Women in Business Q&A: Lynn Tesoro, Co-Founder and CEO, HL Group

Lynn Tesoro is a globally recognized communications executive with extensive knowledge of fashion, luxury and lifestyle-related businesses. Ms. Tesoro is consistently retained by top consumer brands to identify growth and positioning strategies.

She has been associated with many noteworthy brand launches and advises a distinguished roster of clients who rely on her as a long-term communications partner and counsel.

Prior to founding HL Group, Ms. Tesoro was Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Polo Ralph Lauren overseeing media relations, marketing, launch initiatives and advertising across all Collections and brands within the Ralph Lauren portfolio.

She was Global Vice President of Communications and Special Events at Calvin Klein, during a period of significant expansion. Ms. Tesoro started her career at Giorgio Armani where she and Hamilton South began their long-standing partnership.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Starting with the work ethic and standards set by my parents and the many, many smart people that I am fortunate to have met, life experiences, both personal and professionally, have shaped the way I lead. The not-so-great people I met and worked with over the years vividly captured how NOT to behave. There are many mental references from those interactions that provide perspective on decisions I make every day.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at HL Group?

From that first job post-college to senior positions in large global companies, my mantra has always been work hard, stay focused, current, and savor the journey. That hasn’t wavered. My earlier years were with global designer fashion brands. The professional relationships I forged with the editorial community (and beyond) were key and that exploded to be inclusive of all things digital, social, and experiential. By the time HL Group was founded in early 2001, I had a depth of connectors that encompassed multiple industries and products. It was a natural evolution. You never know who you’re going to meet and what impact they will have on your career. Today’s assistant could be tomorrow’s editor in chief.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at HL Group?

The highlights are bountiful! We have and continue to work with amazing brands, including ones we helped to launch like TOMS shoes with Blake Mycoskie, and Charlotte Tilbury, a terrific new beauty leader. We have worked with Barbie/Mattel, Four Seasons, Oscar de la Renta, David Yurman, and the list continues to grow.

I am proud of the fact that HL Group is considered one of the most recognized public relations and marketing strategists in the U.S. and abroad. We are still inspired by the work and by our clients after 17 years of growth covering industries including fashion, hospitality, lifestyle, home design, travel, beauty, real estate and more.

Of course, we live with the consistent challenges of building and maintaining excellence, but that also keeps us strong and creative on behalf of our clients. The constantly changing media landscape and staying in front of it will always be a part of our day but I think our biggest challenge is finding and developing new and ambitious talent.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Pursue something you love and that inspires you. I studied sociology in college and decided to go into public relations after receiving a book from my professor. Be humble and say yes to opportunities that might not be perfect because sometimes they are the ones that turn out to be the golden ring.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Know what you do well and what you don’t do well. And surround yourself with talented, smart people, especially those that excel at things that perhaps you don’t. It makes you and the organization stronger in the long run.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Work/life balance itself as a topic has evolved over the years and still continues to be a challenging, amorphous goal that we all strive to achieve. We talk a lot about sacrifices and compromises we make in order to achieve work/life balance but not everything is perfect and that’s OK in the larger picture.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

The issues facing woman today in the workplace are the same issues that they have always faced; work/life balance, gender wage gap, harassment in the workplace, inadequate maternity leave, etc. The good news is that women are more informed and empowered than ever before. I am inspired and a bit in awe of the young women I meet who are leading companies or building a business, and quite honestly, any woman who forges ahead using their knowledge and instinct to accomplish their goals.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship is as huge as it is subtle. I would not be where I am today without the professional generosity of some brilliant people I have had the privilege to be around who gave me the benefit of their knowledge and advice. It can also be a quieter process. Take note of who in the organization you genuinely admire -- their behavior, presence, depth of intelligence, and respect for all colleagues.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

There are so many amazing women who have crossed my path and others that I admire from afar. I admire female leaders who are truly generous with their time and genuinely invest in other women. Over the course of my career, I’ve been honored to work with very accomplished women who embraced what I had to offer and gave me a chance to learn and experience so many different aspects of business. They not only offered the opportunity to work under them, but also mentored me, sharing their time and talent in order to train me and give me positive reinforcement.

What do you want HL Group to accomplish in the next year?

Continuing to move the agency forward and be inspired by our work together as one collaborative and energized team.

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