Insights from the COO @ the iconic
While many of us support an Executive and work closely with them day to day, it's not often that you get the time or the opportunity to ask them questions, get their insights and find out how they feel about their roles as executives and most importantly, what they find valuable in an assistant. We are lucky enough to have been able to pick the brains of the Chief Operating Officer at The Iconic, Anna Lee, to find out what her days are like, how she effectively manages her time with the help of her EA, what key qualities she looks for in an assistant, and of course what her fashion tips are from working at one of the biggest online fashion retailers of today!
So read on if you want to know what she has to say.
Sarah & Nis
What’s it like to work at the Iconic and how long have you been there for?
I’ve been with THE ICONIC since mid 2014. I joined as CFO, a role which I was in for 3 years before moving into my current COO role. It’s been an incredible opportunity to be part of the growth and success of such a great organisation – it was such a different business back in 2014, it took a lot of blood sweat and tears to lay the foundations but I’ve loved every minute. Both roles have been dream jobs.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As part of my COO responsibilities I lead and oversee all customer operations functions which include Fulfilment (ensuring our customer orders are shipped on time), Customer Service, Vendor Management, Marketplace Operations and an Operations project management team. Because of the broad range of functions for which I’m responsible combined with how fast THE ICONIC is growing, there is no such thing as a typical day for me. Some days I will roll up my sleeves to get into the details while some days I focus on big picture, whole of business strategy. All the while, ensuring I spend as much time at our Fulfilment Centre in Western Sydney as our Head Office in Sydney CBD.
What are the most effective time management tips or tricks that you utilise when swamped with work?
It’s important to prioritise and be very efficient in everything I do. This requires ensuring time is spent focussed with little distractions as well as planning things in advance so I don’t end up dealing with last minute chaos. To avoid being swamped, I have learnt to say no to things that are not important or otherwise delegate to others. When delegating to others, I have to make sure I give proper briefings and instructions to ensure expectations and deliverables are clear. A lot of frustration and stress can be avoided by investing in doing this properly.
How do you manage your work life balance?
Outside of work, I maintain a disciplined schedule of fitness (I see a personal trainer twice a week), practice yoga & meditation and also plan out my whole week’s meals on a Sunday. I also ensure I get plenty of sleep. All these practises mean my life is in general order and I can remain calm and collected.
I also draw the line on excessive work hours. Unless absolutely required, I don’t work too late nor do I check my emails during the weekend. I’m not productive after say 8pm so it’s better for everyone that I get ample rest and wake up fresh and be much more productive in the morning. If you make clear your boundaries from day 1 then it makes it hard for others to cross them. Most of time it’s never a case of others expecting you to work outside of hours, it’s likely that you didn’t draw the line enough and consequently condoned bad habits along the way.
ABOUT THE EA ROLE
How does your Assistant help you manage your workload, meetings, priorities and work-life balance?
Claire, my EA is a critical part of my team and plays a huge role in allowing me to be effective and productive. As I manage so many teams across two locations, there are so many meetings and work blocks that need to be tightly scheduled and prioritised. A lot of the time, timelines on projects can change which means my diary needs to be turned upside down to accommodate. I also have to take lots of calls remotely so it’s always a challenge juggling logistics and agendas and so on. On the flip side, I’m actually quite independent and whether good or bad, I often do a lot of things myself simply because I’m comfortable with technology and like to just get things done then and there. I think Claire would love to help me with more so is actively trying to pry tasks from me at times! I never ask Claire to help me with any personal duties or errands (as I said I’m very organised so I don’t need this) but instead have her support me in really critical things – this also allows her to be focussed on tasks and responsibilities where she can learn and develop her skills.
What key qualities/traits do you look for in an Assistant?
Communication is key. I like to be constantly across lots of things so she needs to be informing me about the things I need to know – so there is some judgement required and we learn as we go. Also I have high standards for presentation and output so attention to detail is a must. It’s also important that they are able to build strong relationships with my direct reports and team members. Claire is an extension of me and often my team will go to Claire to find or access me so she needs to know when to open the gate, if one can use that analogy!
What do you think makes an Assistant successful in their role?
Same as any other role. You need to want to come to work and do the best you can. Do it with smarts, passion and resilience.
How do you build the relationship with your Assistant to gain a high level of respect & trust?
Actually I believe you need to just trust someone from day 1 – you should give everyone the benefit that they are trustworthy unless otherwise proven not the other way around. Over all the years that I’ve worked, the number of people who aren’t to be trusted are far outweighed by those who you can trust. Humans fundamentally are well intended and not out to be dishonest. Once the other person knows you trust them then the trust is reciprocated and respect is instant. If you have to make someone ‘prove’ themselves as trustworthy, the relationship is off to a rocky start.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to an Assistant who supports an executive like yourself?
Compliment my shoes. That gets you anything!
FASHION & FUN STUFF
Are your outfits well planned or do they come with less thought?
My outfits are determined by the weather (like is it rainy or really hot?) and what I have planned for the day (who am I meeting and does my day involve a lot of walking for example). I usually pick my outfits in the morning and it’s a ritual I really enjoy and have fun doing. I completely accept and appreciate my body shape and my height (I’m only 5’2”) so have learnt what silhouettes work and which don’t and buy accordingly. This means I always have something that suits me in the wardrobe – working for THE ICONIC helps of course! If I am at Head office, I usually wear a dress as it saves on the need and hassle to have to match a top to a bottom. Zip it up and add a pair of pointy toe pumps and you’re set. When I’m at the Fulfilment Centre I can dress much more casually as I have to wear a high vis vest and steel capped boots for safety reasons. I like that I have the two stark contrasts!
What was one must-have item that you bought this season?
Every season I invest in a new tote handbag for work – I think Saint Laurent and Bally do great ones for the working woman who carries her life around in her bag. A great bag makes you look super polished and put together. I also invest in great shoes – my favourites are by Gianvito Rossi and Aquazzura. Most of my clothing wardrobe is naturally from THE ICONIC – I love Rebecca Vallance, C&M and by Johnny but we stock over 800 brands so it’s kind of heaven.
What are your top five work wardrobe items that you couldn't live without?
1/ A quality bag 2/Comfortable but stylish pair of pumps 3/A killer dress that hides all sins 4/ A colourful statement coat in winter. 5/A piece of signature jewellery – mine are my pearl earrings which I wear every day and they go with everything.