Lulu Liang: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became the CEO of Luxy Hair
I believe that having a great team is the most important part of any business. Once you solve the “who problem”, you solve the “what problem”. Delegation is a big part of leadership; you have to realize that you can’t do everything alone. It’s important to let you and empower your team. I’m super grateful for the amazing team we have at Luxy Hair. I’ve spent a lot of my career hiring and my biggest takeaway here is that you should always hire by core values over experience. You can teach someone Excel but it’s much harder to teach someone to take ownership of their mistakes. This is how we hire, fire, and promote with Luxy now. But there were earlier times that I should’ve trusted my gut more.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lulu Liang.
As a business executive who believes in taking full ownership of one’s career, and embraces the power of committing to infinite learning and personal and professional growth, Lulu Liang has built a stellar track record well before the age of 30.
Currently, the CEO of Luxy Hair, a brand she helped build to 300K+ customers in 165+ countries, with four million+ engaged followers on social media, Liang is proud of her “humble” roots at the company. Starting out at age 23 as an assistant, Liang was determined to excel at every task that was handed to her, and quickly rose through the ranks. From the very beginning, she dug in and established the habit of bringing her bosses solutions to the business challenges they faced and embraced the company as her own from day one.
Obsessed with “people and processes,” Liang developed and streamlined many of the operations that moved Luxy to the forefront of the hair extensions market. Growing her team from two to 20, Liang also established a major presence for Luxy among leading fashion and beauty publications as well as an A-list celebrity clientele that includes Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian West, Hailey Bieber and many others.
On Liang’s watch, Luxy has been named one of the Top 50 Best Places to work in Canada, and is also a certified Great Place to Work for Millennials, Inclusion, Retail and Managed by Women. Business has more than quadrupled under her leadership, and Liang recently led the successful sale of the company to Beauty Industry Group (BIG), a U.S. beauty conglomerate. Staying on as CEO, she works closely with BIG to ensure Luxy continues to serve its customer base and maintains its high-profile.
Prior to Luxy Hair, Liang was a Management Consultant at Accenture, tasked with strategy for numerous Fortune 100 Tech Companies and retailers.
A native of Beijing who moved to Toronto at age seven, Liang holds a degree in Commerce and Mathematics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, graduating in the top 10% of her class. An avid traveler, she resides in Toronto.
Lulu is also the co-founder of Evergreen Journals Inc, a Toronto-based lifestyle company that creates tools to help you live mindfully. Its first product, the Habit Journal, is a daily journal that helps you tune in, unplug, and recharge by providing tangible tips and strategies to make your best habits the ones you do daily. The Habit Journal was conceptualized from Lulu’s personal experience of stress and anxiety during what was supposed to be the happiest time in her life. It was through daily rituals and journaling that Lulu was able to live life more intentionally while understanding the importance of habits. The Habit Journal helps you make intentional habits so that you get the most of your habits, and puts pen to paper on how to visualize your goals.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started off my career in corporate as a Management Consultant at Accenture. I thought I had my whole life figured out. I would stay at Accenture for 2 years, go to the states and get my MBA from an ivy-league business school, come back to consulting for two years so they would pay for my MBA and then move into an executive role climbing the corporate ladder at a Conde Nast or fashion house.
Unfortunately, when I first started in the position I worked so hard for at Accenture, I realized that I hated it. It was crushing to not like something I’ve worked so hard for so long for. I guess you could call it my “quarter-life crisis”. I spent a lot of time soul searching which included watching a lot of YouTube videos. That’s when I discovered Luxy Hair.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
I started off with the title of “Operations Assistant” but I was expected to lead the team. It was a challenge, in the beginning, to not let my title limit my role. You act in the role that you want, not in the role that you are in.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Taking extreme ownership and treating the business like it was my own since day 1.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- You need to have a great support system in your personal life.
- It’s really lovely to have a peer at work and to help each other get through the bad times and celebrate the good. I had an amazing group of friends and peers at Accenture that made work so much more enjoyable. This is pretty much impossible to find in the job now. As a CEO, you have three main stakeholders: 1. The Customers, 2. Your Team, 3. The Board. Obviously, you cannot complain or vent about daily frustrations to any of them. It’s really important to build out a strong support network in your personal life. I have amazing friends, a great family and the most supportive significant other who I would not be here without.
2. You can’t be friends with your team.
- Creating a workplace that was honest and without corporate politics is super important to me. I want everyone to be able to come into work every day as their 100% true self. Because of this, we’ve created a pretty casual culture at work. I’ve personally definitely crossed the line between a “boss” and “friend” multiple times. I’ve learned that it’s possible to have fun and be authentic but still be professional and know where to draw the line.
3. Spend more time on your external stakeholders.
- As a CEO, you have both internal and external stakeholders. I spent the first couple of years in my role focusing deep within the business and heads down with the team. However, I’m in a unique position to be sharing the amazing things we are doing internally with the public. I’m starting to shift some of my focus here now.
4. Move fast with decisions; don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.
- Jeff Bezos famously cautioned leaders to make decisions with 70% of the info you wish you had. “If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow” is what he wrote in his 2016 letter to shareholders. This was a great learning for me as I’m very analytical by nature — I even have a degree in mathematics. You need to trust your gut and give clear direction to your team. There is a cost of inaction that is often ignored.
5. Hire by core values and not by experience
- I believe that having a great team is the most important part of any business. Once you solve the “who problem”, you solve the “what problem”. Delegation is a big part of leadership; you have to realize that you can’t do everything alone. It’s important to let you and empower your team. I’m super grateful for the amazing team we have at Luxy Hair. I’ve spent a lot of my career hiring and my biggest takeaway here is that you should always hire by core values over experience. You can teach someone Excel but it’s much harder to teach someone to take ownership of their mistakes. This is how we hire, fire, and promote with Luxy now. But there were earlier times that I should’ve trusted my gut more.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Having a great morning and evening routine really helps you reset here no matter what chaos arises in the day. I really believe that your ideal life starts with your ideal day and a lot of that is in your control. This is why I created a tool that helps you build lasting habits that can get you one step closer to your ideal day every day. You can check out the Habit Journal on our website: www.evergreenjournals.com.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
Creating a great company that’s a great place to work with a great culture. Also creating amazing products that are curated and customers absolutely love.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on Instagram @lululiang.