Serena Williams

"The first 10 hires are probably the most key hires a company makes. It really talks to the structure of the company and how the company will do, so that’s really important to us," the tennis champion said at a recent conference.

At PANGEO 2022, powered by G-P and attended by HRO, tennis legend and entrepreneur Serena Williams (pictured above, right) was interviewed by G-P's Founder and Executive Chair, Nicole Sahin (pictured above, left) on a range of topics. We've shared excerpts from the conversation below, followed by an exclusive chat with G-P's CEO, Bob Cahill, whom we spoke to exclusively during his recent visit to Singapore. Check out all the insights below:

Excerpts from the Q&A with Serena Williams:

Q Clearly you've had a mindset that anything is possible and a belief in your own potential. So through all those challenges and setbacks that life has thrown at you, how have you maintained a belief in the possibility of achieving things that other people say are impossible?

Well, when other people say things are impossible, it's mostly impossible for them to do. It doesn't mean it's impossible for you to do or for someone else to do. And a lot of people don't realise that. Actually, I didn't realise that my sister said this and I thought it was the best thing I've ever heard. So if you just break it down and think of it that way, then they're trying to put their impossible on you.

Q When you have a big goal or dream, what is your process of moving from the idea into making that into a reality?

My process of moving is to first have a plan. That's the most important thing before you throw money into anything. Decide what steps you need to take to have it be successful and what that success means in your own mind. And then from there asking yourself how you are going to feel when things get hard, because when you're starting something new, there will always be ups and downs.

Q Do you have any practices to help yourself stay grounded and focused when you need to draw on your inner strength even when it’s not your best day?

It's funny you mentioned that because if you’re sick, disappointed or angry, you still have to show up and I've done that many times. One thing that I always say is life continues and time keeps going on. You just got to dust yourself off and keep going. That's what I had to do and it works. Taking that first step is tough, but it gets easier from there.

Q You're clearly an advocate for women's empowerment. From the outside looking in, people would say that you have it all – do you feel that way? And second, where do you feel we are on the path to equality?

I have never tried to be an advocate – it just happened. People thrust me in these positions because of the way I play or the way I handle myself or the way I speak with confidence or how I always had to believe in myself and that came from my parents. I'm a big believer in doing the best that you can and fighting for what you believe in.

How far are we to equality? I think we're still far, quite frankly. It's a very long road and there's still so many things that have to happen for that to ever be possible. But I'm also someone that believes it takes a higher power for this system of things to be fixed.

Q What was the role that your family and your father played in shaping you into who you are today?

My dad is just really amazing, and that's why I always say it's so important to have everyone involved and be an advocate for you. Having my dad and having that strong male voice was so important to me. It really helped my sister and I to be who we are today. The reason I've had the career I have is because of my dad. He's been super important and a staple in my life, and even in how I'm raising my daughter, I can remember my dad doing that. So those are things that I'm still learning from him.

Q Your sister is your best competition and yet undoubtedly also your best friend. What it's like for you to champion each other, as competitors, sisters and best friends all combined?

We always say, when tennis ends one day, we will still be sisters. We have to continue to see ourselves together. Blood and having a sister is really important to me. My mom and my dad always stress the importance of family, and that family comes first. Tennis is always going to be around, but your sister will always support you, so when we did compete, we competed fiercely against each other. But we love even more fiercely after.

Q As you move forward with Serena Ventures, how cool is it to you to unlock access for other people to whom you allocate funding?

Well, it's important for us to make sure that we fund people that would have never had an opportunity. That's one of the reasons why I started Serena Ventures. A lot of women, a lot of people of colour are not afforded the same opportunities to get investment as other people, so it was important for me to unlock those doors. We believe that we do exactly what we say we're going to do and give people those opportunities. This opens up so many different doors for them whether it's more of an opportunity as an advisor or just offering suggestions or if it's financial. It's so exciting to see people that would have never otherwise been funded, create these companies that are doing really well and that are part of our system now. It's really motivating to continue to do that.

Q You have a reputation for being world class – so now, in this different field of endeavour, how did you set up the organisation?

I do have this reputation of being world class, so I expect nothing less on myself. I really want to build the best world class team. The first 10 hires are probably the most key hires a company makes. It really talks to the structure of the company and how the company will do, so that’s really important to us. After that, we are making sure we not only build a world class team, but also a world class portfolio.

Q You've built a global brand and a global presence. How do you define your core identity as you move through all these different ventures and how do you ensure that it remains uniquely yours?

It all starts with, is it true to me, is it something that's authentic? As I build out, whether it's a fashion brand or my venture company or other things that we're getting involved in, I want to make sure that we're doing it from the right lens and the right angle.

During his recent global road trip, HRO had the opportunity to speak to G-P's CEO, Bob Cahill, in Singapore, on mobility trends and developments that he's keenly tracking.

"Remote work is not going away," he told us. The definition of employment is going to change drastically, thus it will be no more a one contract, one country, one currency approach. "In fact, there is incredible potential untapped in all parts of the world," when speaking on how to solve the ongoing global talent shortage.

This part of the world, i.e. several markets in Asia, have often been seen as areas with low cost arbitrage in terms of the talent market. That perception, Cahill highlighted, is rapidly changing. Markets in Asia traditionally associated with a low cost arbitrage are now being known for their talent arbitrage. 

Charles Ferguson, G-P's General Manager for Asia, concurred, and during his session at PANGEO, added: "The cost (of finding talent) cannot be measured in dollars alone, the cost has to be put through the lens of opportunity costs. And that KPI is TTV i.e. the time to value, how quickly can you discover, then attract, then onboard, then retain and nurture talent anywhere in the world - that is going to be the differentiating factor for you to be successful or not successful." 

Lead image / PANGEO

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