We asked the members of the 2020 Female Founders 100 for their best advice about creating and supporting a culture. These are the highlights.
Sometimes building a company is almost like raising a kid. Establish a rhythm early on--a method of doing things that is consistent. If you're sending a report, if you're doing all-hands meetings, do them regularly. That way, everybody will know what to expect from the leader.
For a long time, I saw my background as a middle school teacher as a weakness. I finally realized it was my strength. If I was going to be flexible with my schedule to be able to take my kids to music or a play group, then everyone should have that flexibility. I created the kind of company I want to work at, and I treat people the way I want to be treated. That ethos has helped me define my leadership.
Women Investing in Women Digital
When people see that you're after excellence, that's when they want to follow you, ultimately.
Being a young Black female solo founder is incredibly lonely. One key realization: I was saying yes to things, like speaking engagements, that took days to think about. Now, if the answer isn't a hell-yes, I say no.
I felt like we were losing sight of our mission, and with a lot of nudging from a mentor, I started thinking about the CEO role. I Googled what a CEO does: raise money, evangelize the company and the mission, hire talent. I was doing the job--I just didn't have the title. You don't have to check 100 percent of the boxes before you raise your hand.
Be bold. In my entrepreneurial journey I have been told so many times, by other women, that I had to tone it down, that I had to be more humble, that I'm over-this, or over-that, or overconfident. No one says that to a man.
The Mom Project
I was once told that you shouldn't preserve a culture but, rather, expand it. That's such a great way to put it. As you grow, your culture will be very different from what it was when you were just a few people. As more people join the team, they will add their unique value, and the company culture is going to be better for it.
Community and connection with other founders is essential.
How you react to a situation is what will define you. Are you in a situation that is uncomfortable or not to your advantage? How are you going to react? Are you going to start drinking? Are you going to start taking drugs? Or are you going to be strong and say to yourself, "Hey! I'm going to push through this."
Walker-Miller Energy Services
Never do something that is good for the company but bad for the team.
The best thing that female founders can do is to lead with openness. I think women have the ability to align people's incentives beyond the monetary. People are looking for fulfillment, work-life balance, camaraderie, and a sense of family and community. We shouldn't shy away from that. It's not what people are learning in business school about performance reviews and aligning incentives.
You have to be strong, but don't try to act stronger than the guys. It's one thing to be their peer. It's another thing to try to flaunt to them that you're brighter or smarter than they are. Be strong, but don't make a show of it.
Twenty One Toys
Normally my leadership style is very collaborative. But in a moment of crisis, what my team needed was direction. If a building is burning, you're not going to have a focus group. You need one person to say, "You do this, you do that, until we put the fire out."
Let the fear be the fuel in your engine, the thing that moves you forward. Everybody feels it, so you might as well use it.
New Leaf Biofue
Communicate early, often, and with honesty and intelligence. You want to communicate, but not vent. You want to be vulnerable, but not terrifying. You want to inspire trust, not have people jump ship.l
As women, we often get taught that maybe someone else knows best, and maybe we have to make sure everyone leaves the room happy after the conversation. I had to learn to speak up for myself, learn to speak my truth and not have to make it palatable for everyone else. It's not about being mean. It's just about being willing to stand firm in what you know is right.
You have to develop discernment and confidence in your own decision-making. That comes with clarity of mind. If you are always shallow-breathing and racing from one thing to the next, you don't have the clarity of mind to listen to the obvious answers that are being presented to you. Slow down. Take a deep breath.
If you don't intentionally build a culture, it will happen around you.
People need to find ways to be more sustainable. We're held accountable by our customers, but there isn't a system that requires people to be sustainable. So we've tried to measure ours with our impact reports. We publish them so people can see the impact of our programs.
Show up as yourself, be weird, let your employees in a little, show your vulnerability a little. I think companies function better and withstand pressures more successfully when people are allowed to and empowered to be people.
The Agriculture Industry Didn't Have a Data Platform--So She Created One
This Serial Entrepreneur Has Transformed Translation in U.S. Health Care
How to Know If That 2 a.m. Startup Idea Is Brilliant, or Crazy
Yes, Women Entrepreneurs Do Raise Money -- Lots of It. Here's How.
VIDEO: 2 Female Founders Reflect on 2020's Impact on Their Companies