Building Resilient Teams: Insights from Leader Lourdes Juan

Leading By Example: Succession Planning After the Pandemic

A discussion with Luana Fong of Hillcore Group on the value of internally recruiting for the C-suite and leading with respect.
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To say that Calgary’s Lourdes Juan is ambitious would be an understatement. The entrepreneur, who turns 40 this month, has started multiple businesses and charities.

“I love taking organizations from zero to one and being a part of small, scrappy teams,” she told Goldbeck Recruiting during a recent interview.1

Juan is also a mom, having given birth to her first child during the early days of the pandemic. Since becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 26, she’s had to learn to build teams, delegate responsibilities, and identify her own strengths and weaknesses. She was kind enough to elaborate on all of this and more.

Recruiting and Retention in For Profit and Not for Profit Organizations

The organizations Juan has helped to establish are diverse in nature. Fresh Routes is a mobile grocery store that strives to make healthy food more easily available throughout Calgary. Leftovers is a charity that specializes in food rescue and food waste minimization, while Knead provides a tech platform for other food rescue operations. Hive Outreach is an urban planning and community outreach consultancy, and Soma Spa is just that. Got all that?

While these organizations are disparate in nature, Juan believes that, when it comes to recruitment and retention, there are more similarities than differences.

“I think there’s a notion that everyone works in the not for profit space out of the goodness of their heart,” she says. Juan acknowledges that passion for the cause is in fact a key part of the appeal of not for profits, but doesn’t eliminate the need for competitive compensation. “People have to put food on the table and they have their own ambitions and goals,” she says. “We need to present more than just the social impact mission.”

The reality is that salaries are often lower in the not for profit sector, which can make retention a challenge.

“We lose talent to for profits all the time,” says Juan. “I’ve had volunteers turn into employees, and I’ve also seen employees leave, but remain involved as volunteers.”

Recruiting for Strong Teams

Juan understands the value of strong teams, but admits that there is a certain amount of trial and error involved when it comes to building them.

“A candidate can be really great on paper and work well with their direct report, but if they don’t work well as a team, you wind up spending more time on HR and people management than you’d like,” she says.

One thing Juan looks for is a good attitude toward co-workers.

“If the employee starts with a baseline of respect for their teammates, there’s a strong likelihood they’ll be a good fit,” she says.

Juan doesn’t believe that ‘fit’ means homogeny, and is proud of the diversity within the organizations she’s founded. She believes that it’s particularly important to have the right voices in the room when endeavouring to address social issues.

“When you’re working with something that’s going to move the needle on a certain topic, you really need to have people that have had lived experience on your team,” she says. “If you don’t have people that have lived in food insecure households or have been unable to find adequate housing, it’s difficult to go into a community and relate to the people that you want to serve.”

Balancing Career and Family

“I’m in a privileged position where I’m able to drop everything if my child is sick,” says Juan.

Becoming a new parent is a joyous, yet challenging milestone for anyone, but adding an unprecedented world event to the situation made things even more stressful.

“I remember being six months pregnant and trying to figure out how to get healthy food to communities in a pandemic,” recalls Juan. “It was overwhelming.”

Her advice? “Be vulnerable and honest, not only within your household, but with your teams.”

Juan recalls a particular situation where she became emotional and had to end a meeting prematurely.

“Various people on the team sent me messages of support, saying that it was nice to see me being vulnerable, because they felt the same way,” she explains.

Juan stresses the importance of communication and credits others with assisting her through the those uncertain days, including her husband, who put his career on hold in order to take parental leave.

“The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ did not really hit home with me until I had one,” she says. “I needed so many different hands to help with everything.”

The Importance of Succession Planning

While Juan is passionate about launching new organizations, she’s not afraid to hand over the reigns when the time is right. Starting a family meant redefining her roles in some cases. While she remains very active in the tech company, Knead, she’s reduced or eliminated her involvement in other organizations.

“When the charity, Leftovers, started hiring and opening up in different cities, I was no longer the best fit for that organization, so I wanted to work myself out of that job,” she says.

Replacing her would ultimately be the task of the board, but Juan knew it was her responsibility to be open and honest with them in order to help them make the right hire.

Then, last year, Juan stepped down from her role in Fresh Routes, the social enterprise/mobile grocery store. In doing so, she advocated to the board for an internal hire.

“I knew when I hired her three years prior that she was better for the job than I was,” says Juan of her eventual successor. “Now she’s running the organization.”

Learning from Mistakes in Business

Despite her impressive and prolific track record, Juan showcases a refreshing amount of humility and is quick to heap praise upon her colleagues and teammates. She admits to plenty of mistakes, but sees them as opportunities for growth.

“If you’re not learning from those mistakes, the sleepless nights are useless,” she says.

Cited Sources

1 Direct communication with Lourdes Juan