Your mood, as the leader, determines the mood of the entire company. I had a crazy wake up call when I became the CEO of my first company, YesTo. As any startup does, we were going through some internal challenges, and I found myself walking into the office in a glum mood. Sitting on my desk was a letter from one of our team members that said, “Dear Ido, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re letting me down. I joined this company because of your excitement and passion for what you do. Your mood over the past few weeks is really bringing the mood of the company down, and we need you to step up and lead.” I thought that was a brave move, to be so bold with the CEO of the company, and it taught me that like any CEO, what you exude and the way you present yourself is one of the most important things for a company’s morale.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ido Leffler, Co-Founder and CEO of Yoobi. Ido Leffler’s passion for giving and social good is central to who he is and what the companies he has co-founded stand for. Leffler uses Yoobi as a social good platform, to give back in a unique and impactful way. From fighting hunger and supporting the next generation of female leaders, to providing much-needed school supplies, Leffler prides himself on building brands centered around three key pillars: incredible people, brilliant products, and awesome causes. And it shows. Ido has been recognized as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s “50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs,” is among Women’s Wear Daily’s 12 Beauty Industry Leaders Under 40, and was presented the “Innovator Award” by the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which recognizes individuals and corporations who have made significant contributions to communities with the goal of promoting positive social impact. Leffler is also the co-author of Get Big Fast and Do More Good, Start Your Business, Make It Huge, and Change the World.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The idea for Yoobi was inspired by my mum who was a school teacher. The most she made as a teacher was $35,000 in Australian dollars per year, which is $25,000 US dollars, and I remember her spending money out of her own pocket for her classroom’s school supplies. Today, as we know, the average school teacher often spends more than $500 dollars out of his or her own pocket each year to provide for their classroom, and that’s just not right.
Knowing that, I wanted to start a brand that not only every child would love, but one that would also help teachers across the country. Our buy one, give one model, means less children have to worry about having the school supplies they need for the year, and less teachers have to continue paying out of pocket for their students and classrooms.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
One of the major challenges I encountered when starting the company was figuring out how to build a team of people that cared as much about the mission and vision as I did. When you’re starting a company that has a goal to make a difference in people’s lives, you need to have people around the table that care as much as you do and believe in the mission and vision as much as you do.
We learned that for Yoobi, it’s always going to be about the give, but it’s also about having the right dynamic; excited people behind the scenes who are going to continue to push to make a difference.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Success is a really interesting term. I think there are three factors that contributed to my success.
The first is my wonderful wife and three gorgeous children. Without their support, I couldn’t have accomplished what I have so far, or continue to accomplish more. As a CEO, you’re spending countless hours working in the office, getting on and off planes, really living and breathing your business. So in my case, having a supportive family is critically important to my success.
The second is building the right team and surrounding myself with people willing to develop and grow with me.
And the third, which we’ve been fortunate to have along the way, are incredible retail partners that have been critical in shaping the success of Yoobi. From day one, Yoobi was extremely lucky to have the massive support of Target behind us. Today we work with a great group of additional retailers — including Target, Walmart, CVS, Amazon, Costco and Urban Outfitters — that believe in the mission of the company and where its going.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- The first thing I wish someone told me before becoming a CEO is that your mood, as the leader, determines the mood of the entire company. I had a crazy wake up call when I became the CEO of my first company, YesTo. As any startup does, we were going through some internal challenges, and I found myself walking into the office in a glum mood. Sitting on my desk was a letter from one of our team members that said, “Dear Ido, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re letting me down. I joined this company because of your excitement and passion for what you do. Your mood over the past few weeks is really bringing the mood of the company down, and we need you to step up and lead.” I thought that was a brave move, to be so bold with the CEO of the company, and it taught me that like any CEO, what you exude and the way you present yourself is one of the most important things for a company’s morale.
- I wish someone had told me how important it is to have strong business partners along for the ride. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have had my business partners throughout my journey. In Yoobi’s case, being able to build such amazing partnerships with retailers has really strengthened the business and I do not take that for granted.
- I wish people had told me to play the long game. Very often, when you first start as a CEO, every decision seems huge. Thinking longer term alleviates some of the pressure from making daily decisions and helps you build a company for the future.
- I would tell this to anyone starting a business, and I wish someone would have told me — your partners and team are your lifeblood, so you have to be constantly open and honest. Continue to be 100 percent open and honest about your journey, your problems, your concerns and what excites you.
- I continue to work at this, but I wish someone would have told me to celebrate the little wins. As a CEO, you forget to celebrate the little wins and you just move on to the next task at hand. Life is about enjoying every win — and that’s advice not just for other CEOs but advice I share with my children as well.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Celebrating successes and continuing to be social with the people you work with is so important. It’s something the Yoobi team does incredibly well. It’s also important to take personal time for yourself. For me, personal time is Sunday mornings. Until at least 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I will not check my email or do any work unless someone calls with an emergency. Having that morning with my wife and children to just breathe is so very important to me and my overall success. Try to take time to let your brain have a break.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The first are my business partners who have been incredible supporters along the way. I think if you can find business partners who care as much about the business as you do, it can be magic.
The second is a woman by the name of Jill Sando, who is one of the lead merchants at Target and put Yoobi front and center in its category in Target stores. Jill has been an incredible advocate and friend to Yoobi; I think of her as Yoobi’s Fairy Godmother. She understood what we were trying to do as a brand, and shared in that belief and passion.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Personally, my goal and dream in life is to show my daughters and their friends that they can achieve anything they want to if they put their minds to it. They can do anything in this life just by being good, being focused, and having passion. Of course there will be bumps in the road, but if you are determined and you have the right people around you, you can do it.
Professionally, we have a goal at Yoobi. We want our school supplies to reach five million kids and I believe we’ll hit that goal this year. Every day we are solving a problem that at-risk kids in this country face and we can’t wait to impact more lives.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
As my legacy, I want to show my kids that you can have a wonderful life of business combined with a wonderful life of family. Family and community are the most important things in my life, and for many people, it feels like you need to pick one or the other. Hopefully, I will prove that you’re able to build a successful business without sacrificing spending quality time with those you love. That’s what my parents taught me, and I hope to teach my children.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
1. I’ve always had this crazy idea, and if anyone would like to jump on it, I’m happy to get behind it! Often we forget that as human beings, we all ultimately want the same thing. We all want to wake up in a safe environment, feel good around the people we love, and when our kids are growing up, we want to send them off to school happy, healthy and safe. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for millions, if not billions, of people in this world, but I feel that deep down that’s something we all have in common. There are people in every country, regardless of race, religion or economic status, that have the same exact hopes as you and me.
2. Most people in the world have one common item in their closet — a white shirt. My idea is for people around the world to come together on one day of the year and wear a white shirt, signifying the desire for all to live a safe, healthy life. How lovely would it be to see all these people around the world show that regardless of the walls we build to divide us, we all have this one thing in common? Billions of people will feel more connected with one another. If I had all the time and resources in the world and the right people to do it, I’d love to organize this. This is an idea I’ve been holding onto for ten years; to look across borders and see that there are people who are simply that — people.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@idoleffler on Twitter & Instagram
Thank you for all of these great insights!