Leadership for Modern Female Founders
We were so inspired by the three incredible boss babes on our panel for February's Morning MindFUEL in San Diego - Sarah Panis of Gritty Movement, Annie Winger of BV Accel, and Lindsey Head of J Public Relations. The meeting was recorded by Rora Films and is available for listening below. Here are some snippets from the meeting. Enjoy!
The right time to hire
Annie: It's challenging to know when to hire employees. Every decision we make is financially driven. We think in terms of revenue. How much revenue will each person bring in? We try to make sure it is 3.5 x what they're paid. You don't want to bring in too many people and have too much overhead and not be able to sustain it. We never want our labor to exceed 50% of our revenue.
Lindsey: We have an internal model we use to monitor capacity and looking at the numbers, which is so important when scaling. There is definitely a balance. When you hire make sure you aren't hiring for the company you are today, but what you want to become.
If you don't have the capital for an office, and your employees are working remotely, how do you keep them engaged?
Lindsey: Constant communication. We use Slack to stay connected at all times. Set up meetings that are recurring to keep everyone accountable and engaged.
Sarah: Keep them involved in everything the company does - parties, get togethers, etc. Include them in the company culture.
How do other generations work with Millennials in the workplace?
Annie: Our employee base is 85% Millennial, so our whole culture is built on this. Keep them inspired, motivated -- they like to work in teams. We've found that authoritative management doesn't work. We use side by side mentorship instead. Money is not on the highest totem pole for them, like other generations. Instead, they want to make a difference, be a part of something bigger and feel fulfilled.
How do Millennials work with other generations as far as leadership goes?
Sarah: When you are a Millennial and you're trying to prove your value as a leader to other generations, it can be quite difficult, but it's really all about value. Treat them like a person. Find out what motivates them as an individual instead of what motivates their generation. Show that you are invested in them. Use their strengths and weaknesses to guide their tasks and positions within the company.
How important is it to have a good company culture? How do you go about creating it?
Sarah: If your brand is a promise to your customers of what you're going to deliver, then your culture is how you deliver that promise. Your culture is the personality of your company. It's not about creating a culture, you can't put layers on top of who you are as an entity, so it's about uncovering layers of yourself and your company. It's not about taking what other people have and incorporating it, like ping pong tables or open work spaces, it's about cultivating an experience for your employees. Like Annie said, even if you are a solopreneur right now, start acting like you are the company you want to be in 10 years, and consider what affect your decisions can have on your employee experience.
What are some common mistakes first time leaders make?
Annie: When someone tries to come in and make too much change too fast, before building trust and respect. If you don't have trust and respect, then you're not a leader. It's incredibly important to focus on a few things and do those few things incredibly well. Be known for them. Then from there you have that respect so you can do a lot of other things because your people are going to back you.
Sarah: Support. A lot of people talk about vision, like you have to clearly communicate why you want your employees to do something, but the support thing is a two way piece. A lot of people say, "This is what I expect of you, let me know if you have any questions". But it is our job as leaders to really find out what each individual needs from us in order to do their job well.
Lindsey: People will bring in someone thinking they're going to do one role, when they could actually serve the company more effectively in a different role. Leaders need to open their eyes to this and be flexible regarding this issue. If not it could stifle the growth of the company.
How friendly is too friendly with your employees?
Lindsey: You definitely have to have rapport with your employees, but you have to be smart about it. You may have to step up and make some corrections...there's a level of mutual respect where you can talk to them like a normal person.
Annie: I am friends with a lot of my employees, in fact, I'm actually going to one of my employee's bachelorette party. But you definitely have to know how to navigate this. I have always been really good at separating business and pleasure.
Sarah: I think everyone's question is "How can I correct someone's behavior if things go wrong while still being besties?" I think you have to be conscious of the role that you have. Set the expectation at the early beginning and vocalize it with the employee. Say, "I want to be my real self with you, and be able to joke around with you, and go to happy hour, but at the end of the day this should be an environment where I am helping you and developing you and I can't do that without being able to give you critical feedback".
Training & Developing
Lindsey: Training and development is extremely important. My approach has always been to gain an understanding about my employee's hopes and dreams. I ask them, "Is this job that you've always seen yourself doing? Is this what really lights you up? Are you happy doing this?" If the answer is no, are there other ways we can build their role so that they can reach that fulfillment and happiness?
Lindsey, you have a predominantly female staff. How do you prevent cattiness and conflict in the workplace?
Lindsey: First - make the right hires. Make sure the employee's personality fits and they want to grow with the company and be a part of the team. Also, keep the culture similar across the board.
Diversity in the Workplace
Annie: We hire the best talent regardless of age, race, gender, etc. We have a very open culture that supports anyone that comes in.
Sarah: It's really important that whenever you get bigger, make sure you're hiring 1) whoever is right for the job, but 2) that you are taking diversity into consideration. Even if you don't have much experience dealing with or working with that particular type of person, understand that diversity will give you and your company such a broader understanding of multiple experiences.
How can everyone here prepare for growth and success?
Annie: Grow the company now into what you want it to be. When we started BVA, we knew exactly how we wanted to end it, and then we worked in reverse. Sometimes that is hard because you don't always know where you want to take something, but it is so important to ask yourself those hard questions, and then execute on that vision and that strategy. Everyone you hire needs to buy into that vision. So if you don't know the vision and you don't know where you're taking it and you're not getting people sold on it, and excited about it, again bringing it back to Millennials because that's what they want, then they're not going to stick around. Those are critical things to think about.
Who are some of your favorite female leaders or founders right now?
Sarah: Emily Weiss of Glossier
Annie: Whitney Wolfe founder of Bumble
The "How I Built This" Podcast with Whitney Wolfe was incredible.
Lindsey: Personal Mentor - Gina Close