You’re here because you’re an entrepreneur. You are bold. And yes, you might be a little scared and overwhelmed. With my own journey as the Founder and CEO of Care.com, I can tell you that it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have things go according to plan – I know from personal experience that they rarely do.
Being bold got you to where you are today. Being authentic will help you evolve to be a better leader and even bolder as you brace yourself for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. I know that this may seem illogical – that by being your true self, vulnerabilities and all, you can and will be bolder. But trust me, authentic boldness is the real deal. It’s been my north star throughout my entrepreneurial journey. It’s also an ongoing evolution–and here is some of what I’ve learned thus far. I call it “deprograming two psychological Ps from my system.”
Start the journey of self-awareness now so you don’t have to worry about how people perceive you. Embrace your strengths, stay true to your core, and find out what truly motivates you.
- Embrace you. You know all those traits people stereotype as “female”? Being collaborative, being empathetic, building teams…those are strengths, not weaknesses. Own them. Stick to your resolve regardless of what others say. “Overproject” if that’s what it takes to be heard. And then constantly test and iterate without fear of failing. It’s okay if things don’t always work out because it’s those experiences where you often learn the most.
- Stay true to yourself. This notion has become cliché, but the truth is, it’s hard to stay true when starting out. Co-founders and investors often challenge your opinions and strategies. Know that it’s okay to change your course, as long as you are staying true to your values and who you are – and what you came here to do.
- Find your motivation. I always knew that I wanted to have an impact on people’s lives. That was my passion. And throughout my journey, I held on to that resolve and let it guide me to each new opportunity. What is your motivation? How will your company make an impact? Choose the one thing that keeps you going, and fight for this every step of the way despite the many ups and downs.
My “a-ha” moments: I hid something to get my first job. I didn’t tell them I was a mother with a baby at home. Why? I worried about how I would be perceived…as distracted, unreliable, not as focused as the men…and that as a result, I wouldn’t get the good clients or assignments. I got the job and left within a year. It never felt like the right place for me, because I wasn’t actually being me but who I thought I had to be. I’ve never made that mistake again. From that first job, I decided to work at companies focused on helping people – teaching students, saving for college, finding jobs and now helping people find care – and where I thought I was a better fit. And at each of these companies, I was able to bring my whole self to work – a mom and an entrepreneur with a passion to help people.
Knowing your weakness, while managing your own expectations of yourself and others, is key to managing stress and long-term relationships in this tough journey of entrepreneurship.
- Build a team. Part of being authentically bold is to know your weaknesses. When building your team, find people who share your vision and the rationale behind this vision, but who bring a complementary skill set to the table. Trusting them is the start of them trusting you.
- Be open to change. Accepting who I am has allowed me to be bold, whether I had a plan or not. Your entrepreneurial idea is your plan. But it might not go as planned. Be ready for change and pivots. Don’t worry about perceptions again that somehow your previous plans didn’t work out. What’s more important are two things: long-term relationships and outcomes.
- Be human. It’s okay to focus on excellence, but let go of your expectation of perfection for yourself and others. My mantra: be intense in outcomes, but be chill with people.
My “a-ha” moment: I used to be a terrible manager. I’d come out of the consulting world where I’d been paid for my ideas and I saw things in black and white. I thought there was my one way of doing something, my one solution, my one approach. Fortunately, two mentors at my first start up took me to lunch and gave me some tough feedback. They both told me that all the potential in the world wouldn’t mean anything if I burned myself out and drove away everyone else. They told me to chill out. I came to appreciate that people process information and ideas differently. They have different experiences from which they draw, different styles of problem-solving. There is very little black and white…the inspiration and the innovation comes from all the shades of gray. I learned to focus on the importance of reminding myself after every meeting – did I impress or inspire? I still have a high standard of excellence and performance. I still hold my team accountable on all outcomes. But I’m more chill with how they get there. And the result? So much better than I could have imagined.
Here’s the thing: All that perception baggage and questing for perfection doesn’t just hold you back; it actually gets in the way. Let it go. Let it all go. When you do, you’ll harness your power.
Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a female entrepreneur can be even harder. Think of authentic boldness as your superpower or secret weapon. Call on it when you’re unsure of something or someone. Let it be the litmus test for the decisions you make. Things may change and your plans may crumble, but with authentic boldness as your north star, you’ll always find your way.