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When she is not flying helicopters or playing football, Assia Grazioli-Venier is director of special projects at Spotify, the music streaming service. She was appointed to the board of directors of Italy’s Juventus football club in 2012 and is the first woman and youngest board member in the club’s 120-year history. She is also a media executive and adviser to tech start-ups, entertainment companies and venture capital firms.
Ms Grazioli-Venier was born in Rome, raised in New York City and has lived and worked in New York, London, Milan and Stockholm.
She graduated from Columbia University, New York, and completed the London Business School’s emerging leaders programme. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and her many hobbies also include travel and painting.
As an avid athlete she hopes to run the North Pole Marathon in April.
Who are your business influences?
I work closely with two of them: Daniel Ek, chief executive of Spotify, and Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus football club. I admire both for pursuing the seemingly impossible. Mr Ek for seeing an opportunity to disrupt the music industry and making music accessible to all. Andrea for turning Juventus into a leading organisation with a winning team.
What is your best business decision?
To approach business with the ethos of an athlete — with conviction, discipline, drive and vision. I continually challenge myself especially when I am uncomfortable. At the start of my career, I was told I had to stick to one industry and focus on either music, tech or sports. I recognised the overlaps and similarities across these industries and was aware my skillset and approach was valuable to all three. I like to think I know when to follow rules and when to bend them.
What is your worst business decision?
When I started my consultancy business, I made the mistake of not aligning with a partner. I would have had the opportunity to grow my business more dynamically if I had collaborated with someone with complementary skills and expertise. Instead, I tried to do it all. This taught me the importance of building a team and close network of collaborators.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I work with talented people from diverse cultures and disciplines. I am able to exercise various skills and maintain a wide strategic view. No two days are the same and I get to support and influence exceptional managers.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
Probably an existential one. I had built my consultancy to a healthy place with the intention of eventually venturing out to develop my own product or start-up business. After much soul searching I realised my strength was in supporting entrepreneurs, rather than be the entrepreneur myself.
What is your favourite business book?
Rising Strong by Brené Brown for highlighting that the most resilient people have a “tolerance for discomfort” and analysing the way they learn to accept and move past tragedy or failure.
“When we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our assess kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”
What is the best piece of advice given to you?
Silence is powerful.
Which websites or apps would you recommend for businesswomen?
I spend my mornings perusing my Flipboard feed, which includes TechCrunch, Mashable, the FT, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, to name but a few.
Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?
Richard Branson: clichéd maybe, but he is one of this century’s greatest business leaders. Like me, he is dyslexic and has used it as an opportunity to succeed. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, for his unapologetic commitment to his dreams. If Elon wants to go to Mars, Elon will go to Mars. And Joseph Schumpeter, the great economist and political scientist. Imagine those three people in a room together discussing the consequences of “creative destruction”.
What is your alternative career plan?
As an avid athlete and marathon runner embarking on my fourth marathon — this time to the North Pole — my alternative career would be working with professional athletes on their mental and physical conditioning.