In three months, we became a global company operating in five countries and assembling one of the most talented teams in the industry. When you succeed in business, people start reaching out to the CEO for inspiration.
"What's your secret sauce?"
"What can we tell other CEO's?"
"Are you going to write a book?"
Our success is the result of certain deeply held values which I will describe below:
1. Believe in yourself and your team.
When you found a company, you need to believe in yourself and your vision. Much of being a start up CEO is having passion for your product or solution. This passion resonates with customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and investors.
As a CEO, one of your key roles is to instill confidence in your team, When people come to work for my company, I feel personally responsible for their success. When I find that they aren't having success, I ask myself what I did wrong.
"Did I explain it clearly?"
"Do they understand the importance of the mission?"
"Have I provided them with everything they need to be successful?"
"Have I given them the confidence to make their own decisions?"
"Have I removed all of their impediments?"
When you have a passionate and confident team, you get increased productivity, increased morale, and the company becomes something larger than yourself which should be every founding CEO's goal.
Running a startup has emotional ups and downs. We all try to have more ups than downs and when you get real momentum that will be the truth. When yourself and your team, they will also believe in you. As a CEO, you cannot underestimate how important it is to have your employees believe in your leadership during those down periods.
A common phrase for an employee to hear from me is "I have full confidence in you and that you are the right person for the job."
Since our company is predominantly women, I came to learn that many women struggle with confidence and self esteem. One time, we had a new employee and she was really polite. She kept asking me:
"Is it OK if I use the restroom? Is it OK to take lunch?"
After a couple of days, this drove me absolutely crazy, so I decided to have a talk with the new employee.
"Look, a man doesn't ask for permission to do anything. He just does. No one tells a man when he can or cannot go to the bathroom or when he can or cannot take lunch. As women, we are not going to ask for permission to do the most basic things in life. When we need to use the restroom, we just go. When we need to eat lunch, we take lunch," - Jenna Bourgeois, CEO, Dynamics Intelligence
2. Think big.
One of the most influential books that I read early in my career has now become controversial due to a particular author having run for president and currently occupying the White House. In that book, the author discussed the importance of having big dreams and taking on big problems. I used that advice throughout my career making me successful. I challenge my team every day to think big. At Dynamics Intelligence, our primary goal in healthcare is to provide a system that reduces the number of deaths caused by medical error. Having a big goal places the small things into perspective. i.e. While you are struggling with that Python script error, people are dying. It's best to fix that script as soon as possible.
3. Don't be afraid.
Fear paralyzes an organization. I will never forget the time that I was in Plano, TX and was fortunate to work with Jason Holloman, currently a program executive at Converge One, Inc. I was a consultant working for Avanade and Jason was part of the customer's management team. The team was struggling with all of the change. Here is what Jason told the team:
"This is just fear," said Jason Holloman.
Jason nailed it. He was right. The team was fearful of the new system and how it would impact their jobs. That fear paralyzed the team. After calling it out, Jason gave clear direction to the team about how to overcome that fear.
It is important for the CEO and the team to overcome their fear. Fear affects all of us in different ways. When you find yourself struggling ask yourself 'what you are afraid of?' and it might bring some mental clarity.
Don't be afraid to become a global company. Yes, the country might have strange laws and customs. Yes, they might have their own cultural norms that are different from yours, but they are all people. They want the same things that you and I want.
"You can't become a global company if you don't give yourself permission," Jenna Bourgeois, CEO Dynamics Intelligence
4. Challenge yourself and your team.
Being in technology, customers hire us to solve complex problems, so challenges come with the job. If you don't like to be challenged, then technology is probably not the field for you. Solving complex problems requires everyone to pitch in.
"If we don't solve it, who will?"
At Dynamics Intelligence, we challenge our employees. Many times we ask them to get out of their comfort zone to learn new things and to tackle tough problems. That challenge could be a learning a new technology, understanding a new market or even dealing with a difficult customer.
As a CEO, it is just as important for me to challenge myself by placing an arbitrary goal. For each new market territory, we set the goal based upon how many jobs we could create. While other companies focus on revenue, we focus on humans. Creating a job for someone can have an enormous impact on the community, the employee, and our company.
Once we determine that number, we figure out how much revenue we need to earn to justify those jobs. We measure our performance based upon how many jobs we create as well as our bottom line. We take pride in knowing that we created a job for someone and that they learned a new skill. We do our part to contribute to society. I recognize that this is counter-intuitive to what they teach you in business school.
5. Have empathy.
When I speak publicly, I often point out that women have the opportunity to change the workplace. I argue that our current understanding of a 8 to 6, Monday thru Sunday, on call 24 x 7 via mobile phone job, was designed by a patriarchal society that began with the industrial revolution and emphasized profit over family.
Women's life experiences are much different from men. We take on the burden of caring for our families. We take time off to start a family. We take time to deal with our mid-life crisis. At Dynamics Intelligence, we believe it is OK for us to change this paradigm. When a woman mentioned that at 3PM she needs to go to the corner to pick up the kids from the school bus each day, I immediately suggested that she place it on her calendar, so that we knew not schedule a meeting during that time.
As CEO, the worst day in my company was when all of the kids became sick on the same day in multiple countries. Our women bring so much energy to the workplace that their absence was very noticeable. Being a Type A, I found this terribly difficult, but I coached myself. We are a social enterprise and if the kids are sick then the business will have to wait, I told myself. One extra day won't hurt us. We are a human-centric company.
6. Give yourself and your team permission to be successful.
I learned this from my cousin, Ray Pelletier, who was a motivational speaker. Through societal pressure people come to believe that they are not destined for success and may even come to believe that they are not worthy. In our company, people are our most important asset. We exist because of our people. We implement technology because it helps people.
By saying those simple words "I give you permission to be successful", it can make all of the difference in the world to your team. If you want to be a champion, you need to give yourself permission to win. No matter what background you came from. No matter what race, religion, ethnicity or gender, you have my permission to be successful. We are all here because we want to be successful, so let's do it!
7. Create a culture where employees admit when they don't know something.
Nearly every person who works in technology has personally encountered the concept of "spinning their wheels" while gaining no traction. This typically comes at a time when employees are faced with new kind of problem or a new unfamiliar technology. When employees spin their wheels, productivity suffers.
We don't want a workforce that feels compelled to always tell us the bright side of the story. Rather, we want a workforce that says, 'Look, I have never done this before. It will take some time for me to understand this technology. Here is what I plan to do to solve this knowledge gap.'
This can be an opportunity for me as CEO to engage and teach the employee about how the technology operates. I want our employees to be honest about a project's status and their own performance and to accept responsibility for their performance. People who try to fake it and BS me, don't last very long in our company. We have zero time for that nonsense and it's a waste of money.
8. Continuous learning is required.
A former customer of mine said it best, 'we are all just chasing technology.' It's true, the technology industry moves so fast, that what you learn today could be obsolete next week. I try to hire employees that understand this principle and have a willingness to continually learn.
9. Give guidance, but never micromanage.
Diverse populations don't need your help. They need the opportunity. Many are more educated and more skilled than the majority of people in the workforce today. Dynamics Intelligence is one of the most diverse teams in the technology industry.
Guys, a woman does not need to be told what to do in the workplace. She is not your girlfriend. She is not your wife. She probably has better skills, so just present the problem, give her the tools, and keep her accountable. She will thank you and she will enjoy her work.
10. Hire a diverse team.
Hiring a diverse team gives you unparalleled performance and unparalleled creativity. Groundbreaking technologies can only be created with such a team. You will be amazed at the energy within your company and you will learn so much.
A bouquet of flowers looks beautiful because of the varying type of flowers in the arrangement. Without diversity, the bouquet just wouldn't be as beautiful.
Jenna Bourgeois is CEO of Dynamics Intelligence, a global technology company.