Leadership Learnings on Necker Island – Part 2

After a fantastic first full day of our Leadership Gathering with Business Chicks and Virgin Unite, (you can read about that in Part 1) we woke up to this beautiful view.  With a start like this, how could our day be anything other than incredible?


And stunning as it was, the view was by no means the highlight of the day.  Our first speaker was Jane Wurwand, co-founder of Dermalogica along with her husband Raymond.  I had heard Jane speak previously at last year’s DWEN conference, and knew we were in for a real treat.

Jane is a brilliant story teller, and wove her message around an analogy that I absolutely loved.  She spoke of her belief that life provides many opportunities and experiences, and each of these form dots on a page in the manner of a child’s dot to dot colouring book.  The more dots you have on the page, the easier it is to see the emergence of the bigger picture created by joining those dots.  This really resonated for me, and I know I’ll use this concept time and time again.


Jane and Raymond have created a remarkable global business which not only sees their products as number one in salons globally but also trains over 100 000 skin therapists annually.  This in turn has seen them create a tribe of micro-entrepreneurs, with women owning 61% of all salon businesses globally, compared with 30% of businesses in the overall private sector.   Jane is incredibly passionate about the value of vocational training and apprenticeships, and its ability to provide people with a saleable skill set that can generate income.  She believes it’s time to break down the snobbery about university training and recognise the value that vocational training and community colleges deliver.  Students from the local community college joined us for Jane’s presentation, and I’m sure left feeling completely inspired about where their training could take them!

With a strong belief that social activism should align with business passion and purpose, Dermalogica have established FITE – Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship.  As Jane says, this is the story of the Dermalogica tribe, so they can identify with it and attach themselves to it.

Jane and Raymond are absolutely lovely people, and Stuart and I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with this gorgeous couple who share the same joy we take in being able to combine a work and love partnership.


Next up to speak was Alexa von Tobel, the pint sized powerhouse behind LearnVest, which is bringing financial planning to the 99% of the US population who need it most, but have previously had no easy way to access it.  When Alexa started working she realised that while she had a great education, she had zero resources for answering her financial questions – How much should she save? How many credit cards should she have? How much can she borrow? -and thought that if she had these questions, lots of other people must too.  That led to the creation of LearnVest, a financial planning product available 7 days a week, 7am-midnight, which now has 2 million users after raising $75M over 4 rounds and has just completed the largest fintech exit in a decade.


Alexa believes that financial planning is not a problem solved by making more money, its about helping people make better decisions with the money they’ve got, and she made the decision to sell the company at this time because of the opportunity it provided for the product to reach far more people more quickly.

Alexa is another fabulous story teller, and hearing her speak gave me a new perspective on a couple of previously unresolved matters I’d been struggling with –  and lunch in one of the Necker pools eating sushi served from a canoe while sipping a glass of champagne was the perfect place to give her a big hug and say thanks for the enlightenment!


Just when you might think that a day couldn’t get any better, next up was Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and founder and CEO of Automattic.  Matt’s goal in starting WordPress was to democratise publishing, and with a whopping 25% of the world’s websites (including this one!) now built on Word Press it’s fair to say he’s had a major impact.  Emma Isaacs interviewed Matt in a fascinating conversation, exploring his passion for open source software and the sharing economy.

 Matt believes that coding is the new literacy, and that even if you don’t actually code yourself you still need to understand the principles behind it.  I’ve been nagging Sascha and Sam to start learning coding for a while now, and after conversations with Matt I’m signing up for CodeAcademy myself and practicing what I’ve been preaching.

The success of Word Press is a great illustration of the economics of abundance, where the product is more valuable the more sites there are using it, and the enhancements created by the users, not just the employed developers, continue to make it better for the entire community.

Matt’s team are based all over the world,  removing any geographic discrimination basis in hiring.  He challenged our thinking around traditional recruitment and management methods, and I can’t wait to get back and talk to our HR team about some of the ideas chatting to him stimulated.

Three very different speakers, all with incredible and very different businesses, but each driven by an extraordinary sense of purpose and we were so fortunate to not only have the chance to hear their presentations, but to continue to chat to them over the remainder of our time on Necker.

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