Introducing Nathalie du Preez, Quill’s new Chief Operating Officer

In July this year, we had the pleasure of welcoming Nathalie du Preez to Quill in the role of COO.

Born and raised in South Africa, Nathalie began her career in 2005 with Goldman Sachs in their investment banking division. In the years since she has led performance search strategy at Net-a-Porter, co-founded a start-up and, most recently, held the title of COO at on-demand beauty service blow LTD.

We sat down with Nathalie to discuss her personal influences, her plans for Quill, and how she sees the working world evolving over the coming years.

Tell us about your background.

“After growing up in South Africa, I studied Economics, Art History and French at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and completed my MBA at Harvard Business School. In my early career I worked for Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division in New York and London, as an intern with Richemont’s marketing strategy office in Paris and in brand management for Colgate-Palmolive in New York.

“These early experiences with major companies were incredibly formative for me. The training from Colgate’s MBA graduate programme in particular, with its focus on strong marketing analytics and presenting ideas in a succinct way, has proven invaluable to me over the years. Eventually I joined Net-a-Porter’s marketing team to run performance marketing and SEO.

“In 2013, I returned to Cape Town to co-found Bunchcut, a platform which allowed creative teams to manage their digital assets more efficiently. Bunchcut took me to South Africa (to recruit developers), to New York (to join an incubator and raise funding) and to San Francisco (to scale). Three years into the business, we decided to close shop. It was the toughest and most humbling situation I’ve ever found myself in, but I learnt more in those three years than I had ever thought possible.

“In 2016 I returned to London as a consultant for a number of different startups. Eventually I joined beauty on-demand company blow LTD as their Chief Operating Officer. I never really planned on becoming a COO; I sort of stumbled into the role. However, I’ve since discovered that I love the intersection of people, processes, technology and strategy.”

What drew you to Quill?

“First and foremost among my reasons for joining Quill is the mission. No matter how much businesses invest in hero content, pay-per-click ads or digital marketing, it’s pointless if you’re sending web traffic to a poorly written, low quality product or category page. I strongly believe in what Quill brings to the table: high quality Primary Content that converts and captivates the online shopper, delivering proven return on investment to ecommerce businesses.

“Another big attraction for me at Quill was the CEO. Ed (Bussey) is a seasoned entrepreneur with two exits under his belt – an achievement most people can only dream of. More importantly, he is a person who questions the status quo, has high expectations of himself and his team, and who leads ‘from behind’ – all traits I deeply admire.”

How do you see the business developing over the next twelve months?

“I love working for high-growth companies that have achieved product-market fit, are operating at scale and are now working towards break-even. As I settle into the COO role here, I expect Quill to continue on its exciting growth journey. We hope to soon be taking on clients in the US, as well as growing our freelance network in countries such as South Africa. Watch this space!”

How do you see the typical workplace evolving over the next five years?

“At the risk of stating the obvious, technology is changing at a rapid pace. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the emergence of work tools that challenge the status quo – for example, messenger service Slack. Employers need to embrace these tools or they will find themselves being left behind as AI and machine learning gain pace.

“In addition, chief officers should consider questioning the hierarchies implicit in their company structure. Consider building smaller teams like squads or task forces to tackle certain areas of the business, led by gurus who are specialists or experts in a specific field. This approach develops knowledge centres throughout your business, empowering teams to act quickly and leading to fewer decision-making bottlenecks among senior execs.

“Finally, the concept of ‘clock watching’ is out; these days, it’s all about productivity and results. The challenge, of course, is doing this well. While flexible hours and remote working have become the norm, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication, so a delicate balance is often required somewhere. Trust is also essential – making it more important than ever that companies hire smart and nurture employee buy-in to the business.”

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