Lessons Learned on Networking

Meet (almost) anyone that you can.

CoffeShopNetworking I was an avid networker, and in the past six months have slowed down for many reasons. First and foremost, I am incredibly busy running a company and the thought of heading to an event or meeting after work (or being offline for an hour during the day) often stresses me out. In the spare time that I do get, I attempt to plan my fast approaching wedding. Second, I am always weary of bad meetings. Not that the meeting won’t go well, but that the other person has a sales agenda. I detest taking an hour of my time for someone to simply pitch me their business – be upfront and clear that you want to meet and sell me something and I’ll save us both time.

So, this week I was quite hesitant to schedule not one, but two coffees, on the same day, during, and after business hours. Fortunately, these two coffees reminded me why networking and meeting new people can be so amazing. The first woman has a fantastic non-profit that was incredibly inspiring and wonderful to discuss. I left the meeting excited to brainstorm with my team and help this non-profit further its mission. The second meeting was scheduled at 5:30 and I went into it hoping to be at the gym by 6:15. Well, the coffee went until 7:40 and I didn’t look at my clock once in between. The person that I met with had incredible insights into all aspects of the business world and I could have listened to him talk for hours more. I am lucky to have had the pleasure of grabbing coffee with him, and am thankful to have learned so much and to have had such excellent conversation in those two hours. We might even do business together in the near future (although I will still be perfectly happy with the meeting if we do not).

Moral of the story, meet with as many interesting people as you can because you never know what you might learn or what wonderful connection you might make. That being said, make sure you understand the other person’s agenda up front. If I have a feeling the meeting is sales focused, I inform the person upfront that I will not be buying their product/service, and if they are still interested in meeting we can arrange something. That simple email has recently saved me hours of coffee shop sales meetings and has ensured that my time has been well spent.

Photo courtesy of marfis75

Advice From Karen Finerman at the 30th Annual NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon

Karen_Finerman

I tend to be weary about keynote speeches during luncheons, because they seem to either be brilliant or capable of putting someone to sleep. At the NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon, I was fortunate enough to hear one of those keynotes that left me feeling inspired. Keynote speaker Karen Finerman is co-founder of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a permanent member of the CNBC show Fast Money, and the mother of two sets of twins! I couldn’t stop taking notes, and below are some of my key takeaways.

Everyone has their own decision making process, but hearing Karen’s highly logical six step process made me rethink my sometimes rushed decisions. Time is money, but making the proper decision is incredibly important.

  1. Frame the problem
  2. Understand your emotions and take them out of the situation
  3. Know your options – ask questions and explore options to help make a better decision
  4. Look for the 51% solution – surrender to the grey, the world is not black and white so when you make a tough decision try for the answer that will work 51% of the time
  5. Recognize what needs to be decided now and what doesn’t. If it’s a big decisions, you should wait until the last possible second because you might get more information
  6. Cut your losses – clear mistakes where it’s obvious (like wrong hires), just say your wrong and reverse course

A few other random tidbits that I took from the keynote:

  • Just be where you are (working from home is the worst of both worlds; when you’re home, be at home and focus on your home life and when you’re at work, be at work and focus on nothing but your work)
  • Put things in the schedule, even date night! It’s all about writing down your priorities
  • Execute and finish – no multitasking

(image via Tory Burch Foundation Get Inspired)

Team Building Lesson From Evernote CEO Phil Libin

While traveling last month, I was fortunate to read the article “Why It’s Wise To Hire People Smarter Than You” by Evernote CEO Phil Libin in Inc. magazine. When I came across this article, I was struggling to unleash the potential of an employee and I was at a loss for what to do. I always hear “hire slow, fire fast” but in this case I held on out of uncertainty, fear and the thought that there was something more there. This article put everything into perspective for me.

Mr. Libin’s rule is this; “Everyone who reports to me has to be much better at doing his or her job than I could ever be”. His rationale is that if the employee is not as skilled as he, he will always be tempted to think I can do that better and in turn micromanage. No one likes a micromanager, and I detest being a micromanager. It holds people back, and honestly there is no time for micromanaging at a lean startup.

I took a step back and looked at our small, but growing team and make an incredibly difficult decision. That incredibly difficult decision turned out to be the right decision for both myself and my employee. She was frustrated by my micromanaging, and felt it was hurting her work quality. I had no choice but to micromanage because we have extremely high quality standards.

Working with a team that is better at their job than I could be is refreshing. Our strengths play well off of each other, allowing us to continually learn and grow together. Not having to micromanage means that I have more time on my hand, which is invaluable in a startup environment.  I am glad that I came across this article now, and that I learned this lesson early on. Now I more fully understand why I should hire slow, and what I should be looking for when hiring.

To sum it up:

Hiring people smarter than yourself is the long-term answer to your micromanagement problem… This is hard to do, and we’re certainly not perfect at executing the rule all the time, but we come pretty close. – Phil Libin

featured image courtesy of MightyBoyBrian

Lessons Learned | Week of January 7

2013 is off to a great start, and I’m already learning a lot. Here are two important lessons that I learned this week: 

1. Leave your emotions at the door. This is going to take a lot of work because I’m an emotional person by nature, and I deeply care about everything I do and everyone I work with. That being said, I cannot let emotions take hold of me while making business decisions. Although this is going to take a lot of work, I know this will make decisions less stressful and more business-focused and myself and my business will move forward in a very positive direction. 

2. Never undervalue your work. Even in the early stages, it is important to stick to the value of what you do because you don’t want clients who expect the world of you for next to nothing.