Kathryn’s story has all the ingredients of a captivating business narrative: a massive external setback (the meltdown of 2007) that led to discontinuation of her division. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, Kathryn’s family received some sad health-related news, all while waiting for her baby to arrive. As Kathryn was calling up her old clients, it became apparent that as businesses were recovering from the contraction, they wanted to understand the benefits of social media presence, and this is what Kathryn focused on.
A decade, a dozen iterations and nine books later (check out ‘Return on relationship’ for tips on building online communities!) Kathryn is behind the coaching and mentorship platform getWise that allows on-demand access to industry expertise and network.
It was a delight to chat with Kathryn, I hope aspiring founders and leaders enjoy her responses as much as I did!
Have you ever experienced the imposter syndrome, or, to rephrase, how do you work through the expectation that a founder has all the answers, knows the solutions to all problems?
Every day, all the time! For me, the solution is carrying on in spite of it. I never advise faking it till you make it. That just feeds the imposter syndrome. I’m not into bravado or fake confidence, because people can tell. I think like attracts like, and if you are out there, you are authentic and you are transparent about how the evidence that you have at the moment leads to a certain decision, your team and your investors will understand.
What is one underrated skill you would recommend an aspiring founder to work on?
Compassion and empathy. Being a bit more seasoned than some of the other founders, I see a premium placed on the hustle culture, winning at all costs. But I see that the people who have been around the longest and are more successful are the people who lead with empathy and compassion. They want to really solve a problem. Their clients and employees know that, and in the long run, you build a better product, a company and culture this way.
You are a published author, and at the core, your books are about relationships. Do you have any practical networking tips?
Indeed, even my earlier books that are literal screenshots of how to set up a Facebook page, focus on relationships. They have not been updated since the late 2000’s when they were first published. My two latest books, ‘The Return on Relationship’ and ‘Solving the Social Media Puzzle’, are still relevant today. They focus on relaying why you are working on a certain problem, and the like people will show up, appreciative of your work.
As far as networking goes, you have to be intentional. You can’t just show up at an event, talk to someone and expect it to be a strategy. Example: before my speaking engagements, I go over the list of speakers and attendees, and I send them a LinkedIn request saying “Hey, it’s great to share the stage with you!” or, “Look forward to your session at XYZ - let’s connect!”
I like to approach networking with Zig Ziglar’s quote in mind, “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough people to get what they want''. This is how I’ve lived my life and built my business, and that’s what I think makes it successful.
This quote is a nice segue into my next question: who are your favorite speakers, podcasters, someone you follow consistently?
I like the oldies! Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Bob Proctor, Brene Brown. I’ve been to Tony Robbins’ seminar once, which was a very interesting experience. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, I like audiobooks, especially self-help books.
So probably the answer to my last question will be easy: how do you recover from a failure?
We don’t have all day! Someone asked me the other day, ‘Have you ever lost?' This is going to sound really trite, but I look at failures as opportunities. You need to understand that failure and recovery is all part of a journey.
I also learned from my sales experience that ‘no’ means one of the two things: I either didn’t ask the right questions and I’m not solving their problem, so it just isn’t a fit, or it’s ‘not right now.'
There have been days when there were tears, when I felt like I was just done. But you know, have you seen the movie ‘Gone with the Wind’? It’s my favorite movie of all times, and my daughter’s middle name is Scarlett! And Scarlett used to say, ‘I will think about it tomorrow’. Just recently, I just had to shut down my computer and walk away, because you need that perspective.
I recently spoke with a founder whose first two companies failed miserably, and he was able to get the funding for the third one because they looked at him as the third-time founder! See how it doesn’t have to be the end of the story? That’s what makes people say, ‘It took me ten years to be an overnight success.'
Stay in the loop with the startup community
Stay updated on what is happening in the New England startup community. Subscribe to the Startup Boston newsletter list today - use the form in the footer!