Editor's note: We asked noted entrepreneurs to reflect on what they wish they'd known starting out. Jessica Alba co-founded the Honest Company, a maker of household and personal care products, in 2011.
Last year, the company hit $300 million in revenue but also faced a number of challenges, including acquisition talks with Unilever that ultimately fell through and negative press stemming from lawsuits over product ingredients and effectiveness. In mid-March, Honest replaced e-commerce veteran and CEO Brian Lee with Nick Vlahos, who previously oversaw the natural personal care products business at the Clorox Company and will help Honest reposition itself as a more traditional packaged goods company.
Below, Alba looks back at the beginning and reflects on how she's changed as a leader.
On the advice she would give herself if she could go back to day one of starting the Honest Company:
Process is so important. If we would have had processes laid out from day one on certain things, we would have streamlined and been more efficient across everything. When we got our first warehouse, we had no idea how big a warehouse to have or how many employees to hire. We had only three part-time employees in the beginning, so all the founders were going down to the warehouse to help pack boxes on the weekends. Of course, now you tend to look at those days of not sleeping and grinding as "the good old days." But it would have been helpful to have had more strategy from the outset. Even just with decision making. There needs to be a process for who should be in the room when a decision is made. Every department needs a seat at the table. You have to think about what's the tail of this decision, not just the head of the decision.
On the tipping point for when her startup had to act like a bigger company:
For us, that happened after about a year. That's when our B2B business was growing rapidly. We hadn't yet launched our retail partnerships, but we were in conversations. When you have more than 100 employees, they crave strategy and alignment around a singular vision.
On whether or not her younger self would have actually done anything differently, knowing what she knows now:
You have to learn by doing it. I couldn't have come to this place in my life without going through the growing pains.
On the decision she regrets the most in Honest Company's early days:
The thing I regret the most is not owning that this company was my decision, and letting the messaging of where the business was going strategically get away from me a little bit. To the press, we were a baby company. I never thought to build a baby company--I always wanted to build a company that stands for health, wellness, education, and community with products across many categories. That was why we launched with cleaning products and personal care products along with baby. But that messaging got away from me. I was playing more, "Hey, I'm an actress, and I had this idea, and I'm just so happy to be here." But I know I'm more than an actress. I know I'm smart, and I know this was my idea.
I also allowed other people to take credit for the business. I was out there doing all the interviews, but I just never took credit for anything. I was the one telling the world about the company, but I kept saying, "Oh, I'm not the business-savvy one. It's my business partners who are." It was all of us coming to the table. But ultimately, I was the one who assembled the team.
On getting over weaknesses and becoming more confident:
I would try to trust my gut more and not be so insecure as the only woman among the C-level execs. I was insecure about the things I wasn't good at. I would allow people who didn't necessarily know any more than me to take the power. Now I'm really transparent about what I don't know, and I'm cool with asking questions. Sometimes, it's trusting your gut and running with an idea--or admitting that no one knows the answer but committing to banging your heads together until you figure it out.
On the skill that took her years to get right:
I'm always trying to learn and grow--but I do have drive. I guess I'm sort of relentless. I say the same thing over and over again until people figure it out, but I've learned to say the same thing many different ways to people. I can read if someone is a creative thinker, logical and pragmatic, or numbers focused. I can mold what I'm trying to say to the way the person thinks. You know, I'm an actor--I read people well.
On the advice she would give to her kids:
I would tell my girls, know what you're good at, and know what you're not good at. Don't pretend you're something that you're not. Always ask for help. The smartest people ask questions; the people who are the most ignorant think they know it all. Above all, I want them to wake up every day knowing they have value. I want them to experience joy.
On how to find joy:
I'm still figuring that out. My biggest thing is trying to be present in every circumstance of my life. It's hard not to think of everything you could have done better--at work, with the kids. It's especially hard when you have your office in your hands constantly yelling at you. I'm 100 percent on call as a boss, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend. But we need to be OK with disconnecting.
Russell Simmons is really trying to get me to meditate. He gave me his book, introduced me to his meditation coach. He tells me I will suffer if I don't figure out how to meditate. I don't disagree with him. It's hard to carve out the time and do it. I allow life to overwhelm me. And, you know, sometimes a glass of wine and Pinterest feels just as good.