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Is it important to have mentors and mentor other people? Why?
I think it’s crucial to have mentors and mentor others. For the first year and a half I was in business as a solopreneur, I felt incredibly lonely and isolated, as I had no other entrepreneurs in my life. I then found my first mastermind, and while this mastermind was a structured program with a business coach leading it, I found my people in it. These other entrepreneurs and I mentor each other; we’ve had different experiences, challenges, and successes, and we’re able to share these lessons with one another so we can grow even more. I’ve particularly loved sharing what I’ve learned with budding business owners (I do so nearly every day in my business) and guiding them as they make decisions about their business and life. There is a sort of magic that happens when people get together, talk, and collaborate. It’s like you’ve been looking at this sand-colored wall for days and suddenly realize it’s a pyramid you can climb because others have shared their perspectives with you.
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
Honestly, I want to do both. I love my business and what it’s become (and who I’ve become because of it), but I do also have ideas for other businesses that are near to my heart that I want to pursue. My dream for myself is to continue to grow in this business, as I continue to shift from technician to visionary within it, but at the same time, start to cultivate some of my other passions and the ideas I have that could transform them into businesses with greater impact. The dream is to allow myself the freedom and flexibility in all I do to give to the world in new ways, to build new engaging opportunities and jobs for people that are engaging, and to not impose any limits on what I think I can accomplish.
Is it important to set goals or is it better to just “go with the flow”? What is your strategy?
There are some people with 5-year or 10-year goals for their companies; my goals are more like 12-month goals – really 6 months if we get down to it. My team and I all set goals and have conversations about what we want the future of the business to look like, but we also recognize that there is an evolution and becoming that happens as we take steps towards our goals that may lead us to reevaluate those goals. Especially in the technology industry where so much can change in a year, I think it’s important to regularly set aside time to reevaluate the goals you have set and ask if they still serve your and your business’ evolution. You adjust when you need to; you stay open to the flow and what it brings you, rather than fight against it.
How important is it to have co-founders and focus on building a strong team? Do you have any tips you can share with us when hiring / meeting new people?
I don’t think it’s crucial for every business to have co-founders, though as the leader of my company, I do know it’s absolutely vital to have advisors to turn to. For me, those advisors are both external – friends, fellow entrepreneurs, masterminders – and internal – the team members I’ve hired and cultivated to have positions of leadership within the company. When I first started hiring, I was incredibly scared of hiring the wrong people and my company falling apart. I knew a good team would be essential to the growth of my business, but I’ve since discovered that a strong team is also essential to my growth because I can do more in my business when I have people I trust to handle the details, support me, brainstorm with me, and participate in the co-creation of this company.
With regards to hiring, there are three tools/practices that have been crucial for me:
1. Hiring slow. We typically do three rounds of interviews with lots of behavioral-based questions that help us get to know a person and how they work before we bring them on.
2. Using the Kolbe to test work style. This test has been a blessing, and knowing how to use it properly has ensured we hire the right people for the right positions.
3. Fire fast. When things don’t work out, we move on. This can be incredibly difficult sometimes, but in the end, it’s in everyone’s best interest – for my team, for my company, even for the person I have to let go.
Did you look for funding in the past?
No, I have not, but I have thought about it.
Why do you think that female owned businesses are a VERY small percentage (that has not been growing) of businesses that get funded by venture capital? What can we do to change that?
I think one of the most obvious problems is that we don’t have many women sitting on the other side of the table. We also need more mentors to help female-owned businesses prepare to ask for funding. Personally, that was one of the things that stopped me: not having someone to turn to for support in that area. I also think there are a lot of women who own businesses who are looking to do things differently – my business isn’t just about making money but also about helping other people. I am not driven by profit and numbers, but by a desire to help people help more people. The traditional venture capital structure doesn’t always support companies like that. I think we need to consider not just how to get more female-owned businesses more venture capital, but also how to transform traditional business structures to be more collaborative than competitive and more conscious and caring than profits-driven.