools that you build on later in your career. When you build your second or third businesses, those will be your foundation stones.
Find your keywords when building a business - who are you, what do you what to give? Think of your base at the beginning and then when you look at your big dream and find yourself heading towards it, you’ll start to feel more fulfilled as a human being. Be very ambitious with yourself.
GTG: How do you organise yourself daily?
JM: I’ve very dyslexic so I have to be organised. I hate mess and an office that’s messy - I need to have everything in its place. Even in my fridge. I’m not one of those people who looks in their fridge and decides what to eat then, I’m a list maker. If you were to look at that list, everything in thick pen needs to be done that day, anything in thin pen can be done later on that week. By the end of the week, I need to have done everything that was on that list. I love that feeling when you’ve ticked off all of the things that were on your list at the end of a day.
I choose to have people around me who are strong and whom I can rely on and trust. When I ask someone if something has been done, I expect it to be done. If they can’t do something, I’d rather that they let me know and don’t leave it to chance.
GTG: What’s your work style?
JM: I’m quite a control freak, but I know that as the business gets bigger I won’t be able to control everything. However, I think I’m a great empowerer of people. It’s great when you can trust a person and you have that relationship - I love that feeling where you can just let go and let them take over. I will never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself though.
GTG: What are your life goals?
JM: I love this question. I think my overall style is to have roots and wings and provide that environment for my family - roots so that they feel loved and secure and wings so that they also have the environment to fly and dream too. Both bring happiness in life.
Before I die I want people to say that she did it twice [built a business]. I want to live in New York again. I want to travel to places I’ve only dreamt of. I have a passion to travel through India and experience that sense of smell and colour. And I want to be happy.
GTG: What has been the best career advice you’ve ever received? And from whom?
JM: It was from my husband and was at a time when I had just left Jo Malone. I assumed it would be easier than it was, but it was like wading through treacle. There were days when I was utterly disillusioned and I felt that by leaving a great brand and starting a new one, I had fallen down the rungs of a ladder and was having to climb back up again. My husband said, "You’ve not fallen down a rung, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. You have to find the track you run fastest on. The track you fun fastest on is creativity."
GTG: How do you balance life and work?
JM: I sometimes get it very right and sometimes I get it wrong - that’s just life. For Friday night dinner, the phones go off and I don’t care what else is going on, (other than if it’s a family emergency). I give 100% to whatever it is I’m doing. If my child is sick and there’s an important meeting, I’ll stay with my child. When you’re a mum, your child comes first, my balance is that.
When there have been moments where I’ve gotten it wrong, I say sorry and just get on with it. I have people around me that are very balanced - they are work focused, but they work to enjoy life. If you’re not doing that, you need to question why not. I’ve had cancer and was told that I might not survive, but I did. You get a work life balance perspective when you go through something like that.
GTG: What has been the biggest learning curve of your career?
JM: The last three years have been spent coming back into an industry that I love. I would have been regretful knowing that I’d had ideas and not done anything with them.
I left a brand with my name and then had to find myself in the industry again. I’d say that 80% of the learning curve has been a really fulfilling and empowering experience. The last three years for Jo Loves has been very challenging but I got so much out of it. A lot of the time in business, you need resilience - entrepreneurs who find new and different ground. It’s something that money can’t buy. With every door that shuts, you think about quitting. I wasn’t strong every time, but it makes you think with a different head. I wouldn’t exchange the last three years for anything.
GTG: What has been your biggest screw up and what did you learn from it?
JM: I’ve had many. My biggest failure would be wanting to run before I could walk. When I think of a product, I can see its packaging, marketing, press, etc. and in the first few hours, I want to run at that pace. When you build something, if you don’t have bases in the first place, you can run into trouble. I did that at the beginning of Jo Loves.
I didn’t get everything wrong, just in the wrong order and in business that’s so important so that you gain momentum. When you don’t have momentum, you can make a simple job much harder and that was the mistake I made. However, we’re out the other end now and it’s working. You earn success today, but don’t expect it to happen every time. You have to make it happen every single day.