In our regular series, industry big knobs take us back to their first jobs
Hi Laura! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Laura and I’m a combination of a strategy consultant, senior executive and angel investor. For the past two years, I have been CEO of The Little Gym Europe, which is the world’s leading franchise for child development. The philosophy is to create a non-competitive and nurturing environment where children can grow emotionally, physically and socially, through gymnastics.
What was your first McJob?
Working at Tie Rack, in Lyon, selling ties, scarves and sunglasses!
How long did you work there for?
Not very long — about a month. It was only a contract for the Christmas period when I was studying at EM Lyon Business School in France.
How did you get the job?
I just applied! I had very little experience, but because it was a very busy period, they still gave me the job.
What did you have to do?
Help customers buy their Christmas presents and help them find the right colour, style and size. I also had to tidy and clean the shop, and demonstrate the different ways to tie a tie: the classic knot, the Windsor, and the small knot.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
I had to stand on my feet a lot, which was not fun! It was also really cold because the shop owner insisted on leaving the door open because customers were more likely to come in to the shop, so it was freezing!
What skills did you learn that you might use today?
How to tie a tie, obviously! I also learned the art of selling. Many of the top jobs are selling roles. As a CEO, one of your most important jobs — besides taking care of your people — is to sell. Whether you’re in a law firm, a consulting firm, an entrepreneur, sales are a key driver of the business.
Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?
No. I moved to London twelve years ago, so I’m not really in touch.
Why is alumni so important in business?
In the digital world, you can connect with anybody. Having a network of real people with who you have meaningful connections can be quite rare. Being part of an alumni of people with who you have shared experiences is really precious — be it for advice, mentorship, feedback, recommendations or introductions.
What would happen if you went back and worked in Tie Rack today?
I’d analyse customer trends, product mix and profit margins and identify growth of new segments and new markets. I’d probably try to redesign the whole product range and company!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
Start your own business, align with your own values and be comfortable with uncertainty.