I like to learn from the mistakes I watch other people make. It saves time. It helps me formulate strategies that are predicated on potential pitfalls. Failure is the great proving ground of human nature, you know? You can tell a lot about someone by the way they respond to messing up.
We asked Desirée a lot of questions over the last few months. She’s a deeply experienced and successful business person. It seems logical she must have an excellent tool for dealing with mistakes. “How do you bounce back and get your head back on track?” we asked her.
She thought about it.
Then Desirée said, “I don’t really do anything. I learn the lesson, then I start the next thing.”
Perhaps the mistake, then, is thinking of mistakes as “mistakes” at all.
Desirée Reid has been instrumental to legacy conversations on all things melanin after 25 years as IMAN Cosmetics General Manager EVP of Brand Development.
I met her towards the tail-end of her IMAN career and has since become an imposing thought leader to me. Iman Cosmetics was possibly one of the first beauty brands that wielded the Facebook Advertising ecosystem the way it did-- with Desiree as its strategic mind. I am lucky to have found someone so embedded in an industry, yet fully versed in conversations and actual execution in all things digital, well beyond Beauty and Wellness.
She’s a consulting guru of the business world. Her résumé includes positions in the structure of huge corporations and in the more nimble realms where entrepreneurs have adventures. She brings a deep business acumen to the people lucky enough to work with her. Do not, though, make the mistake of running away with an impression of a person talking forever about bottom lines and profit-and-loss tables. While she well understands the importance of the tools of business, she understands them as that: as tools in the big and serious story of running a business well.
Your business isn’t the numbers. Not only. It’s a bigger story than that.
Desirée was born in Jamaica and spent her formative years in London and Bradford. She went to High School and University in New York. She started off with Accounting at Pace University, where she discovered her respect for, but shortage of joy from, accounting. (Accounting: one of the other big tools in the toolbox of your business story.) Something drew her away from accounting. The creative possibilities in marketing appealed to her on a deeper level. She changed majors, Marketing took centre stage and she has since then devoted herself to the layered pursuit of creating market success for businesses of all sizes.
Like any other attempt to tell of a life in brief, this story has left out most of the life.
Her life in business sounded like the dream of any aspiring CEO. She rose from success to success, always earning her way into a more significant position at a larger company. Until, eventually, she gained a high-powered position at one of the higher-profile, international brands. When she gained that position, she thought to herself, “Now I will have the resources to the things I’d really like to do.”
She certainly had the resources. She said the experience quite opened her eyes, though, to the value of mobility. Prior to this position, she’d done a lot of work with companies that would be best described as startups. Often big, well-funded, well-planned startups, but rarely with long-standing corporations that had developed a deep heritage of “how we do things here.” So it was true that she had a well of resources to feed ambitious marketing schemes, she learned that the other side—the entrepreneurial world—had a great deal to offer in areas of nimbleness. You might not always have a hundred thousand dollars to shoot a commercial, but sometimes the tradeoff is NOT going through six months of committee meetings before executing on your plan.
Everything in balance.
After that corporate gig, she’s mostly worked with projects that would be considered startups, albeit serious ones. Including, but not limited to, doing a lot of work with the makeup brand Iman, which is the cosmetic brand of the model Iman, who was David Bowie’s wife.
In ThinkDigital HQ, There’s an ill-hidden undercurrent of our collective crush on David Bowie. Did you notice? Anyway.
Like Bowie, Desirée followed her passions. Although she cultivates a deep understanding of the market and its trends, she’s less interested in following them so much as treating them like a playground for her imagination. Sometimes that means speaking to the market, but it sometimes means anticipating the market and getting out in front of it to show it the cool next thing.
She had a deal with herself: when she reached a particular age, she wanted to leave the “workforce.”
Well, that age arrived. And it passed. And she was still, in a sense, working. She didn’t really want to stop the adventure, if she was honest with herself.
If she was honest with herself again, she knew that it would be time to slow down eventually.
So she reached for the next level in her prestigious career.
She examined her life and discovered a wealth of knowledge that would benefit anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. In her professional life, she’s participated in the creation, growth, and stable running of businesses of many sorts and sizes. The world of business has been an exciting playground for her, and she’s decided to use her vast experience in it to give back.
Her tipping point comes near the end of an exciting career. She candidly shares lessons she learned from Celebrity Brands in DesireeReid.com What do you do when you’ve done it all? You tell everyone the stories you’ve found on your travels.
That is no small thing.
ATHENA Ed.Note - Co-Founder Desiree Reid kicks off with her