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SuiteWorld 2018: Hiring people is about more than just ability, says Rachel Zoe

NetSuite customer, fashion designer and CEO of Rachel Zoe explains that part of entrepreneurship is hiring people who fill the gaps you leave behind, and that in doing so passion can be more important than ability

Entrepreneurs should consider people’s passion for work as well as skill sets when hiring, Rachel Zoe, CEO of fashion brand Rachel Zoe told the SuiteWorld 2018 conference in Vegas.

The entrepreneur and fashion designer, who claimed she didn’t intend to start a business when she first started as a stylist, said it is important to focus just as much on people’s attitude as on their skill sets when hiring.

She said success for entrepreneurs is about surrounding yourself with good people. “It’s people who want to be there, want to deliver and are excited about what you’re doing,” she said. “As much – if not more than – actual ability and capability, because I think that can be learned and the others can’t.”

In the technology industry, firms are increasingly looking for people with a mix of skills, including technical skills and softer skills such as communication and teamwork, which are harder to teach.

Zoe said she doesn’t believe a CEO can “be really good at everything” and that part of building a business is knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are.

She also said that for many startups there is a pattern of having smaller teams without defined company roles, leaving one person doing several things which may not always be within their strengths, something she warned against.

“They don’t necessarily know their responsibilities and the lines get blurred.” she said. “The way we approach business today is so different to the way we approached business when I started.”

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Brand loyalty is becoming harder to implement as technology is putting the customer in control of their own shopping experience and allowing them to be more fickle, and Zoe emphasised that when developing a business, you have to ask yourself what your brand means to people.

She said: “What is it you want to put out there that’s different to what everyone else is?”

For Zoe, using social media to connect to people has been instrumental to developing her business, but she claimed to begin with social media was something that she “feared and didn’t understand”.

In many cases, customers claim they are more loyal to a brand if they are able to reach them via social media, and younger people want to be able to buy products directly through social channels.

Communicating with the target audience

Being able to communicate directly with customers and a potential target audience rather than through more traditional means such as television and magazines is “incredible”, said Zoe.

“Ultimately I wanted more connectivity to people, and with the launch of social media and the internet craze it was something I was just so excited by, and I just had be a part of it and figure it out as I was going,” she said.

Zoe said it is almost not an option now for businesses not to try and connect with their target audience through social media.

“I think if you don’t play, you really suffer, and I’m seeing that across all aspects of the industry in fashion, content and commerce, because they’re all connected,” said Zoe.

Much like other disruptive technologies, social media is a new technology that some brands are still only experimenting with, and Zoe said as businesses grow and develop, they must try new things, “reset, reboot and go deeper into the business”.

“It’s scary and amazing in the same breath, because you have to be nimble and you have to change. If you don’t change with the time, you will never win” she said.

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