Video Transcript

00:10 Melinda Emerson: Now Heidi, in a business that you wanna grow, do you need a Board of Directors or will a Board of Advisors do?

00:19 Heidi Messer: They're very, very different in terms of their functions. I highly recommend getting a Board of Advisors. There's no legal liability attached to them. They don't have fiduciary duties. And if you pick the right people, they'll actually have a genuine interest in what Alexis said, "Seeing the ship rise with the tide and then wanna help you." Board of Directors, I think, for companies as they get bigger and they get more mature, in many cases if you have investors they're not even an option, you have to have them. And that turns into a whole different set of dynamics amongst who the Board of Directors are because in theory if you are running the company, the Board of Directors are your boss. So, they're the people that you technically work for and that creates a very different dynamic than a Board of Advisors who's there really just to go to with, have this discrete problem and I'm not sure how to handle it, you've dealt with this before can you help me get through it.

01:14 Emerson: I think that's really, really important because I think all of us, all of you all should be thinking about having a kitchen cabinet of advisors for your company. It should be five people. Someone who is already entrepreneur should be the first person in there, right? The second person should be someone who has done business with you or could, right? So to give you that insider tip, so you can get that contract. The third person should be someone who actually is a mentor to you, someone who's already invested in your success, and fourth and fifth person in your kitchen cabinet of advisors really should be someone who is a lawyer or someone who is an accountant. And these people will give you advice without sending you a bill, right? So, I call this group of people a kitchen cabinet of advisors because they will work for food, right? That's really what this is about.

02:00 Emerson: So, I think you should be thinking about that in your business and all of you all should be seeking other folks to be a confidential sounding board for your companies. Now Alexis, I noticed that you have a bun in the oven.

02:16 Alexis Maybank: A big one, yeah.

02:17 Emerson: And so, I'm wondering what it's like to grow a business and grow a family at the same time. I wondered if you could give us some insight about that.

02:26 Maybank: I was just asking Heidi if she could give me any pointers, so I don't know if I have any secrets to success there. Clearly, it starts with home. If you have a really supportive network, whether it's husband or mother, I think we heard the founder of Carol's Daughter say the same thing. That goes without saying, "If you don't have it, it's impossible." I make sure personally that I create an environment within the office where I don't see pregnancy, even though you have to check it on the medical form as a disability, I make it not be a disability in the office. I promote women who are in their eighth month of pregnancy. I encourage them to take on more responsibility. That said, and as Sheryl Sandberg has a really interesting TED speech on this, that I would encourage everyone to watch. I do believe that women shouldn't see pregnancy as, "Gosh I better start transitioning out of work." Because I think it's all about compromises, but you can, especially in a small business, have ability to shape the environment you want to work in and make those compromises, sometimes be a better mother, sometimes be a better business leader.

03:30 Maybank: So, for me I've just learned it's all about compromise. It's shaping the environment as much as I personally can to create that type of business environment I wanna work in. And some things that are a little out of your control and at least out of my control is, you do have those investors and you have others who might see pregnancy the other, in a different way. So, I do everything possible to be tenacious, try to reshape how they think about it. But, some of that, just frankly is gonna be out of your grasp and they might want you to take separate roles or think about. So, I can recommend being tenacious, staying focused, staying in the work environment and setting up your bench of managers under you, so, they're really, really strong and can cover you, especially on those days when you are choosing to be a much better mother than a businesswoman and vice versa.

04:22 Emerson: Yeah, I mean we're all mothers. So, we've all... One armed wallpaper hangers, I think we all know what that is. Heidi do you have any two important things that you've learned running a business and being a mom?

04:35 Messer: So, I think right now I run two companies, right? So I run Collective [I] and then I run Heidi Messer Inc., which I'm sure this, Alexis, applies to you as well. You find that once you start having kids, you have all these people that you pay do all the stuff for you that you don't have time to do anymore, whereas men expect it for free, right? Like I would love to have a wife, wouldn't that be awesome?

04:59 Emerson: I need one too.

05:00 Messer: And in fact, and I'm gonna ask nobody to tweet this, but I had a conversation with a Congressman and he called me up and he said, "We're putting together this committee on creating jobs in America and can you give me, as a business entrepreneur, can you give me five things you'd like to change about the way United States does business right now and it's do or die time and we're sharpening our pencils, we're gonna get the United States out of this mess." So, I went through all the usual things, I was like "You gotta change immigration policy, you gotta change the tax codes, blah, blah, and blah." And I got to the fifth one and I said, "You know, you really need to fix a lot of things that are barriers to women being in the workforce." and he said, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about. I have now interviewed 50 huge business people and none of them have said this."

05:46 Messer: And he was incredibly dismissive about it, and I said "Well, Hear me out." I said, "For every woman that is in the workforce, I'll guarantee you that one, if not three, jobs are created." I was like, going by Heidi Messer Inc., there are like dry cleaners who I've probably bought them like summer homes, they're nannies, baby-sitters, like you can go down the list, housekeeper and I don't consider myself by the way a role model 'cause I think I've been a more fortunate position than a lot of other women who are forced to work and have to make a lot of compromises that I'm in a position that I don't have to make. So I don't wanna put myself out there as that person.

06:23 Messer: But I did say to him, "I'll give you one example." I said, " I have a nanny who's on payroll," and I said, " For me to set up that payroll system and to find that person who could work in that framework was harder than setting up my first two companies." I said, "It was... And to find that person health insurance, to go through all the steps to actually comply with the framework that you've set up." And he said, " well I still don't understand how that impacts the economy." And I said, " well, I mean, if you think about it, women make up 50% of the population, and if you had more of them in the workforce who didn't depend on free labor of spouses or others." I said, "You really would create this whole network of jobs." And I said, "And I'm gonna give you a challenge. I'm gonna tell you right now you have one week to go back to work. I'm gonna give you a budget of 30% of your salary and you need to find a qualified person, get that person up on payroll, make sure they don't quit, in the time that you have to go back to work, and get them health insurance. And you can tell me that's an easy thing to do, and you don't put barriers in the way of creating that job, then I won't have this conversation with you anymore." And so, that's why I said don't tweet this 'cause I...

07:38 Emerson: No, tweet it, tweet it!

07:40 Emerson: Go, go tweet it.

07:41 Messer: Don't attribute it to me. But you should write your Congressman...

07:44 Emerson: Heidi Messer is her tweeter's handle. Heidi Messer.

07:47 Messer: No, I will say that I think that it is...

07:49 Emerson: M-E-S-S-E-R.

07:51 Messer: It's the unspoken truth, because I think, and what Alexis said is absolutely true. There are certain things you can't control your physical appearance when you're pregnant, right? Like it's super un-fun to go to board meetings wearing a tent dress when you like to wear fashionable clothes and that's not who you are. And you sort of, everyone's looking at you saying, wondering if when you're gonna check out, and I don't wanna have the important conversation with you 'cause you might not come back type thing. But, I think that in the end of the day, if there are ways that we all work together to build that support network for others, I know that the... I have very few friends outside of my work life. And the ones that I do, that I know have young children, I'm very empathetic to their scheduling constraints. I'm very empathetic to the challenges that they face trying to make it all work, and so that's the only piece of advice I can share.