Jessica Postiglione of Bonny: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite Executive
There is no playbook for being a CEO. As a Founder/CEO, you have to set the course for the business, be an innovator and often times contrarian. You need to be — or become — comfortable with ambiguity and have a deep reservoir of resilience.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Postiglione.
Jessica Postiglione is the Founder & CEO of Bonny, the only deliciously clean and sustainably packaged fiber supplements brand on the market. Previously, she was the CEO & Co-Founder of OLIKA, a design-forward brand reinventing hand sanitizer. Before making the leap to entrepreneurship, Jessica was a finance professional and corporate strategist. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Harvard Business School.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
As far back as I can remember, I have been interested in business. At one point in high school, I even tried selling homemade arts and crafts. It did not pan out as well as hoped, but a number of lessons were learned in the process!
After college, I was an investment banker and held a number of corporate strategy roles post-business school. I always wanted to do something entrepreneurial and I am now on my second venture, Bonny.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Being an investment banking analyst prepared me for getting through many unexpected challenges. One time, before everything was digital, we were working on a deal around the end of year. We had to physically print, bind and mail the presentations overnight so that recipients could review the materials before a meeting right after the New Year.
Cut to a colleague and I outside a closed FedEx location with a dozen boxes in our arms. We called every possible shipper, until we found one open 15 miles away. Crisis adverted or so we thought. In the end, the carrier didn’t deliver the packages on time due to shipping errors. It was a precursor to the wild ride that is entrepreneurship.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. To me, this quote speaks to relying less on academic scenarios of what may happen, and instead focusing on real world dynamics.
Years ago when Internet connectivity wasn’t as commonplace, I worked on a project designing a new digital service. Hours were spent designing — and redesigning — the look of this app. We launched a pilot program with a potential customer and delivered multiple devices with the app installed to their office. However, there was a major delay from the start. Testers couldn’t access the app because they didn’t know the building’s Wi-Fi password. Common sense would have told us to ask about Internet availability earlier in the product’s development.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?
The Method Method by the founders of Method Products. It is a very candid story about Method’s growth as well as a deep dive into their unique approach to building a great workplace culture.
I had a manager, now mentor, who would begin interdepartmental meetings with a lighthearted quiz on anything from identifying different types of animals to naming state capitals. It was a way to have all attendees participate at the start of the meeting and fostered a culture of openness where all voices were heard and respected.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Bonny offers customers a new take on an old friend, fiber supplements. We worked hard to find the right suppliers who could bring our natural and great tasting fiber powder to market. For example, we partnered with an excellent formulator who has 25 plus years experience in dietary supplements. Customers have responded with sheer joy and expressed to us how our fiber has changed their lives. The knowledge that we are improving the health of countless Americans makes all the hard work worth it.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There will be ups and downs but look for those opportunities to develop new skills. For years, I thought about becoming an entrepreneur, but never did. I kept telling myself wait until you have the perfect idea, but then I realized that very few business ideas begin as perfect. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. To mitigate the risk, consider starting a business as a side-hustle, and if the venture becomes meaningful, then make it your full-time priority.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
This is a great question. As an entrepreneur you will receive a lot of advice and it’s your job to cut through the noise. Founders inherently know their businesses the best. Tactics that grew sales for a tech start-up may not be applicable to a mass toothbrush brand.
One piece of advice, that numerous people gave me years ago, was to create a viral video, similar to those created by Poo-purri and Purple Mattress. I was hesitant because my gut told me to spend the marketing dollars elsewhere. We produced a lovely video, but it didn’t go viral (and trust me we tried). The video’s development and marketing utilized resources that could have been better allocated elsewhere. Takeaway: listen to your instincts.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Having a sense of adventure. I’ve been to 47 countries and counting. I’ve been lost in foreign lands where I didn’t speak or understand the language, and been able to find my way (often with the assistance of lovely locals). Successfully leading a company means being able to find a path forward even when the path isn’t clearly marked.
Being a good listener. I’ve been told I’m a thoughtful listener. It has served me well as it is a great way to build trust and rapport with others. Listening has proven very useful during complex negotiations where I’ve found common ground with my counterparty that others may not have.
Being curious. I’ve always been a curious person and wanted to know why and how. I am a researcher at heart. As a business leader, I prioritize keeping up-to-date on market trends and strategies like how to utilize the latest social media platforms to build brand awareness. This keeps our business innovating and moving forward.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?
The CEO is the ultimate decision maker and the strategic leader. This individual keeps their team aligned towards a common goal, adjusting along the way as needed. The CEO is also tasked with planning ahead to anticipate roadblocks before they appear.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
One myth is that the CEO makes every decision. It would be highly inefficient for one individual to make every single decision. As CEO, you build a team around you and empower those individuals to make decisions on your behalf for the company. Delegating also allows your employees to develop their leadership skills and frees up your time as a CEO to focus on other pressing matters.
What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?
A common leadership mistake is dictating, not listening. It’s your job as a leader to understand what happened before you in order to determine what needs to be improved and what doesn’t. This involves creating an open dialogue where the team feels comfortable sharing their ideas and their concerns. I truly believe you can’t over communicate which helps avoid any confusion and diffuses any mistrust.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Based on previous responses, it may not be surprising that I would have to say managing interpersonal relationships. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. As a C-level executive it’s your role to empower and mentor your team in order for the business to thrive. However, managing people is hard. It involves difficult conversations, especially when someone is underperforming. The best leaders are able to artfully hand these types of conversations with openness and mutual respect.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- There is no playbook for being a CEO. As a Founder/CEO, you have to set the course for the business, be an innovator and often times contrarian. You need to be — or become — comfortable with ambiguity and have a deep reservoir of resilience.
- CEOs have bad days too. I remember my friends reacting to my new role as CEO with a lot of enthusiasm and remarking how great it must be to be the boss all the time. It is an amazing role, but not all days feel that amazing. C-Suite executives have days when nothing seems to be going right too.
- The buck stops with you, always. For better or worse, even if it was outside your control, the health of the company is on your shoulders. It’s a heavy weight and one you have to be mentally prepared to carry, which brings me to the next point…
- Prioritize your mental health. I know C-suite executives who employ an executive coach as a means to stay mentally sharp. However, it can be as simple as prioritizing a “go-dark” hour during the day to step away you’re your business and focus on recharging.
- Find a community to vent to and with. I’ve been lucky to meet other amazing female founders in the consumer products space. We lean on each other, sharing advice and sometimes just vent. We’ve created a community of likeminded people who understand and empathize.
In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
I try to emulate the outstanding managers I’ve had during my career. As I mentioned previously, I had a manager who would start every meeting with a fun ice breaker. The best managers I’ve had were able to determine each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and design projects around them. They looked to elevate and develop talent, and in turn their teams were high performing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe in the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated. It’s simple, but yet so powerful. If we all treated each other with mutual respect and looked to support, not discourage, I believe that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people.
How can our readers further follow you online?
@trybonny across social.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!