Susan Naci loves to talk about fear. The 32 Laight Street Partners investor is struck by how many decisions by VCs, startups and big brands are all driven by that most crippling of emotions. People are so afraid of not seeing scale or growth, that they often miss out on the best ideas. Naci, formerly the CEO of lux beauty sub-box Glossybox, joined this week’s episode of the Glossy podcast.
Edited highlights are below.
Fear, ego, expense and risk drive almost every major business decision.
Fashion brands have mostly been insular beasts, reluctant to change. Naci said that the rise of startups that have threatened to disrupt larger corporations has changed things, but only slightly. That’s because of an “instilled fear” about how they’ll be perceived if they make a bad decision, said Naci. “Large companies just aren’t seeing it, or don’t want to see it,” she said.
Change needs to happen internally.
Companies like Rebecca Minkoff succeed because Minkoff makes an effort to understand her customer — and would likely be one if she weren’t the boss. For companies whose executives aren’t the target customers, a clear cultural decision needs to be made to being internally focused, said Naci. “A lot of brands spend too much time on hierarchy, promotions and making money for individuals at the top,” she said. Instead, they need to ask: “Who are the people inside who are most like our customer on the outside? Let’s encourage them to talk.” Large corporations need to tap their human assets, said Naci.
Everyone is chasing after what’s new.
There is a distinct lack of strategy in business today, said Naci. For example, companies are launching apps where they have no business, or getting on Snapchat just to tick that box. This happens everywhere in the industry, she said — including in publishing. Naci, formerly ad director at Condé Nast, said that advertisers are always looking for something new because they always need to report “newness” back to the management. “Awesome, we have something to talk about,” is what drives decisions.
Makeup is “Amazon-proof”
The threat that Amazon poses to almost every retailer is well known. But makeup retailers don’t need to worry, mostly because makeup remains a tactile experience — and stores offer the lost joy of play that e-commerce has all but gotten rid of. “Sephora and Ulta are kind of Amazon-proof,” she said. “What Amazon can offer, like product choices and shipping, those stores offer too, plus the fun.”