In the same way that some politicians are described as “outside the beltway” when they don’t fit the characteristics, education and background ascribed to a “typical” politician, Wendy Lea should be described as “outside the Valley” when it comes to Silicone Valley.
When she was hired as the CEO of Get Satisfaction Wendy was a true stranger in a strange land. A proud southerner from Oxford, Mississippi, and a businesswoman with minimal technical chops, she entered the cutting edge world of San Francisco as if it were foreign soil—and she admitted it was pretty terrifying.
But as we discovered during her fireside chat with Docstoc CEO Jason Nazar, Wendy is no newbie to business. Her career runs the gamut, from corporate work, to bootstrapped entrepreneur, invested business owner, angel investor and even a venture capitalist partner.
To watch the entire event, check out the full video. If you’re short on time, check out some of the key quotes and take-aways from her chat below:
- On her turning point in realizing the corporate world wasn't for her: "I don't think I was made to suck up.... when I see something that isn't right, I call it out. So I got in trouble when I called a big executive out because he was not exactly telling the truth."
- On the fork in the road that every business owner faces when they can no longer expand: "I remember the day I said to my partner: it's time for us to roll up, or be rolled up. You know when you can't scale, you can feel that tension."
- On making decisions: “Sometimes I think I know too much. I wish I could go back and have a beginner’s mind. To say I’m going to do something and just do it, without overthinking it.”
- "When you see a market start shifting a lot, you need to step back and see how you become part of the shift, drive the shift or get off the road."
- “We are people before we are employees. Leadership isn’t about demanding control anymore; those days are over. It’s about unpacking the personal motivations of individual employees.”
- On her first day as CEO of Get Satisfaction: “There was so much I didn’t know. At the office, everyone would be sitting around one big table on their laptops, not talking to each other. I wanted to have a meeting just to talk to people!"
- Her favorite interview question: “A year from now, what will I know or observe about you that there's no way I can know now?”
- On transitioning into a paid service: "Building things is good, and getting the message out is great, but you need to package and price what you do in a way that's easily consumable and provides value."
On Being a Woman Entrepreneur
- "I never played with dolls as a little girl, I was always organizing things."
- “As a leader you need to be somewhat vulnerable in order to be transparent, and vulnerability doesn’t come naturally to most men. Our sensitivity as women can make our job more difficult, but it’s also a great strength.”
- "When I was growing up in business, I didn't optimize for being male or female. I optimized for bringing value to my audience. I'm not saying things didn't happen, but I could not allow myself to see that. Maybe it was a survival thing. Nowadays I'm more aware of this stuff, I notice the differences for women and older entrepreneurs—I probably would have been just fine if I never let that seep into my brain."
It sounds like Wendy has been both learning and leading every single day, and it’s been an incredible journey.
Note: Some quotes have been slightly shortened or summarized for clarity.
Article by Rochelle Bailis