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Arianna Huffington: "Don't Hire Brilliant Jerks"

Career

Arianna Huffington spoke this week in New York to a crowd of entrepreneurs and admirers at CNBC's Iconic Tour about her business successes and failures, and why neither matter unless you're getting a good eight hour sleep.


Huffington, former Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, left the post last year in a move that shocked the global media. A serial entrepreneur, she wanted to move on and create a website that focused solely on health and wellness, which would in turn take the form of Thrive Global. Speaking about her entrepreneurial pursuits, Huffington bore a serious smile for much of her talk with CNBC's Andrew Sorkin. While Sorkin tried unambiguously to elucidate the failures and mistakes Huffington had made throughout her years as an entrepreneur, from investments to hiring faux-pas, she effortlessly bounced off all negativity to provide solid, positive advice for those aspiring entrepreneurs in the crowd. Hire well, nap well, and don't let a mistake (or multiple mistakes) get in the way of future success. Below are our five takeaways from the talk that you can watch here.

Interview Personally

Of the 75 people at Thrive Global, not one got into their position without first facing down the eponymous Huffington herself. While building her team, as with everyone, she's very careful to hire people that ultimately she wants to work with, rather than needing to work with. One of her pet peeves are people that talk behind their co-workers backs, so she tries to eliminate them from the process early on. Her favorite interview question is "Where do you see yourself in five years?" because, you can then identify where their heart is and whether or not they view the job as a stepping stone rather than a permanent, long-term position. She also advises to "only interview when you're recharged," otherwise, there's no telling who might hire in a half-awake state.

Don't view failure as a problem

"I have an interesting relationship to risk and failure," Huffington began, before telling the crowd that it was her mother who instilled this sense of security with failure rather than against it - for, she insists, it's the failures that make a business. "Failure is not the opposite of success, it's a stepping stone to success," she said nodding to the start-ups that fail because of their inability to look beyond a bump or a setback in their road. Although she couldn't (or wouldn't) recall many of her failures for the hungry crowd, she was very humble about the fact that all of her mistakes had made her businesses that much richer today.

Andrew Sorkin and Arianna Huffington. Iconic Tour 2017

Don't hire brilliant jerks

"The no dumb jerks rule is easy, the harder rule is no brilliant jerks," Huffington remonstrated with Sorkin, continuing, "often you come across people who are brilliant who you know are going to be great, but you know they are going to be toxic for the culture." She is completely opposed to the culture of "top performers" whereby a singular person excelling in their position can often be detrimental to the team because of a pompous and/or braggadocios attitude that inevitably creates a muddied team atmosphere. #teamwork is a Huffington essential.

There is no age limit to entrepreneurship

Huffington at 66, posited that when you're older, in fact, "it's a great time to launch something new." Having the opportunity to start over with Thrive Global, she positively jumped, knowing that her name was on the door at The Huffington Post, and all too aware of how often media start-ups fail. Her age was not a factor at all, and incidentally it is this, and her years of experience that she attributes to how well Thrive Global is doing today.

Sleep is essential to success

Huffington was adamant about this one above all. Sleep, she said, was a prominent factor to her success, and she is currently hoping to extend this Huffpo/Thrive Global ethos into her involvement with Uber. Ironically, it was announced at press time today that Travis Kalanick, who Huffington spoke of at the talk as needing meditation and help getting into a meditation cycle, is indeed stepping down from his position as Uber CEO,

The nap rooms that The Huffington Post became famous for years ago, are going to be as common as conference rooms soon, Huffington believes. Nap rooms and meditation rooms, she posits, are essential to boost productivity and help alleviate workplace stress because you can remove yourself from the office environment, from emails and phone calls in order to "recharge" and recuperate before returning to tackle the rest of your workload.

Huffington said that it was "amazing" how differently Kalanick would make decisions after he'd had a decent night of sleep, and a happier CEO would correspond to a happy company. Would it be so bold as to attribute Huffington's sleepy influence to Kalanick's stepping down? Who knows..

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How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!