Jane Chen measures her success one saved child at a time.
As she explained in a recent interview, her company Embrace Innovations and its nonprofit sister organization, Embrace, help babies to "overcome almost impossible odds, thanks (in large part) to the Embrace Warmer" -- a specially made sleeping bag that keeps premature infants warm on their sometimes long journey from their rural, off-the-grid homes to a hospital.
A child named Nathan is special to Chen. Here's why: "born just under two pounds and abandoned on the side of the road in Beijing after his birth, he's come to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration," she explained.
Nathan was discovered by a nearby Little Flower Orphanage with whom her company had just launched a program. Nathan was placed swaddled in an Embrace Warmer for thirty days.
Nathan survived and is now living with a family in Chicago thanks to "the Embrace Warmer and Little Flower's loving care. Due to his tiny birth weight, he really shouldn't have survived at all, so his plight and survival was incredibly moving to me. When I went to visit him at the orphanage at seven months old, I found a healthy, happy baby boy," explained Chen.
And Chen reckons that her company's product has saved 150,000 children so far. If you measure your success in terms of helping other people, these four success principles can ease your climb.
1. Measure outcomes that make your vision real.
To be successful, you must have your own measures that can track whether you are making progress.
One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that you can set goals that match your values.
Clearly Chen values saving lives. As she said, "Every single child I am able to help makes me feel successful."
2. Find role models who inspire you.
Most entrepreneurs struggle with problems that can be hard to tackle without help. So you need to find role models -- people who you admire and who have overcome the challenges you're facing.
Chen put one of her role models on the board of her company. "Deborah Disanzo is one of my board members and mentors. She was the former CEO of Philips Healthcare, and I see her as successful because she has a clear vision and strong values which guide her choices of professional roles," explained Chen.
Moreover, Chen views Disanzo as inspiring in other parts of life. Said Chen, "She is also a great example to me of someone who is a powerful CEO, as well as an amazing mother, and wife, mentor and friend."
3. Align your work with your values.
Many people take jobs to make money and then feel uninspired because their values and work do not align.
Sometimes you do not discover what you really value until you find yourself working hard on things that do not matter to you.
Chen had the experience. As she noted, "Before working with a startup non-governmental organization that helped Chinese orphans, I had a management consulting job that I was not passionate about at all. I've learned that my work has to be aligned with my values. And, one of my biggest ones is helping those who are most vulnerable."
4. Focus on what matters most to you and your startup's survival.
Given the precarious condition of most startups, it is essential to think clearly about the critical few activities that your startup must do well to survive.
For Embrace Innovations, those activities include developing a compelling vision, inventing new products, running operations, and raising capital.
Chen loves working on vision and new products. As she explained, "I would love to spend more time on the strategic vision and partnerships of Embrace Innovations and our new line of products company, Little Lotus."
Little Lotus "is a collection of swaddles, sleeping bags and blankets for babies in the US which to keep them at the perfect temperature. it has a Tom's shoes inspired model: for every product sold, a baby will be helped by the Embrace Warmer in a developing country," she said.
She has recruited "a strong leadership team, including my current COO Raghu Dharmaraju, who has been an incredible addition to the company."
For now she has to do everything required for her company to thrive -- including coming up with new products and raising the money to make and distribute them. But she would like to spend more time on large-scale vision and brand development.
To get there, I think she would love to be able to fund operations efficiently so she can "carry out our ultimate mission of saving the lives of 1 million infants."
If you define success as making life better for other people, you need to follow these four principles.