Rachel Glaser is the CFO of Etsy, sits on the board of The New York Times Company, and is my guest on today’s episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership.
After 19 years at The Walt Disney Company (where she was the first person to work flexible hours after becoming a mom), Rachel went on to work in top finance roles for a series of large companies, including Yahoo and Leaf Group Ltd. As CFO of Etsy, she has been instrumental in helping the company break a billion in sales.
On today’s episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership, Rachel shares:
- Why you should focus on “the vital few” projects instead of “the worthwhile many” and how it can impact your company’s growth and brand trajectory.
- Why having a brand-first approach can help you accelerate your career.
- How you can shift from being the doer of things to being the influencer of things.
- How focusing on empathy can have a big impact on your personal and professional life.
- How you can build and foster a loyal community of followers.
- And much MUCH more.
I was amazed by the breadth of Rachel’s wisdom and the value of her advice. If you want to accelerate your career, improve your productivity, or simply be inspired by a brilliant woman who’s crushing it, make sure to tune in.
Full Podcast Transcript:
Eleanor Beaton: You are listening to Fierce Feminine Leadership episode #264 with Etsy CFO Rachel Glaser on how to accelerate your career with a brand first approach.
Welcome to a Fierce Feminine Leadership: the Success Podcast for Women in Business. Each week we feature interviews and advice to help you step in to your power and lead your way. Now here’s your host women’s leadership expert Eleanor Beaton.
Hello there Fierce Ones, Eleanor Beaton here and welcome back to Fierce Feminine Leadership: the Success Podcast for Ambitious Women in Business.
This is episode number 264 and today I’m having a very fun and insightful conversation with the CFO of Etsy Rachel Glaser. I cannot wait to introduce you to Rachel. She’s brilliant and this interview is chock full of information not only for those of you who are really looking for some tactical, practical approaches to accelerating your career. And Rachel Glaser has had an absolutely brilliant career as I will share with you as I read through her bio in a moment, but also for those of you who are creating startups she has had a really fascinating look at both very established companies like Disney, along with emerging growth companies like Etsy and she’s can be sharing some of those insights in the show. What’s very cool is that she takes a numbers approach, I mean she’s a CFO. And the approach and the way that she kind of analyzes opportunity and and prioritizes reflect that background. I think for many of you listening it’s going to be a very cool approach to both career and business growth. So really looking forward to bring her out. But before I get there how are you doing? Happy April. This is my birthday month. This is a milestone birthday year for me. So happy birthday to Eleanor. I’m going to congratulate myself on my own birthday.
And April is also the month actually that we’re going to be welcoming in a new cohort for The Leadership Lab. So the Leadership Lab is our eight week program. It’s one of the world’s premier leadership development programs for women and we really focus inside this eight week virtual group coaching program on kind of a three pronged approach to building a powerhouse career and really standing out inside your industry as an authentic and powerful leader and those three those three things are the three Ps: power position and presence.
So power: how do you attain power? How do you leverage power? How do you own your power? How do you stop being afraid of power? Both the inner work but also the outer work. I can tell you that for every woman I see who lacks power professionally there are probably two or three more that I work with who are not fully stepping into the power they already have. Presence, presence is huge and one of the unsung heroes of leadership development. When you really understand what presence actually is and how to leverage your presence in order to be able to effectively present, in order to be able to articulate an idea, to create consensus, to drive buy-in, to deal with difficult communication situations. I mean this is the lifeblood of great leadership and inside The Leadership Lab we take a very proactive and practical approach to enhancing your leadership presence and charisma and finally position. So both position in terms of we certainly have women who come into the program who have made a transition.
So perhaps they’ve moved into their first V.P. role or they have left the corporate world. Now they’re building their own consulting company and so they’re approaching the marketplace from that position. But really understanding how to leverage your position and how to use your position to position yourself inside the marketplace of the three Ps: power, position and presence. These are the three areas that we focus on inside The Leadership Lab. It’s the only program of its kind. Our graduates come from around the world from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa. These are brilliant women, award-winning entrepreneurs and leaders and they come together globally for this eight week program and I encourage you to go check out www,leadershiplabforwomen.com. Take a look. If it’s a good fit send in your application. We’d love to have you. If it’s a good fit for you at this stage in your development.
Alright let’s talk about Rachel Glaser, shall we? She is the chief financial officer of Etsy and she brings more than 30 years of senior financial experience to the company and she’s responsible for overseeing the global financial operations of Etsy. She joined the company from Leaf Group where she served as CFO since 2015. Before that she was the CFO at Move Inc and helped lead a successful sale of the company to News Corporation. She’s also had senior roles as senior vice president of operations finance at Yahoo. And at the Walt Disney Company where she spent nearly 20 years in leadership positions in finance operations and technology teams. She was also elected to the board of directors of the New York Times Company in 2018. All right. Without further ado, here is Rachel Glaser. She is going to be sharing a bunch of incredible things from the course of her career. But most importantly, how to accelerate your career with a brand first approach? All right let’s hear it. Rachel Glaser.
Rachel Glaser welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership.
Rachel Glaser: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Eleanor Beaton: Where are you today?
Rachel Glaser: I am in Brooklyn New York at Etsy’s headquarters.
Eleanor Beaton: Awesome. So I’m so excited that you have taken the time to talk with us today. You’ve had an incredible career. We’re going to get into that kind of career prospectus in a moment and some of the leadership lessons that you learned along the way. But I was hoping you could take us back. You were raised by psychologists who really emphasized the importance of empathy. Wondering if you could share with us a little bit about what your growing up was like and how your parents focus on empathy has really shaped your professional life.
Rachel Glaser: That’s a great question. You know my parents are my strongest mentors and teachers. Both my mom and dad are psychotherapists and my mom was actually raised by Russian immigrants and her mother, my grandmother, was a social worker back in the day when women didn’t really even work.
Both my grandparents on my mother’s side were graduates of the University of Michigan and so where my mom and dad. And so I’ve been raised in a family of, you know, putting value on academics and then they went down this path of therapy. And in a family where you’re raised with two therapists you’re often told to talk about your feelings and communicate with your siblings and you know, express yourself and that can be a liability at times. I think that what it what it brought to me in my career was the sort of inclination always to be reaching out and forming relationships and connections with people that I work with on a very human level. The other thing I’d say about my mom is that she really was a true inspiration to me because she had a social work degree initially and then she went back to get first her Ph.D. and then a further degree to become a psychoanalyst, so she’s really my definition of a fierce feminine leader.
Eleanor Beaton: I love that and I mean you know when when you think about it when you think about your mother and your grandmothers blazing the trail with incredible careers and certainly in your mother’s case, this incredible commitment to and dedication to education and to her ambition. Now what would you say is that is the big lesson that you have taken from them that you have applied as a leader yourself?
Rachel Glaser: I think they’ve taught me. There’s no you know first of all work hard treat people fairly with into people you know as I said I’m naturally sort of empathic with the people that I work with and try to form these connections. And I think secondarily, no glass ceiling might. There’s nothing that’s out of reach for me. You know if you want to do it you can do it. I’ve tried to teach my own children. I have three grown children as well and teach them that same sort of ambition and aspiration.
Eleanor Beaton: So take us through then. I’d love to learn more about your career path. We’re going to be talking particularly about your work at Disney and then later at Etsy, but take us through your career path. Tell us a little bit of the background in terms of you know that essentially lead up to your work at Disney.
Rachel Glaser: So I started at Disney immediately after business school. I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley that I went to USC for graduate school and right out of graduate school I went to Disney as a financial analyst. This is back in 1986. And of course one of the things I love about Disney is this amazing brand almost peerless in a way. And within that brand there are many small companies so you could actually go to work for Disney for a lifetime and work through all the different divisions of Disney and have experience different industries. And in my own case I also worked my way through various functions. I was primarily in finance but I had also had various operational and technology roles. So it was really a fantastic learning experience for me to be able to hone my skills not only functionally but in different industries and be able to grow up with the company. So I was I did stay there for 19 years.
The other thing about Disney was that it provided a lot of flexibility to me which you wouldn’t expect from a large multinational company. But I I had kids starting in about 1990 and I actually thought I was going to be a stay at home mom after I had kids. In fact I told the man that I was working for go ahead and backfill me. I’m going to I’m going to stay at home with my kids. And he recognized in me that I was a very, very productive person. I was the veteran in the group. I was in at the time I was in corporate corporate operations planning group. And he thought, come back and work for me half time. And I think I can get at least 75 percent of the productivity out of you for 50 percent of the cost. It’s a good deal for him. And I think I might have been at that time one of the first people in the company to have any kind of flexible work hours. And so I did that for a number of years and it worked quite well for me and quite well for them.
Eleanor Beaton: So you know it’s interesting because that you know I suspect had potentially a long term impact on your career. Did it.
Rachel Glaser: It really did. I often talked to other working mothers and you know the conundrum of wanting to have a career but also being home for your kids when they need you most. You’re not going to get those years back. And I think, one of the things that I really valued was staying close to a company that I loved. So at a certain point in time a great full time job opened up for me. That was a vice president level job. I had been working with them for all those years I was the most logical candidate to put into that job because I had some deep experience and expertise in the things that they needed. And so they they hired me, and it would have been a completely different experience saying hey remember me from eight years ago. Knock knock knock. Here I come again. I was right there and ready ready to step right back into the full time workforce and it and from there my career went on I can talk about some of those future roles. But if I hadn’t done that I don’t think I’d be where I was today. So I often talk to women about stay in there as much as you can for as little as you can to kind of sort of buy some insurance on your future corporate career when you want to have it.
Eleanor Beaton: And I mean it’s a great it’s a great story you know that moves from sort of part time to V.P. role. Still having that dedication to stay with the company in a way that made sense for you. Now, what’s interesting about your background especially inside Disney where you were for 19 years, is that you ultimately had roles as you said in finance, operations, technology. I would love to hear your sense of the importance of guy kind of cultivating that broad skill set versus specializing.
Rachel Glaser: I always talk about, you know, I’m the CFO of a public company now. And people that rise to the senior levels of whatever function they’re in usually come up from one branch of that function or another. And so for instance as a CFO I don’t I’m not a CPA. I don’t have a lot of firsthand tax experience and now I’m in a position where I’m leading those things. And I think that my experience having stepped out of finance for a while to do, I lead a global technology organization while I was at Disney and their consumer products division and actually was quite successful in implementing some pretty essential global systems for that group at the time, and didn’t know a ton about technology but it became much more about getting productivity and results through the expertise of others and it became much more about the leadership skills and the influencing skills you have in that function. So pushing myself into that those roles that were new functional experiences for me, I think better equips me for being a CFO of an organization where here I am, leading functions like tasks where that’s not my expertise but I need to have the right bench, ask the right questions and get the sort of the excellence and the results out of out of my team it’s not necessarily going to come out of me and I think getting a breadth of experiences across many functions is very useful for that.
Eleanor Beaton: So share with us what happened after Disney. So you were there for 19 years then you made the decision to leave. What was that like. And sort of take us along that career path afterward.
Rachel Glaser: So. I think one thing I found was that I had been at Disney for all those years and I at the time I was the vice president in Finance and operations function and and I had been a vice president level for about, I think, five years. And I wasn’t even next in line to become the vice president of finance for that division. There had been people that had been sitting in those roles longer than I was and I had. No ambitions to go further than just the you know the highest level of V.P. I could be in finance in a division. I wanted more. And at Disney it gets very narrow at the top of that pyramid. There’s not that many roles there and to get to continue my career path I needed to go out. And so I got called by a recruiter for Yahoo. And one thing I love it about working for Disney was, I felt so proud of the brand they worked for and it resonated with me personally on so many different levels. Just as a child growing up I love Disney. My children love Disney. And so I wanted to go work for another brand that was going to give me that same sense of pride. And at the time Yahoo had that same cache and same cutting edge of technology inventor of Internet and things like that.
And so I was able to take a very senior finance role at Yahoo and what was great about that, was at the time Yahoo the size of Yahoo was about the size of one whole division of Disney. So in a way it put me at the top of a public company that was a manageable size for me because I had been in a division of about that size. But it put me in a whole different sort of seat than I had been in within within a division of Disney.
Eleanor Beaton: Yeah it’s very strategic. It’s cool though you know if you think about it I’m just thinking about the women who are listening you know navigating their careers. So, one of the things you did at Disney was to develop those cross-functional skills by working in different departments. And then it’s like, OK so I’ve done what I came here to do inside this organization, and then taking a look at perhaps, I know it’s important to be working at a really strong brand. I’m going to go inside a smaller company. There’s benefits to doing this. I get the experience I’m looking for and it’s a smaller organization. So perhaps there’s a good match of experience, of skill level, of ambition. Do I have that right?
Rachel Glaser: I think that’s exactly right and I think I think that’s what made me an attractive candidate to the CFO who hired me there. Was that she wanted somebody who had sort of large company processes that could introduce them to Yahoo at the time I entered Yahoo. It was fairly I think it was just over 10 years old. They were hiring people at a very rapid rate. I think the year before I had gotten there they had hired 3000 people. And I kid you not, if I been able to hire three people in that division I was at Disney because there it was really about rigorous cost containment and a lot of austerity mode. And Yahoo was the opposite. It was growing really fast and that growth was bringing on sort of a wild wild west feeling of really no process and so that was one of the things that they wanted was to bring in some more discipline. Some forecast process and some planning process. I will say it was not all successful. There was a little bit of organ rejection. When you come with big company processes to a young Internet start up and try to lay down sort of formal rules about how we’re going to do things so I learn from that as well.
Eleanor Beaton: Yeah and that’s actually I want to pick up on that a little bit because it is you know that’s a legit thing as you say the organ rejection. So taking one of the things that makes you valuable is that you have this big corporate experience. You’ve got the systems in place that perhaps aren’t quite there as much in a very fast growing entrepreneurial culture. What was the biggest insight or leadership insight that you got from making that transition, figuring out this this works, this was not so successful. What was your biggest insight out of that experience of bringing that kind of skill set into a totally new environment.
Rachel Glaser: Yeah I think I’ve all my career I’ve sort of gravitated to, or some reason I love creating order out of chaos. And so I’m somewhat fearless, or you might say stupid, in that regard that I I will you know I sort of identify, here’s the one, two or five things that need to get done and I will you wind me up and I will get them done. I’ve been told sometimes I go through the brick wall rather than around the brick wall and when that happens there’s a bit of shrapnel. And so I’ve thought about this a lot through my career. What are the things that make a successful change agent and things that are less successful. At Yahoo I think I did a good job of introducing the concepts, you know ‘here’s what it could look like.’
And then in the implementation I think the things that I would learn from if I were to do it again is just to be more mindful of what the organization was ready for and to listen a little bit more rather than come through with ‘here’s the way to do it.’ I knew what it could be, but I think it’s sometimes it takes a little longer than than you think it does because you have to give it to them in steps, rather than try to try to introduce it all at once. And so that’s it’s actually a very, Yahoo is a very good example for me of thinking about listening to the constituents there rather than just pushing through.
Eleanor Beaton: Where did you go after Yahoo?
Rachel Glaser: From Yahoo I went to a very small, private internet company, venture-backed, and that company was called mylife.com. And I’ve learned a whole different set of things there. It was a very small company I had learned, I was the CEO and CFO of that company. And I learned a lot about how to run an internet company. All about product marketing, traffic acquisition, some of the sort of basic hard skills of being in internet. Which made me very well suited to take on my first public company CFO role at a company called Move, which is the parent of a Realtor.com. And so that was that was about $300 million in revenues. So a small sized company about a thousand people. But what was great about that opportunity was that it was competing heavily at the time with two other real estate listing businesses, Trulia and Zillow. And so there was a lot of attention on the space and move was significantly given a lower valuation than two of its peers, Zillow and Trulia, with very similar fundamentals. And so the challenge there was really about changing the narrative with our investor community and explaining to them how they were not understanding the the size and opportunity of realtor.com, moons being the parent. And being able to really have significant impact and how we were valued by the street. And ultimately we ended up selling that company for four times the market cap that we had when I first got to the company.
Eleanor Beaton: Nice job. Nice job.
Rachel Glaser: Thank you. This is about three years after we got there, we sold it to news Corp. who happened to own another large real estate digital real estate asset in their portfolios so it was a perfect combination of their assets and ours.
Eleanor Beaton: That idea of look, the fundamentals are the same as these two competitors over here. But we’re not valued in the same way. Investors, you’re not getting it. You know I’m sure there are a lot of people listening to this show who have been in a similar type of circumstance where they need to articulate about the value of something that people aren’t getting necessarily what strategies did you use to to create success there that other people might be able to learn from. You’ve talked about the importance of listening. What else did you bring into two to four you know. In this instance that helped you get to buy it and you wanted or needed.
Rachel Glaser: I think one of the very first things is execution. So delivering on results and also you know hand in hand with that execution is really clear trustworthy communication. So giving guidance to our investors and not under or over delivering but really saying we’re going to tell you is as transparent as we can be with you and keep delivering on that promise. Yes, it’s great to do a beat and raise but if you do that too many times they’re going to stop believing you. And so we first establish sort of credibility and confidence with our investor community and then kept executing against the results that we had told them we would execute upon. I think the second thing is really sort of starting to up the drumbeat of telling the story. So getting more sulfide coverage to listen to the story, and then getting them to bring in and help us market to the right kind of investors, we are looking for long term growth investors that were focused on top line and we were able to do that through sort of our own sweat and elbow grease. By giving them the time spending time with them, after earnings, spending the time with them on the road. And actually I spent a fair bit of time sort of forming relationships with new cell site investors when I started at that company. We had two people covering us. And by the time we were done we had seven. So I think more people saying positive things about our story really really helped.
Eleanor Beaton: So it’s like a multi-pronged approach. Setting the setting to the benchmark executing really well and really having some patience where you act while you you know build up that track record of successful execution. And then with that focus on the narrative, finding champions. All of those things can help you change the narrative of how a company is perceived.
Rachel Glaser: Yes.
Eleanor Beaton: Makes sense makes sense. Ladies who are listening., listen up! There’s a lot of gold in circulation coming from Rachel Glaser on this. OK so I want to switch to Etsy and talk about Etsy but what was it that appealed to you about the company. Why did you decide to join?
Rachel Glaser: You know Etsy, going back to that following my heart for brands that really resonate with me and I feel proud of working for, I was so excited to get a call from a recruiter about Etsy because I just love the brand. The interesting thing about Etsy is that it’s based in New York and I’ve spent my entire life in California. Most of it in Southern California, but a lot of my career and education has been in northern California. But all California. Meanwhile my children have lived all over the world. So I got this call about a brand that I love in a city that I love and I never really lived away from California, and my husband and I looked at each other and said ‘we could kind of do this thing.’ And so, that was the first thing. I love working for for companies and I can feel really proud of and excited about.
Second thing was, I looked at the opportunity with Etsy, and anybody that was studying the company from the outside could pick up the PNL and see either see something that’s very wrong or you see huge opportunity. And what I saw was you know costs and headcount growing at a very rapid pace. The GNA expense as a percent of revenue was I think close to 25 percent which is an unusually large number. And then revenue and what we call GMS, which is gross merchandise sales, were, they were still growing but they were decelerating. So things were upside down. We saw lots of costs being added into the business and not getting any yield on the top line. And, I looked at that and I thought I know, I think I can help them. I think I can contribute to and an effort to optimize prophecies and to find efficiencies in what they do and to find places where we can pull costs out of the business, while getting more focus on other things and are going to drive topline growth.
So that was a super exciting opportunity for me to work in a brand I love. That represents values that are very much aligned with the things I was describing earlier about being an independent, working woman. And be able to actually make a contribution that I think was actually going to be something.
Eleanor Beaton: I want to pick up on this navigation tool for you from a career perspective of working for brands that you love or working for companies that have great brands. When you think about what has happened at Etsy, for example, the company just hit a billion in gross material sales. That was a major milestone last quarter. The first time Etsy has passed this milestone. So I want to ask you a little bit about how, but before we get to the how I want to talk about the idea of culture and a culture of excellence. How does culture really impact you know hitting milestones like that? Because it’s obviously something that’s important to you. Does it? How does it.
Rachel Glaser: So I think a culture that I joined in Etsy was very much focused on in-ward looking in a in an interesting way. It really was a familial feeling when we got to the company. And they they they had a culture of excellence but they really took the credo of, you know, Etsy is all about handmade and they took that credo very seriously. So all of the technology and infrastructure was also handmade and not a lot of things were outsourced to people whose core competency was sitting outside the company. They were really trying to develop all of this competency inside the company. So as an example the CRM platform we were using for her email marketing was built and designed by Etsy rather than leveraging other companies like salesforce.com or others, who that is their core competency. And so we had that kind of thing all throughout the company. So I think one of the shifts that Josh and I made, Josh Silverman is our CEO, was to start to think what should be our core competency. How do we get focus on the most important things to sort of narrow and rationalize the things that the company was focused on and create a culture of accountability, rather than sort of an inward looking focus on ‘we’re excellent at technology so we must be on absolutely everything that we’re going to do.’ So we shifted to this culture of accountability through a few methods.
One was this idea focus. So, when we joined the company, this is about last May, so May of 2017, both of us joined at about the same time. We rationalized all the projects that were being worked on. I think there was over 800 when we took an inventory of what what was being worked on. And many of these projects were not focused on growing gross merchandise sales for Etsy but were focused on new marketplaces or new initiatives that didn’t really drive the core marketplace.
And so we brought that list down to what we call the the vital few rather than the worthwhile many. And really got focus on the company and from that, that enabled us to be much more nimble. We really looked at the structure of the organization. And we said ‘what’s the right ratio of product managers to product engineers? And what’s the right ratio of product engineers to infrastructure engineers? And we got those things in the shape that we wanted them to, not because we were necessarily driving for cost savings, although that was a nice byproduct of what we did, but really to get more nimble and to increase the velocity with which we were able to put new products into market.
And once we started putting new products into market, we then said, we’re all going to be accountable for this. We’re going to focus on GMS as our most important metric to drive for. We’re going to we’re going to test things much faster so we’re going to win faster or as we say we’re going to learn faster. So if they fail we know that sooner too. And in that way we’ve been able to through a series of small incremental improvements to etsy.com we’ve been able to re-accelerate GMS growth, and we’ve done that with a much more rigorous financial discipline on where we’re spending money where we’re making our investments. So we’ve also been able to improve our operating margins at the same time.
Eleanor Beaton: Okay so this is really fascinating. And so I’m going to kind of recap what you’ve just said because I think it provides a really useful primer for people who are listening who are potentially are in that state where they’ve really generated some good sales inside their business and now they’re looking to take things to the next level. So, you come in, I believe it is March 2017 do I have that right?
Rachel Glaser: May.
Eleanor Beaton: Okay. May 2017. And so a couple of things happened. So number one you say, ‘look what are our core competencies and what is it that we want to focus on from a focus perspective. what’s that key indicator that we’re looking to drive which you decide along with CEO. It’s gross material sales GM us as you’ve said. So then how many projects are we working on and how can reduce that focus from the many to the worthwhile few. And then, by focusing on that, how can we increase the velocity of results across a smaller number of projects in our core competency with that key indicator that we’re looking to drive.
Eleanor Beaton: That’s well said. The only tweaks I’d make to what you said is that just for the record, GMS actually stands for gross merchandise sales. Because what Etsy’s selling is of course a lot of products across a lot of categories. And then our little catchphrase is the vital few. So it’s the versus the worthwhile. And I have to give authorship to Josh Silverman for that, great.
Eleanor Beaton: Got it. The vital few.
Rachel Glaser: Yeah the idea is prioritization of the things that… if the bar is set at, it just has to be a good idea, you’re going to end up with a lot of things being worked on in a very diffuse way. But if you really raise the bar and say it has to be vital to driving GM, we were able to prioritize and get much fewer things and focus on those fewer things. so.
Eleanor Beaton: So I love that and of course. I mean, I think two quarters after you arrived there, the company hits a billion in gross merchandising sales.
Rachel Glaser: That’s correct yes.
Eleanor Beaton: Congratulations. Big milestone. A question for you then from your perspective, because there’s a lot of people out there who were like Yeah I’ve got my magic number or I’ve got that thing, I have my version of gross merchandising sales that I’m focused on. From your perspective you know as you know you’re trying to move the needle on one specific area, you know, GMS that’s what we’re focused on. As a leader, how do you do that? Is it something that you wake up in the morning and you’re and you’re refocusing on that. How do you actually from your perspective for you, Rachel, how do you focus on that one key accountability factor? Just curious from a discipline perspective.
Rachel Glaser: So I think it’s actually relatively easy for me as the person that’s responsible for setting our in the Anshul plans and then holding and then running our forecast that is accompanied by a set of metrics that we we look at every day but actually pulled together the leaders of the company and we look at them every month.
I’m very much able to sort of get myself immersed in what are all the drivers that sit behind the most important metric that we’re measuring. And do sort of deep thinking and analytics around all of the underlying metrics that help drive it. So we’re living and breathing it in. And so in my role it’s directly translates into what we’re doing every day.
Now there’s people in tax or in turn allotted or other aspects of finance that I think it’s important for them to be aligned with that goal as well but it’s not their primary day to day. And so I think that’s the more challenging is how do you spread that amongst all the members of the team that are supporting that ultimate goal for the company. I think we are we do that, you know as I started off when we talked about sort of my natural instincts are to be to communicate and to be empathic with people. So I I happen to, in my organization, do one on one meetings with my direct reports. We have a weekly finance senior team meeting, we have a quarterly all hands meeting. I do lunches with my Skipp level. Every week there’s a group that comes together and through those more informal interactions with my team we try to talk about what are the things that are important for the company and how does your job support and relate to that number.
Eleanor Beaton: You know, one of the things that’s interesting about Etsy particularly is this vibrant community of very loyal following. How how does one build and foster that, do you think?
Rachel Glaser: So, one of the things that we did in the transition, when a new management came in and we transitioned the company and new organizational structure and focus on accountability and our vital few is we also claimed the spot of owning special. And there’s so many ways in which Etsy is sort of uniquely able to do that. So you know there are other large commerce players out there that own things like convenience and value and speed of shipping and things like that and Etsy’s not about that. We’re really about finding the unique, the unusual, the one of the kind of the personalized item. And there’s nobody else, you can’t really think of another competitor that does precisely what we do. And we sort of reach deep and said ‘OK, what occasions in people’s lives are actually special?’
And I could think of many. I can think of at least one a month or more than one a month. And so we’re trying to harness that idea of special and the reason I feel that Etsy can uniquely own that is that at the other end of every transaction is an actual human being. So we have over 1.9 million sellers.
And just to give you a little background on those sellers. 87 percent of them are women. 77 percent of them are businesses of one person. 97 percent of them operate out of their homes. Over half of them Etsy was the first place they sold their goods. Almost a third of them consider their creative businesses both on and off Etsy as their sole occupation. So we’ve created this community of creative entrepreneurs, many of them are women, that otherwise might not have an opportunity to make an income. We’ve created a platform for creativity all over the world to reach other people all over the world where otherwise, some of these people might not even have otherwise have access to internet. And we’re creating the platform and the distribution and the reach that they otherwise can’t have. So that’s very unique in and of itself. And it gives us sort of more of naming rights to say, we can own special because we have such a special community selling over 50 million products that are each like a snowflake in a way. They’re there each individual and unique and in their own way.
Rachel Glaser: Fascinating. And I love it. Thank you so much for sharing those stats on the makers actually. Because it’s really you know it’s really really interesting. So I wanted to wrap up with two more questions and the first has to do with the business owners. So, our listeners they run their own businesses and some are like you, rising inside more of a corporate structure or their employees inside an organization. So I wanted to start first with the business, the business owners. You are in a position now where you have not only helped steer a number of companies through big transitions, you’re also on the board of the New York Times company, as an example, and advising other companies. What would you say, when you take a look at your experience, what would be the top sort of one or two tips that you would give to business owners to help them, you know, really grow and scale a business successfully? What would you tell them.
Rachel Glaser: So I think for starters, I find myself after working over 30 years that I have a lot of experience. You kind of come upon it accidentally. I think a lot of women have this thing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the imposter syndrome.
Eleanor Beaton: Oh yes.
Rachel Glaser: So you find yourself in a job and you feel inside like you’re the 26 year old version of yourself but actually you have a lot of experience. And I think the first thing is to feel, to reach inside of you and realize that that experience is valid and important and it’s unique to you. And so all the things I talked about myself, no one else had arrived at this exact place the same way that I did. So my combination of, having been a financial analyst in TV animation for instance and then. Network television and then technology and consumer products. It’s just a weird blend of things that no one would have actually mapped out for you in advance, but all of those parts make me experience. And I have to remember to trust and that experience that you have. And know that you actually probably know more than you think you do and try to combat that instinctive to feel like you’re an impostor.
Another thing I think about is to think about advocacy. That comes at a lot of ways. So it’s, remember that you have a team around you and. Try to shift from being the doer of things to being the influence or leader of things. So the advocacy comes from the people sort of on your team, but then also above you. You’re not in it alone. You have peers and you have probably a boss. I mean sometimes maybe a CEO is feeling, can feel alone, but usually there’s people on your bench or above you that can can participate with you, and not to be afraid to seek that advocacy. In fact, I think places where I’ve stubbed my toe and trying to run through those brick walls have been because I’ve forgotten that there’s people that who’s support and whose input and advice I probably need and could benefit from.
And that I think the the last thing I might say, is to have some conviction. This might sort of play into the thing I was saying about, you have your experience and to trust in that experience. If you have some conviction around something don’t be afraid, don’t forget to listen, but don’t be afraid to push on the strength of your conviction to get things done. I think there’s times where I’ve been pretty sure I was right about something but yielded and then the next year somebody else introduced that idea and it became wildly successful. And so I just think if you really believe in it you should own it and try to put some commitment and strength behind it.
Eleanor Beaton: Rachael Glaser, thank you so much for joining us on Fierce Feminine Leadership, I really appreciate it.
Rachel Glaser: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Voice Over: Fierce feminist leadership is executive produced and hosted by Eleanor Beaton. Technical producer is Kate Astrakhan. Content producers are Adrianne Alexander and Marie Hanifen. Special thanks to Kelly Fillman and Amy Bleser. Eleanor on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram @ Eleanor Beaton. Thank you for listening. Stay fierce.
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