My Life’s Work | Renée Kuo, Managing Director, Debrett’s
In this weekly series, we meet a Walpole member executive to discover what makes them tick, how they define success, and what keeps them awake at night. This week Renée Kuo, Managing Director of Debrett’s on the importance of being happy in your own skin, yoga and faith.
Renée was born in the United States and is a graduate of Stanford University, California and the MIT Sloan School of Business in Boston, Massachusetts, where she gained an MBA in Finance. Following a successful career in structured product sales at Bank of America and Citadel Securities, she moved to Napa Valley to pursue her passion for wine in 2011, first working a harvest as an intern and moving on to manage a winery. Renée moved to the UK in 2014 and joined Debrett’s in 2015 in a newly appointed role as managing director of new ventures. In January 2016 she succeeded the outgoing CEO to become managing director at Debrett’s.
WHAT DOES BRITISH LUXURY MEAN TO YOU?
Celebrating quintessentially British heritage while not compromising integrity, quality or craftsmanship in modern interpretations.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR THE COMPANY?
To be the go-to global consultancy and content firm for social, cultural and business etiquette.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I don’t tend to look back on my own achievements. Perhaps it’s due to my Chinese-American upbringing, but I look forward to what I need to accomplish next.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Being happy in your own skin and not comparing yourself to anyone else.
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
Wine, food, travel…times two with my husband!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
While I don’t like dwelling on my accomplishments, I love celebrating the accomplishments of others, and my colleagues at Debrett’s are without a doubt the best part of my job. They’re so talented and committed, and I feel we’re a small team working at a 250-year old start up.
Being expected to know all the rules on dress codes and forms of address – I’m too Californian!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST REGRET?
Not learning how to speak Chinese as a child so that I could communicate with my grandparents.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Kindness inspires me.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIG BREAK?
I’ve had so many gracious people in my life who have taken the time to offer help, advice and guidance. From those who helped me get my first job on Wall Street to those who helped me get my first job in wine, I have many people to thank.
WHAT IS YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLE?
God first, everything else at least second.
WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
My friend who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child. I can’t imagine waking up every day wondering if I had lost mobility or motor functionality…or had the strength to push myself out of bed. Yet he is the most positive, fun-loving person you could meet. He plays wheelchair tennis and travels around the world. I’m in awe.
WHICH WORDS OR PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVERUSE?
Please, thank you, pardon me, cheers!
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?
The foxes outside our bedroom window.
WHAT DO YOU MOST VALUE IN YOUR FRIENDS?
The ability to listen without judgment.
IN A PARALLEL LIFE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE ENTERING THE LUXURY INDUSTRY NOW?
Demonstrate why your product is unique from the competition. If you’re an artist, familiarise yourself with numbers; if you’ve got a business mind, familiarise yourself with the craftsmanship. Find a good mentor.
Find out more: www.debretts.com