I don't know Carrie Kerpen in person. But I like her.

That's probably the goal when you're the CEO, as Kerpen is, of a highly successful media company called Likeable Media. Kerpen is also the host of the popular podcast called All the Social Ladies, but her street cred isn't exactly why I like her.

As I listened to Kerpen narrate her new book, Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business, I realized that I like her because I can relate. I can relate to her sense of humor and her candor, and I can relate to her experience because we are both working mothers, both entrepreneurs and authors, and both involved in businesses with our husbands.

It turns out that relating -- the ability to make someone else feel like you get them -- is also the secret sauce for Kerpen and the dozens of women she references in this book, from Barbara Corcoran to Meredith Vieira, and from Sheryl Sandberg to Reshma Saujani.

Improving our ability to relate was, for me, the top takeaway from Work It. It impacts our work as entrepreneurs from top to bottom, beginning with identifying the niche in the market that our products and services fill, all the way to fleshing out our networks because, as Kerpen underscores, "your network is your net worth."

Here are five more top tips from some of the boldest women in business on how entrepreneurs can make themselves more relatable.

1. Network symbiotically.

A repeated lesson in the Work It book is the imperative of building mutually beneficial relationships. It isn't just about asking someone for help. It's also very much about actively looking for the ways that you can help them. Building that bridge of shared assistance, especially when you're the first to extend an offer of help, goes a long way toward being known and remembered. In addition, turning the tables with an unexpected but spot-on offer to help is likely to demonstrate how much you "get" and relate to the contact.

2. Follow up. Seriously. Follow up.

Kerpen cited the surprisingly low percentage of people who actually follow up when she gives them her business card, after meeting her in person at a conference, say, or at a networking event or after a presentation. It could be that the people who don't follow up are hesitant to ask for favors or take up someone else's time. But when you identify a point of commonality -- something you mutually relate to -- then it's more of a share than a "take" of their time, and it makes following up less challenging.

3. Practice straight talk about money.

We'd rather talk about sex than talk about money. It's something I've heard frequently when it comes to women's chronic lack of financial savvy or confidence, and I heard it in Kerpen's book also. Entrepreneurs in particular face unique challenges around money, so find a subset you can relate to, such as raising capital in healthcare or managing investments while in startup mode. There's no way around this except through -- via education, a willingness to engage the topic, and proactively practicing the language of money.

4. There's no award for the most tired Mom.

Sure, commiserating with other parents about the inherent exhaustion of raising children is one way to relate and build rapport. But it's also worth highlighting the wake-up call that is delegating, and getting a little perspective. Being the "best Mom" doesn't mean being the Mom who does everything the best. It's more about being the Mom who's sane and rested enough to be fully present while with our kids.

5. There's reality and relief to being imperfect.

Kerpen's book includes its fair share of famous brands and marquee names and high-profile roles. It also includes companies and roles you never knew existed. Here's what those two seeming ends of the spectrum have in common: They're real people with real everyday struggles, and they're imperfect as well as highly capable. Who couldn't relate to that? The description applies to all of us, and we're each doing our best to figure this work-life thing out.

In other words, we are all in the same boat. So pull up an oar, and row along.

Published on: Feb 28, 2018
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