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7 Questions with Daniala Santos De Canha Melman

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Daniala Santos De Canha Melman

Name: Daniala Santos De Canha Melman

Current title: COO (Chief Operating Officer)

Current organisation: Skin Creamery

I came from humble beginnings and I had to step up early on in life. I started working at the age of 16 and this really taught me the value of R1.
I had two jobs in college and I was in the top 10 of my year.
After graduation, I decided to go straight into sales. I realised early on that I have the gift of the gab and that I was actually quite a good negotiator.
I suppose spending my teens negotiating my outings with my mom who was super strict, prepared me for sales! :)
On a more serious note, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some really amazing mentors and some really tough ones, but I took all those lessons and I kept evolving, trying to do more and pushing myself to do better.
I have worked for some of the best Health and Skin Care brands in South Africa and in my previous position I was responsible for starting / running a wholesale division. I also closed their first group deal with Wellness Warehouse which put them on the map in terms of retail exposure.
Prior to that I worked in a "scent marketing" company where I was told to focus on getting in as many small deals as possible so we could build the portfolio. I however know what I am capable of and I landed up closing their very first group deal with TFG (The Foschini Group)! I set up the Markham account and they have now branched out into other TFG divisions i.e. Fabiani and Totalsports. All these roll outs are on a national level.
I then used my experience in Sales, Beauty, Wholesale, Merchandising, Numbers etc, to build up and fortify Skin Creamery's Wholesale division.
Not only is the business profitable, but we doubled our sales in just one year of using my business plan.
I do not have a degree but no degree can compare to my experience. Sometimes having someone that is teachable and hungry to succeed is so much more powerful than someone who can recite a textbook to you.
How have I grown so much?
If I don't know, I ask and if I don't get the answers I need, I attend a webinar or watch a Youtube tutorial. If I still don't get the answers I need I google and I sit reading and reading until I get the answers I need.
You can't teach drive and you can't teach passion. This is why I believe in upskilling our staff and giving people a chance to do more and be more (if that is their wish).
I love working with people who are just as driven and determined to succeed!

7 Questions with Daniala Santos De Canha Melman

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

I think the most challenging thing for me is dealing with so many different personalities and emotions. I was brought up / trained to be quite tough (in business) and to be very direct, so I have really had to learn from my team and soften my approach. Times are changing and the way we operate and do business needs to change too.
Boundaries have also been a struggle for me. It is sometimes difficult to say no, or to be assertive without creating upset, so I have had to work on my approach here too. This is still a work in progress :)

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

If ever there was a story about fate, this is it..
I met my current boss (Hannah) many moons ago at an event. She was promoting Skin Creamery and I was promoting another Skin Care brand. The event was actually a flop, but we got to talking and we really got on quite well. She gave me two full sized samples of her range and I was instantly hooked!
I secretly continued using Skin Creamery even though I worked for another product house.. It was really that good!
Hannah and I exchanged numbers and kept in touch.
Fast forward a year or two and we crossed paths again. This time she was looking into the possibility of expanding and she needed someone to start up and run her retail division. Hannah (my boss), asked me to come for an interview. It was a bit tricky because I already had another job lined up and at the time Hannah was not 100% sure on which route to go, so I decided to take the other position I had been headhunted for.
I worked there for two years and BOOM, I ran into Hannah again! A few days later we met up for a coffee, I told her what I had been up to and I told her about my plans to move to Portugal. We then parted ways again and I carried on with business as usual.
About a month later, I got a call from Hannah asking to meet and telling me she was ready for me to take her company to the next level.
I then met with Hannah, she made me an offer I couldn't refuse and so my journey with Skin Creamery finally began.
I immediately got stuck into logistics, financials, merchandising and customer profiles. After assessing all the data, I came up with a business plan for Hannah which was quite risky. I asked her to trust me and to take a leap of faith with me and she eventually did.
We worked according to my plan and we successfully built a strong wholesale division together and we doubled our sales in just one year of using my plan.
I am always eager to learn / grow and Hannah is a great teacher. She is also really good with letting me be free to do what I think is best and it is through trial and error that I have gained such an understanding and a passion for the business that I am in.
Hannah slowly started teaching me different parts of the business and almost two years later we are stronger than ever and my portfolio has filled up with so many new and wonderful things.
My boss acknowledged my efforts and appointed me COO of Skin Creamery this year and as they say, the rest is history.
I think I am proof that not every Manager, Executive, COO or CEO needs a university degree.
You have to want to learn, you have to have the stamina to do whatever it takes to make it work and you have to make yourself invaluable.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

5am = I wake up
I get ready and make my Macha tea - highly recommended.
6am = Start working
I work on South African times and because I am based in Portugal (2h behind at the moment) I start early.
9am = Stretch legs and make some coffee. Back to work I go..
11am = Breakfast
I usually just make some quick scrambled eggs with fresh chilli and sliced avocado (great for the brain). I take my food to my office and eat while I read my emails.

Lunch time (if possible) I go on a 20min walk.
After my walk I sit for 5-10 minutes in the sun and do a meditation with Headspace (app).
*If my day is crazy, I may just do a mediation and skip the walk. Then back to work I go.
I generally finish around 5pm-6pm (7pm - 8pm SA time).
6pm = Make dinner for my husband and I.
We usually have a good debrief while I cook. It is a great way to spend some time together without looking at our phones or the TV.
7pm = Eat and then watch an hour or two of TV and get an early night.
9pm = Bedtime
I am a firm believer in getting my 8h sleep. I love my sleep and I definitely notice a difference when I do not get my 8h. My moods are off, I am tired and unfocused and I am just not who I need to be for my position and for my team.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Leave no grey areas. The minute there is any doubt about what you are saying, you run the risk of your team making mistakes. Be clear, set clear deadlines and hold your team members accountable for their tasks.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I would definitely say The Four Agreements.

All leaders should read this book. It is a bit "different" and as some would say "foo foo" but the lessons are great.

Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word.
*A must for all of us!
Agreement 2: Don't Take Anything Personally
*This one was especially important for me to read and to remember. What others think or do is not our fault or responsibility. And not everything someone thinks of me is actually true. Perhaps it is their truth but it does not make it true. I think this lesson is important for all leaders because being a leader can be tough. It is not always easy giving credit to everyone else when your plan is executed well and conversely it is not always easy to be the scapegoats when things fall apart. Being a leader requires thick skin and an understanding with yourself that you know who you are and that is your truth and that is your power.
Agreement 3: Don't Make Assumptions
*Great agreement for all my fellow over-thinkers.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
*ALWAYS! If you want to be the best, you need to work harder than the rest!

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

For me it is giving the people who are stepping up more responsibility. Some people need to be given a chance to do more so I am good at recognising strengths and when my team members show me they are capable, I give them the chance to show us what they are made of.
I also encourage all employees to be solution driven. If you come to me with a problem, I will ask you what you think the solution is. I need all people on our team to really put thought into these things and to be able to think for themselves. Yes, I could give them a quick answer, but this is not empowering them and again, it is important to empower our team.
Lastly, I take the time to thank each person when they go the extra mile. I love sharing good news and I love sharing our wins with the team. Everyone deserves a simple thank you when they do great work.
This is so important to me because I worked for a boss who said "I don't need to thank you, I pay you at the end of each month and that is thanks enough".
Working for this boss was soul destroying so I never want to make anyone feel like they are not seen or valued.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

We are not a large enterprise. I would say we are definitely expanding rapidly but we have to watch our costs. Recently we employed a team member who has really had a tough life. She just needed the chance to show that she could do more and she needed someone to believe in her.
We were only able to take her on for 3 days initially, we then increased it to 4 days and recently we were able to offer her full time employment.
It may not sound meaningful to some, but to me, I just can't describe the look on her face when I told her. She literally jumped up from her seat, screamed, then cried and thanked the lord.
One thing she said to me was that she could now look at sending her child to school camps like the rest of the kids and that hit home for me. It also made me remember how incredibly blessed I am.
When you see someone this grateful for things we may take for granted it really does something to you.