Sree Menon is the CEO at Stealth Startup. A senior executive who drives expansion and scales businesses for start-ups and Fortune 500 companies by moving the organization from tactical, short-term opportunistic thinking to a long-term focused strategic vision.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Sree Menon: I am a Tech executive based in Silicon Valley. Most recently, I was COO at a discovery-based shopping marketplace called Tophatter, and before that was the GM @ eBay motors and Director Commercial online at Dell. Currently, I work with various Tech startups as an advisor to the Board and am a VC at a diversity fund called Neythri Futures Fund.
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Sree Menon: My father has been and continues to be the most influential person in my life. He was ahead of his time and believed in his daughters. I was absolutely the best in his eyes and he was always there for me and my sister and gave us unconditional love. This gave me a lot of confidence even very early in life and I was able to pursue a career and life that I defined, versus following a path set by the environment around me. From a small town in Northern India where women generally homemaker for a career to an Exec in Silicon Valley, it’s been an interesting journey.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Sree Menon: When I was at Tophatter the Discovery shopping marketplace, we were very significantly impacted by the pandemic. The majority of our sellers were in China and they simply could not ship products. Meanwhile, we shifted the volume to the US sellers, but soon after, the US sellers got impacted. We were facing crazy levels of demand but could not keep up with supply. We came up with several creative ways to continue shipping from china but it did impact customer experience and the majority of 2020 was spent in managing day-to-day versus looking out strategically.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Sree Menon: I see several interesting phenomena around me. 1) People are reevaluating their quality of life and work 2) Burnout is a real problem
Remote work suddenly revealed efficiencies that were hard to imagine till we implemented them. Now that people are used to commuting less, everyone is asking their employers to rethink old practices and many are beginning to go back to them. And having worked relentlessly and being drowned digitally, people are experiencing burnout. This is not a short-term impact and I believe that it will continue to stay even when companies find the right balance. The invasion of connectivity has serious consequences to people and society and we are just seeing the early signs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. How do you feel about this trend? Explain.
Sree Menon: I explained a few of these trends and rationale in my previous response to the question on the Great Resignation. In addition to the worker being more aware and informed of productivity and their impact on the company, they are also realizing that there is enough demand for them to be their bosses. Recent statistics show that the number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic. This is a very positive trend since all these players will continue to contribute to the economy.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Sree Menon: The age group of 30-45 years is arguably one of the toughest times in one’s lifetime. This is when most people have young families. It is also the time for the most time and investment in one’s career as they are critical years of productivity. It is also very likely that this group has responsibilities for their parents who are aging and need their attention. Companies who spend time understanding their employee’s needs and becoming flexible in their demands of time will be winners, Additionally companies will need to proactively help employees manage their mental health and burnout.
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Sree Menon: Work-life balance has been replaced by life. This is even more true post-pandemic with remote work and expectations of access going up. People are on their devices a lot, whether it is work-related or community-related, people are connected to their digital devices most of their waking hours. This adds to time poverty and stress. Often time poverty is perceived as an indicator of class, since time is invaluable and we have less of it, it indicates that the person is more valuable. I think it’s important to go back to the basics – find time to connect face to face vs digitally, create blocks in one’s calendar for focused work or to do nothing, set expectations of response times and availability. I predict that life will come back full circle and we will see people wanting to go back to a more simple life that is fulfilling.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Sree Menon: As mentioned in my previous responses, it’s important to understand the root cause of why people are reacting to this. way. Some common key themes are – Finding opportunities to strike on their own, the need for more flexibility & burnout.
For the first trend – as an employer, I would focus on giving my employees to the extent possible, the same experience they are seeking as a self-employed individual. This could be related to the need for flexibility, or because the employee would feel more valued if they were on their own or paid better. Creating a value-based organization and ensuring that every employee feels like they are the best version of themselves is a culture I recommend creating.
I have seen companies give out mental health days, giving individuals time off for mental health, offering benefits that help wellness, and creating days & hours with no meetings. Each company has to evaluate what works for them, but at the core, if an employer is kind and are perceived as one looking out for the employees, they will win the retention battle.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Sree Menon: Supply chain is a big issue and needs to be solved short term as well as for the long term.
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had 10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Sree Menon: I would break it up and spend it on – a) Invest like a VC b) Invest on nonprofits c) Book phenomenal vacations for the next 5 years
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sree Menon for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sree Menon or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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