Real Talk with Jan Hall, CEO of Designer Protein, LLC
Fewer than 5% of CEOs around the world are female. That basically makes Jan Hall, CEO of Designer Protein, a unicorn in the professional world. In the course of her career she’s worked for major companies like Coca-Cola, and worked her way up the ladder — but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t experienced gender inequality or bias. In fact, she knows it all too well. However, she persevered, and now shares the wisdom she’s learned from the highs and lows with us.
Name: Jan Hall
Location: Carlsbad, California
Company: Designer Protein, LLC
What it is: A sports nutrition company that specializes in protein supplements.
Educational Background (degree/major/school): Honors Degree in History with a subsidiary in Political Science – University of Leeds, England
What does a typical day look like for you?
Meetings to prioritize projects and resources, conference calls with our Board of Directors, developing concepts for new products and packaging, etc. Every day is different but those are some of the constants.
You’ve worked for several different companies over the years. What advice do you have for others when it comes to making similar moves?
Don’t be afraid to make a bold move. Even if it’s completely out of your comfort zone, you’ll eventually master your new role.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a female CEO? Have you ever experienced gender inequality in the workplace?
The biggest challenge is to deliver the business results you’re tasked to achieve, which has nothing to do with gender and much more about internal capability and resources as well as external competition.
Yes, I’ve experienced gender inequality many times. Some examples include: sexual harassment, being refused entry to a “working men’s” club in London when I was a rep in the licensed trade, being told to dress more “powerfully” in order to be taken seriously, losing my job while pregnant, and losing out on a promotion to a man because I was pregnant (with an assertion that it would be denied if I made a complaint to HR).
Have you seen positive strides in the workplace when it comes to gender equality? What do you think still needs to change?
Yes, I’ve seen positive strides in the areas of business I’ve worked in (consumer goods) but it’s taken 20+ years. What still needs to change? My wish is that more women apply and be appointed to roles that have traditionally been perceived as “for men.”
As a CEO, how do you ensure a positive working environment for your employees?
Treat everyone with respect. Remember that people are human beings, not machines; everyone has a bad day, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has a life to live outside of work.
What tips do you have for managing a team and delegating effectively from the top of the company down?
Hire people who can do the job and then some. Agree on goals and objectives and then trust them to manage their own teams to achieve those goals and objectives. Be there for them when they need you to help think through challenges and knock down obstacles.
What advice do you have about how to handle career setbacks?
Never give up. Believe in yourself, and others will too.
What’s it like working for a smaller company versus a larger corporation? What are the pros and cons?
Resources are scarce in a small company so you have to make a little go a long way and you have to prioritize to make sure “the juice is worth the squeeze.” On the other hand, you can often make things happen rapidly and see results more quickly compared with life in a large company.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Leading a team of people I genuinely love and respect.
How intricately involved are you in the smaller aspects of the company, like social media?
I’m not closely involved in social media because we have a highly competent manager who runs social media and has 100 times more expertise than I do.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started your career what would that be?
You cannot possibly know what will happen in the future so don’t worry about it, or try to influence things you can’t. Trust in yourself and in those who love you for who you are and leave the rest up to fate.
Would you do anything differently?
Who do you think of when you hear the word “success?”
No one in particular because success is defined differently from person to person. Success on whose terms?
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
I walk 15 miles a day. I drink a glass of wine every evening, sometimes more than one. I spend time with my husband and dogs. I watch trashy TV and read trashy magazines as a form of release.
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
I don’t try to balance them. Sometimes, I have a crazy busy day and I just say to myself, “I’ll find some time tomorrow to make up for it.”