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Video Interview with Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction. Get Satisfaction is a community-based platform that helps companies engage their customers through open and transparent conversations that increase customer satisfaction, product insight and enhance customer loyalty. Wendy founded The Chatham Group, where she currently serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor and board member for a long list of startup companies. Wendy chairs the board for The Forum of Women Entrepreneurs & Executives (FWE&E.org) and serves on the board of Silicon Valley Social Venture Capital (SV2.org). She was recently recognized as a Top 100 Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley. You can find Wendy at her site & Twitter @wendyslea
Transcription follows & video above. This is Part II of the interview.
- What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?
First of all I think there’s skill & knowledge & a certain kind of work ethic process. I come from the CRM days so I think in formulas. When it comes to skill: the skill of presenting, the skill of negotiating, the skill of positioning is critical. Those are very refined skills, this is not light weight! That’s why at Astia & other places you can go learn how to pitch. The skill of presenting is non trivial, the skill of negotiating (& we have to get comfortable with the terms too). I wasn’t that familar with them all, so I had to learn that. But I had good negotiating skill overall. So that’s important. On the knowledge side, complete knowledge of the product you are presenting, that goes without saying, but market knowledge & competitive knowledge very important. So whatever it takes to fill that tank up because the impact of your presenting comes from how you’re presenting & the words & content. If you don’t have both of those, then you’re going to miss the mark. Because they want someone who is not just an eloquent speaker but speaks with confidence & competence (confidence meaning knowledge, so it’s knowledge based). Then I would say the tenacity & the resilience, they would be the softer skills but you can’t teach someone that. You just can’t!
No it has to be innate.
People say ‘Well you’ve just got to hang in there!’ No you’ve got to have a deep seated passion of course but that passion has to translate into tenacity & resilience. When you’re wondering what they’re thinking & they’re not really saying & then they’re all shaking their heads like birds pecking water. You get happy ears because in our case we were running out of money. There’s nothing worse!
Yeah it’s a terrible feeling. You don’t want to share that because then you feel you’re losing your ability to influence them. Then on the process side? There’s skill, there’s knowledge, there’s kind of the whole human factors resilience, energy that piece. And then on the process side, really understanding how to pace, when to demo, how early, all the financials: that’s the process of it. It’s very important because otherwise you can get ahead of yourself & they can pull you that way. Then you think that they’re really interested when they’re not. So there’s a lot to it! And all of that while you’re trying to run a business! It’s more than a full time job!
Exactly, thank you so much.
- In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? You’ve already said that some of them can’t be developed, they have to be innate. But the other skills can be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen?
Of course, skills are acquirable. They’re behaviors. So to say that someone can’t have a skill, that’s impossible, crazy. Because if you decide you need to have that skill, you go learn it. Be it analytical skill, any of those skills. Let’s just start with I think the bigger question, maybe the more important question is: Inventory your Skills! To see which of those skills you are strong in & from there decide who wants to be with you in this process.
Yes because you can’t be all things?
That’s right. So first inventory the skills of presenting, of analyzing, of positioning. That’s what I would say! Because you have them if you’re going to be in business. It’s just how strong they are? Then the second is knowledge. You can acquire knowledge too. You think well if you’re going to be the CEO or you’re going to be a founder of something, you’re going to have certain knowledge anyway. You’re going to have market knowledge & product knowledge because that’s inherent to building the business. But the competitive knowledge you just have to go get it! And the go to market knowledge you have to go get it! So yes you can acquire that! No excuses! No excuses on the skill side, it’s just a matter of exploring your strengths & weaknesses. No excuses on the knowledge side because you’re not going to have a business if you’re not going to have the knowledge. I think the difference, the woolly parts, the ones up for grab would be the tenacity, the resilience, the work ethic (because I don’t think you can make yourself work hard!) I think you just do or don’t!
And if we’re looking at it through the lens about women?
I think women are much more hard working. Period!
And the resilience & tenacity?
In fact I will go so far as to say, the guys who funded us, Azure Capital Partners. They are very experienced. They really come from an investment banking background. They’ve had their fund for 10 years. They’re the original investors in VMWare with Diane Green. They love women entrepreneurs! Full stop! If you ask them & you could Cameron Lester or Mike, either one. They would say they feel like women do work harder. They are more resilient. They do feel like (we feel like) we have more to prove! I know it’s not fun to admit that! And maybe not all women do but I think some!
A few people actually have said that in the interviews.
For me, you would think well Wendy what do you have to prove? You’ve already built a business & sold a business! You’re financially independent! You know I’m not sure what I had to prove. But for me the drive was to be more current, more relevant in this new world meaning in the social technology world. In the world of online business, new business models that have some connection to the social technology side, I wanted to be more relevant. I had been investing in those things but you know I had one investment which was just amazing UStream which was just amazing. But the others weren’t. Well if I had been more knowledgeable, I wouldn’t have made some of those investments. I wouldn’t have just come behind someone to throw in my $50k for the sake of it. My drive was to be current & relevant & to get my hands dirty & to feel like I had helped the company & the team bring their assets to full potential. That’s my thing is bringing assets to full potential! Human assets, IP assets, knowledge assets: I like that! In these times when you can build a business much less expensively than you used to & you can move much faster than you used to, just because of the nature of open source & being online. It was the perfect time for me to play that out! So I feel right now, I’m completely in my sweet spot.
I’m hearing that you agree, that women actually have these abilities & really nothing should hold them back except their own attitudes.
Yes I think so, their own attitudes & just their own fears.
- Some say that women may not be suitable for running startups, due to the demands of their personal & family life. I’ve had that feedback from both men & women vcs. How do you see this challenge Wendy?
I think that’s a real challenge. I’m not speaking from experience. I have no children & I have no husband. I have a dog & I take good care of him (I have to make arrangements). The work of building a company is really tough. So I do think when you’ve got children of any age or a partner who wants any attention? I have a pattern of not doing any of that well. When I’m in, I’m all in. So in that way I’m a work horse, even a workaholic. I think the older I get the harder that is, just for the stamina thing. But I think for young women that are going into this & yes they do want children & do want a husband (I respect them for that!) So you’re just going to have to pull it all together because it’s going to take a lot of management. It’s not impossible.
No & they do say that women are much better at multi tasking.
And we are & you know that & you can tell that. That’s why you can cook dinner & make sure everyone’s comfortable & walk the dog & blah, blah, blah & do your email at the same time. That’s our blessing & our curse & it does wear us down. But to answer your question, I think if I were in my 20s and I just had a baby & I had this great husband. We’d have to sit down & have this real serious pow wow about it. I’d say ‘Look I want to go do this & it’s going to be demanding and will you support me?’ I just think you need to be explicit about what’s going to be required, that’s all.
And so this might be, from our conversation, the only challenge that you see for women? Because if we have all those abilities & we can develop all the skills, then really it’s just the right sense of family & personal life?
Yes I think so, it’s a priority thing, isn’t it? The wonderful thing about the female gender (there’s so many wonderful things about the female gender!) but I think we’re much better at pulsing in & out. What I mean by that is, you take a run, you take a 5 year chunk & you say ‘I’m in between movies!’ Let’s pretend like I’m an actor. ‘I’m going to go have my children!’ I’m at the stage either early or late, I’ll adopt them or have them. I’m going to take a break & do that & come back. When I come back, I’m going to start the next Google or the next facebook. Then I’m going to take a pause, because I want to go to Bali & do a meditation path & I want to come back & I want to be in politics. Then I’m going to come back & run a non-profit. It seems to me, based on my observation of my friends from 20 year olds to 70 year olds, that we feel more comfortable opting in & out over the life cycle of our career. I think that’s a beautiful thing. I think that makes us better at each stage.
Yes it makes us more whole!
I think it makes us more whole. I think it gives us more ability to lead because we have more empathy relative to where everyone else is. I think that’s a beautiful thing.