5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO, With Kyle Hjelmeseth CEO of God & Beauty
“There will (almost) always be time. Immediately upon going full time with my business I overworked myself. I thought, okay, I need to accomplish everything now, and make everyone happy. This view simply isn’t realistic, especially when you have a family to take care of. Soon enough my wife was feeling neglected, our cat was angry with me, and I was thinking to myself every day, “what more can I do?” This is also how you achieve burnout quickly. There will always be time to get what you need to get done, done, as long as you clearly communicate expectations to those affected by your work.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Hjelmeseth CEO of God & Beauty. God & Beauty is an influencer management and creative design firm, partnering with the most desired and unique content creators throughout Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Dallas, and the world. They have worked with clients from CHANEL to Teva, Estee Lauder to BareMinerals, and many others across a wide spectrum of industries.
What is your “backstory”?
“I’ve come a long way from cheese sandwiches” has become my most recent mantra. I am a guy from humble backgrounds, single Mother for half of my childhood, living in and out of trailer parks, in rural Washington State. Growing up I was lucky to have an incredibly supportive Mother, and eventually Father, who worked hard and taught me the value of getting my hands dirty, literally. My parents worked small town jobs while I was in highschool, but were also entrepreneurs themselves. I should mention that I went to highschool at Forks High School, which will ring a bell to Twilight fans. A small, sleepy Northwest community, where I graduated with 68 other individuals. Just like everyone else, we had hard times, and great times. My mother’s saying, “we may not be rich, but we’re rich in love,” always stuck with me.
Because of my broader family of entrepreneurs, college was not optional, and also filled with high aspirations. My cousin took me on tours of Ivies in my early teens, setting the bar high. I settled on Purdue in Indiana, as it was a completely new adventure (the Midwest), and the name cause a huge commotion when I got accepted. It took everything my parents had, and a lot of private loans, to get me through such a prestigious university. The time I spent there was worth every penny.
Considering that pretty much my entire family is made up of entrepreneurs it is surprising to me, sometimes, that it took me this long to start my own thing. My grandparents were in fashion jewelry for a long time, and had an home based business, which definitely left an impression. Going back to my mother’s words, and her involvement in various community outreach programs, she helped teach me how to lead with empathy. While lacking artistic talents, I’ve found my own way to influence thousands, if not millions, through having my own influence over influencers!
God & Beauty is an influencer management firm first and foremost, meaning that we manage the day-to-day of influencers signed to our team. We handle their emails, accounting, contracts, and introductions to brand partners. One of our specialties, because we work closely with a small / select group of talent, is bringing their ideas to life. Our group of creatives may have a trip planned, or a creative campaign idea, we work to package that and find the right brand partner. Ultimately we’re working with talented, creative individuals who have developed a story, and can sell products and destinations into those stories to enrich marketing plans and strategies.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began your company?
If this isn’t an anecdote about the power of a hello, I don’t know what would be! In the Early spring of 2016 I was driving down Beverly Boulevard (busy street) in Los Angeles, when I saw a series of signs that read “Coco Loves LA,” with a date and the CHANEL logo. I got excited, as obviously something big was happening, and I had to know what it was. The summer prior I had worked a deal out for a CHANEL feature that included an Instagram placement by Stephanie Liu of Honey & Silk. From that experience I knew that I had a CHANEL contact in my rolodex, so I took this opportunity reach out, and see if I could get more information on what this “Coco Loves LA” campaign was all about. Long story short, the gracious press manager at CHANEL invited Stephanie and I to attend a VIP event, where we met the CHANEL Beauty team. Personally I lead with hugs over handshakes, handshakes are overrated, and if you know me, you know how personal I like to be. That simple notice of a billboard, and quick email follow-up ended up leading to the CHANEL team inviting Stephanie (and myself) to visit their flower fields in the south of France. The trip was a dream come true. We learned how they grow and pick the special roses that go into CHANEL №5, and got to be in on the release of their brand new CHANEL №5 fragrance!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This year we had the opportunity to examine society around us, and our position in the marketplace, and say that we have a broader role to play. In September we began the Influence Love initiative, with the support of our team of influencers and specific partners. Influence Love is about using the influence that our team has to change the nature of the conversation in society right now. Where we might feel that news is negative, sentiment is negative toward things like politics, minority groups, etc. we can choose to, well, influence love.
By sharing the Influence Love message we’ve been able to raise money for the Anti-defamation League, UNICEF and the American Red Cross. This is influence in action, as the message comes from our team down to their followers. We bring goodness to the world by focusing more broadly than mere product placement, but how lives are truly affected by a change of tone.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
1. Stress: The stress you face as an employee is markedly different than what you face as the CEO or owner of a company. Sure, as CEO you stress about your company’s success, the success of those you employ, but it’s a motivating stress that is largely positive. Whereas when you are an employee your stress is making sure that you do good work for the benefit of others. The difference is being judged top down or bottom up, if that makes sense. I wish someone would have told me that my concept of stress would completely change if I owned my own company, I may have started it sooner!
2. Process: Building a process is the biggest necessity. You have to have a clear plan of attack for everything in your day. From how you approach your inbox in the morning, how you review contracts, how you reply to standard requests. Contracts are boring, but when I deviate from my process of marking certain key pieces of information something always gets missed when it comes time to execute a project. If you’re not diligent about your workflow it’ll show, both internally and externally, quickly.
3. Time: There will (almost) always be time. Immediately upon going full time with my business I overworked myself. I thought, okay, I need to accomplish everything now, and make everyone happy. This view simply isn’t realistic, especially when you have a family to take care of. Soon enough my wife was feeling neglected, our cat was angry with me, and I was thinking to myself every day, “what more can I do?” This is also how you achieve burnout quickly. There will always be time to get what you need to get done, done, as long as you clearly communicate expectations to those affected by your work.
4. Power: Along with the notion that I had to accomplish everything immediately, and work to make everyone happy, I wasted a lot of time giving the power I hold as a CEO away. I made a lot of things happen for others that weren’t necessarily in my client’s best interest, as I thought I was building relationships that would pay off down the line. Remember that as the owner you have so many bargaining chips, especially if someone wants what you have. I had to learn pretty quickly that the more favors you do, the less leverage you have.
5. Clients: My clients are always right, and the clients we serve externally are always right. Everyone is entitled to their feelings about how a project has gone, good or bad. Respecting the fact that we all have different viewpoints will help you come up with more solutions than problems, and generally keep your clients on both sides of line happier with your performance.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Pierre Bergé. I’m obsessed with the book, The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake, which chronicles the life of Yves Saint Laurent and tenuous relationship with Karl Lagerfeld. A great read for anyone, no matter your interest in fashion or not, as the excesses of their lifestyles in the 60s ,70s, and so on, are painted with visceral language that makes you want to be in their stories. Pierre Berge, being Yves Saint Laurent’s husband would have been my top pick for lunch, just to hear his viewpoint on their lavish, and insane, lifestyles in the heyday of couture. Unfortunately I missed my chance, as Pierre passed away just last year, so my next pick would of course be Karl Lagerfeld.