During this unordinary time in every company’s life, you may be experiencing some changes and challenges to your company.
Especially as a female leader, we want you to know that you’re not alone. All the planning in the world couldn’t have prepared you for COVID-19.
So at Alley, we know that you’ve had to adapt or change what you’re doing to respond to COVID-19 in every area of your lives—not just your business. And with that kind of unexpected change, you need a quick-thinking, highly adaptable strategy to keep your business afloat—and thriving.
With our virtual event, “Female Founders: Leading with Empathy”, we’re honing in on companies like yours run by leaders like you. We want to bring you real-life experience and advice from women in your shoes dealing with the same issues you are.
In this event, our panelists, Brianna, Alexandra, Bertha, Noelle, and Jas, put their businesses centerstage and under a microscope to help businesses like yours thrive off of their experience.
Presenting you with real-business advice from the real-world, they go through the different strategies they’re implementing in their businesses during a time like this.
There is no “right” way to respond to this crisis.After assessing your risk management and spending, the next step is to help figure out the different strategies that are right for your brand in order to get through it.
In terms of business, you may have to drawback on extra spending, scale up teams recruitment for your online staff or scale down teams for your physical staff.
In terms of your team, you will need to consider what it will take to care for the staff that you do keep.
Learning how to lead with empathy and care for the rest of your team while also keeping everybody on track—especially when working from home with a distributed team—it’s important to gather all the advice you can, to do so successfully.
Choosing Your Team Wisely:
Not only is it important to choose who you’re working with wisely—if you have that luxury, of course—but also to learn how to manage them (from afar).
During this crisis, we all seem to be pulling through similar circumstances, which makes having an inside look at other businesses helpful.
At Alley, our team is focusing on supporting our community digitally by sharing resources and hosting video events. We hope this event and our entire event series can help keep your business stay connected to the community, move forward in development, and grow with intentionality.
- We’re all in this together. Microsoft Women in Cloud is taking an active role to identify policies and solutions to prevent economic losses for female tech entrepreneurs. Your contribution will help us to develop a detailed report to share with policy-makers and global companies across the world. Take Action: Please spare 15-minutes for the survey to help us develop solutions together.
- #CloudInnovateHER Pitch Challenge - Digital - This pitch challenge aims to bridge that gap while bringing in a competitive edge to the summit with an opportunity to present technologies to create a sustainable impact in today’s world. Apply today to win $5000 in cash & cloud credits
Ready to get started? Thank you, everybody, panelists and attendees for joining us today really, really excited to talk about leadership in a time of crisis with such an awesome lineup and a special shout out to WE NYC, our partners and putting on today's program. I'm going to be your host Noelle Tassie, I'm the CEO of Alley, we're a company that runs a national network of accelerators and labs to connect the entrepreneurs in our community to our large corporate partners, all with the goal of creating good change. So you can learn more on our website at alley.com and additionally, one more quick announcement. We're working with Microsoft right now on a Women in Cloud challenge. We'll be sending out more details on that to all of the attendees of this panel but it's a great opportunity to get involved with Microsoft as a female entrepreneur. If you are running a tech business that could benefit from from those resources in that reach. So without further ado, we're gonna jump into introductions here. So I'll be queuing in our panelists clockwise from how they're on my screen. So, Alexandra, you are up first.
Awesome. Thank you. So my name is Alexandra Zatarain. I'm the co-founder and head of brand marketing at Eight Sleep. Eight Sleep is a sleep fitness company. We are based in New York City. We've been around for six years or so. And we make develop and produce hardware software and digital technology to help people sleep better. Our signature product is a smart mattress embedded with technology that uses primarily temperature regulation to give you better, deeper sleep. So very excited to share our experience not only through last six years, but more specifically what we've been going through in the last few months and see how I can help any of you and answer any questions from how we've attacked it. We are a venture backed company, we've raised over $60 million. We're close to 50 people and stuff. So if that serves us reference, I'm happy to answer questions at that stage or earlier stage of business.
Awesome. Jas you're next.
Okay, great. Hi everyone. I'm Jas Maggu CEO and founder of GALAXI.AI. We are an artificial intelligence company that provides AI software to insurance carriers, rental car companies car sharing companies for automated vehicle inspection and to automate the insurance workflow. My experience personally has been this my second company. I have worked on the venture capital private equity side as well. And primarily worked in technology and business development. Yeah, very excited to be part of this panel and share some of the things we have been going through as a tech VC backed company. And I'm happy to be here.
Thanks, Bertha you're next.
Hi everyone. My name is Bertha Jimenez. I'm the CEO and co founder of RISE products. RISE products are put that startup that works with organic byproducts and converted into green so we're we're working right now with the beer industry. We take their spent grain that your small to barley and we convert it into a high protein, high fiber, low carb, flour and grains and then we sell that to bakers, chefs, and food manufacturers. And so I'm glad I'm here I've been working with the with the small business WE NYC for a year. So I'm really happy to share experience I have both like how we're dealing right now, with COVID-19 and how we're like looking at strategies to, you know, get through these.
Thank you, Bertha. And Brianna. Brianna, I don't think your mic is working.
Can you hear me now?
All right. So my name is Brianna and I co founded Crewbloom. Crewbloom helps companies in the US afford talent that's offshore. So connecting companies with folks that are in professional roles that are non technical. My co founder is in the Philippines as the majority of our team but we also have contractors working in Central and South America. I also am a mentor with WE NYC and they're a great org so I'm just super honored to share with you guys what our journey has been, in particular since COVID.
Awesome, so I'm really excited to get started. This is such an amazing lineup of women and entrepreneurs. And I'm being told I forgot to mention something earlier in my intro, which is, if you are interested, we're doing a lot of these panels right now to support our community during this time, so we're going to be running a panel tomorrow on the Path to Profitability. And then next week, we'll be talking more on the theme of leadership and continuing the conversation. So anyone who's interested in that, and other programming can find it on our site, but now getting to the good stuff. So we're gonna start by really talking about the crisis, right? Because everybody here in some way has had to adapt or change what they're doing to respond to this in every area of our lives. So our first question, and I'd love to hear from all of our panelists on this is did you prepare for this crisis? And did you have a continuity plan in place and I think Alexandra, you actually did didn't you?
Yeah. So for us what happened is actually that we manufacture our products in China. We have a team full time, small team in China that has been working with us for over five years now. And it was something that we kind of saw coming since December, and then through January and so in February, our board meeting, we were really lucky to have the push in the direction from our investors who sit on our board who said no, something is coming up. And not just from not just from the perspective of the health crisis, but also with they were really anticipating everything was going to happen from the economic side. And so that was at least a good head start. And unfortunately, based on those considerations, we had to take pretty aggressive steps early on, but we were one of the first startups to kind of, you know, have to go through layoffs and cost cuttings and all the things that a lot of us have had to do over the last few weeks. And and that really helped us we didn't have, per se a continuity plan. It's not something that we had ever thought that we would have to do as a company or as founders. And that's where the challenge comes on. And very emotionally, it's a big, big challenge. But we we were able to figure it out earlier in Brighton even before we went into the sort of lockdown in New York City, which was helpful.
Awesome. Jas you're next.
Yeah, so yeah, we definitely did not see this coming. And, you know, earlier, the thing was that this is probably not that serious. But of course, once it hits pretty seriously. I think one of the things is being a small company. Yeah, you don't necessarily do a lot of planning except for your financial forecast, budgeting, best case and worst case scenario. So from that perspective, we had, like we did do, like a worst case scenario, you know, just financial planning. And given you know, with this day this environment of course, the fundraising has completely stopped or pause at this moment. Any other any other discussions with large corporate partners is also slow the sales cycles have increased. So, for us, we, we, you know, I were lucky enough to have a support of big networks. And you know, a lot of early advice like from Tech stars network Venture Partners out in westers and vendors. And with that, you know, we consider different options and that's, you know, where we are in the execution phase. And, you know, the whole strategy has been okay, let's consider this to be at least, definitely, it's, it's going to take a lot of few months for this to resolve. So let's plan based on that. And you know, based on so through that we were able to execute on it and get additional help to loans and other things.
Yeah, and I think that's definitely something we'll be talking about later. Is that is that you know, interesting process of applying for federal aid and I think so many of us are are solving this problem on the fly right? And even if you're only looking at it two to three months disruption, how does that how does that follow you through the rest of the year? You know, it's it takes a long time to come back from that fully. Bertha. I would love to hear from you on this as well.
I think I'm in the same boat as yes, we didn't plan. We were not expecting this. And especially because a lot of our clients are from the food service and catering and like vitality groups that like eat us a lot, because that means like, a lot of our sales went down and we do have like big corporate partners. That just all like the sales cycles have increased. But the good thing is like we also have like a consulting part. So that part was not disrupt. And I in fact, I said it will win up a little bit. So right now inland, I think we always have been have been really good mentors that have helped us like think through like, Okay look at this moment that we are in this and then make how we can use what we have and be able to do something but at the same time look at kind of like the long run you know, because this will last in a four or five months, whatever it is, but you also have to look at like you know, what's the end goal after that has happened? So right now we are doing like different strategies in order to get over it. And also like, we are looking at cooking like in the terms of food web two, what's like the scenes that are you know what other markets are going on? So yes, it is. I think it's a crisis for everyone. But you know, there's always like, it's good always to kind of like step back and see, okay, how we can manage this crisis, whether they're different. It's also good to have like different portfolios of things that you do. Because in our case, like one went down drastically, but the other kind of went up. So yeah.
Definitely. And Brianna.
Yeah. So at Google, we feel fortunate that a small number of our client partners stepped out of our partnership. But what my co founder and leadership team have just continued to obsess and focus on is just the emotional impacts of this, because even if we didn't make furloughs or layoffs internally ourselves, so many folks, partners and families have been impacted. In inmeasurable ways, and so then therefore, it's our responsibility to step in and recognize the impact of of, of those losses and really provide an environment that's really transparent and open and try to ensure that Crewbloom is still a safe, comfortable place for them to show up and work and grow and be successful. So we didn't have something in place, but moving forward, we hope to learn and be better and do better if hope fingers crossed, this never happens again.
Yeah, there's so much, you know, we can learn, I think, just from managing the human impact side of this, that will hopefully I'll be able to take back as leaders on the other side of this crisis, and we'll be talking more about that later. I know some of you just touched on this, but would love to just put this back out to the group in terms of, you know, changes that you've made to your business or business model to work through this. So you know, we just talked a little bit about making changes on the fly. When we didn't have continuity plans. I know, Alley certainly didn't have a plan for a pandemic where nobody could be together in person. We're obviously a company that relies heavily on having people together in a workspace collaborating, coming to physical events. And so we had to completely change our business and in the space of a month have taken everything that we do digital. So Friday lunches are now you know, here's a local pizza shop and like a credit, order food for your team, join us in Slack or, you know, doing these panels digitally. And, you know, so that that was a huge, huge shift for our team. But I know a lot of you just touched on this, but you're more in depth on how you've all had to change the way you do business and maybe your business model itself. So I don't know who wants to jump in there.
I'm happy to start. So for us, there were a couple things that were important one, which I think is probably what's top of mind for anyone running a business right now is cost reductions. So really looking deep and understanding, you know how much money you have in the bank account? How, what are your ongoing cost, you always try to preserve as many people's jobs as possible. And, you know, prioritize that and then look at unfortunately, one of the areas that you'd like, you'd have to cut in the areas where you have more flexibility to do any sorts of cuts. One of the things that was important for us in that consideration was also understanding how much we hurt ourselves with those costs cuts before we make them and that's connected to what Bertha was saying, right? We need to look at this a little bit more longer term, and save this horse to last four months or six months or a year. What are the different scenarios and where do we want to be once we are hopefully all out of this, this big slump. So we started there and one of the big things that we actually had to pull back on considerably with our advertising spend. We did not know how consumers were going to react to spending, but our main product, the main product that we sell is a $3,000 Smart Mattress. So we cannot expect that those sales are going to stay consistent month over month, given the situation that a lot of people are going through and losing jobs or being wary of losing their jobs, or the kind of economic uncertainty and so we want it to anticipate that and rather than continuing to operate normally in advertising spend, we have to just downgrade a little bit, particularly in channels that may become cheaper right now, but that are much harder to manage for startups. So we had been investing on television or radio advertising or podcasts that have these longer leads, where it's much harder to pull back or put put, you know, put back money in. So we decided, hey, let's just stop those now until we have the certainty that consumers are behaving normally based on a lot of the data that we have year over year. So that pullback of spent particularly in marketing is what we did and I think a lot of other startups have done as well. The shift on business model for us in some most of our products online, so thankfully We're not impacted in a big way from the closure of our retail showrooms. But we did started looking at the trends of our average order values online maybe going a little bit lower than what we were doing before. So we looked at pushing more of our advert remaining advertising dollars to accessory products. So many people are not ready to buy a $3,000 Smart bed at the same rate that they were pre COVID. But more people are looking for a comfortable pillow and their sheets are gravity blanket to relax at night. And so just being conscious about that and understanding what is your product mix and what are other products that you could put in front of people that maybe were not your best sellers before, but consumers may be much more into buying right now particularly we're seeing a big trend with people really struggling to sleep. And so we want to be that boys in that place where they can go to find the solutions if if they have the appetite to buy something right now.
So In terms of you know, overall advice for any company going through this is one is of course, you know, very a, it's very intuitive and simple reduce expenses and just keep anything expense which is necessary. But anything which is good to have, you know, those expenses should be removed. And second, of course, is in terms of sales. For instance, for us, um, this almost it created opportunity for us in some ways where now all the more insurance carriers, they're realizing that instead of relying on in person vehicle inspections, they can now no longer do that because they're not very safe. And now all the more they need to do, what your inspections and even in that it needs to be more automated because they may not have the entire workforce access at this point. So far, in terms of sales strategy, it was all about becoming hyper focused. And looking at only those customer segments where we know there is a, either an immediate need or an urgency in the situation, because any other customer segment for them you know, it's it's almost like for them, oh, this is not so crucial for us there are more important things for us right now to consider and we don't want to buy a product you know, where there is bleeding from a neck problem kind of thing. So that for us is was a mean bush from sales perspective is be hyper focus and just go straight at that, and not waste time and other things and then close more deals during close as many deals as we can, of course with a longer sales cycle process. But you know, that is what is going to keep us going and reducing the bone. So that's how we plan around it.
Yeah, so for us, like everybody has saying like you know, first check on your cash flows check what's you know, like sometimes there's stuff that we expand that are not so critical for us to move forward. So we have just like stop spending on that. But also let you know like, as I said, like one of like a huge cash flow that was for us was like, bear makers and chef and now they're all closed of course, we cannot demand them you know to keep not like we cannot get like okay, they can keep buying from us. But when we notice that many of our some of our chefs they started doing partnerships with hospitals, and one of the things like they want some products already made. So what we did is like we partner with them to make those products for them, like CPE kind of products that we knew how to build But it wasn't like our main seem to sell before. But now we are doing that because that's that's the moment that we should, you know, partner with them and help them as Brianna like those who say we should protect our customers who are our partners who were also like dealing with this bad situation. So we are making CPUs probes for them right now. After we're considering, like, should we have that for the long run, that's something that we're still considering. But at least for the moment, it's something that is helping us get through and also learning you know, like how to work because like, even like, what like one of our manufacturers, they shut down and they didn't shut down because they didn't have a big business going but because they were afraid that their family would get affected by the COVID. So they just shut down. So we have to find an another packer. So like, I think one of the good things about being a startup issues your business flexible and you can move fast. So yeah, but it's just like how you can do partnerships that can fail. You and your customers, you know, to move forward. So yeah.
Yeah, I think looking out for counter parties suppliers customers right now is just as important. You know, we were experiencing that as well. It's one of the reasons we're doing all these panels is so many startups in our in our network are vulnerable right now and the way that all of our businesses are and how do we all come out to the other side? Hopefully with as many of those companies still thriving as possible. Brianna.
Yes. So for us, there's two channels of business that we focus on right driving applicants as well as driving new business opportunities. And so for us, we saw a surge of our inbound applicant rate, which is of course the baseline of our ability to do business. And so scaling up teams recruitment being one of them, scaling down teams, I know as I understand marketing, and just the way in which our marketing spend and strategy was just radically impacted. But then we also have to take care of our people first and foremost. And so understanding that payouts need to be transacted globally, and there's vulnerabilities that previously just didn't exist. And so we have to account for that and pay our folks a day early. And just make sure that I'm giving them an environment such as this and the impact it's so important that pay is to their bank accounts, and that they can take care of themselves and their loved ones. And so shifting down our tech stack and reevaluating our subscriptions, was kind of where we started. And what we just continue to obsess on is just start people and how we can just ensure we have the cash to take care of them.
Definitely and that segues so nicely into our next topic, which is, again, taking care of your people. And there are two sides to that. I think the first one is, you know, around layoffs or staffing reductions, right. So, you know, if anyone has advice to the community around how to handle that, how to think about it, what should be driving that. And then also, you know, how to lead with empathy and care for the rest of your team while also keeping everybody on track, during you know, work from home with a distributed team, since it's really two questions for us to all tackle here, but it's so important to to your point. I guess, Alexandra, do you want to lead off there?
So yeah, on the first topic of virtually situation where a lot of us find ourselves and having to reduce our staff. For us, it was the first time going through layoff, it's not something that either of us as executives in the team had even experienced on the other side, right. So we hadn't even been in a company that had gone through layoffs before. So I think the first step was do as much research as possible and talk to people that have been through it before. There are other CEOs or business leaders are the people that just like you, or have gone through it, and so you can have a conversation with them and try to learn what we learned from them is that it was important to try to do it once. So to really take the time to understand how much for reduction had to be made. What were the essential parts of this is that we needed to keep running based on the different scenarios that we had for how long this slow curve was going to last for and to really try to do a deep cut but do it once. It's going to hurt more but then the pain is going to pass. And the reason is because that is what's also going to keep the remaining team members been more stable. It is something emotionally really tough not just for the people that are leaving was for people are saying, and so you want to be able to go to them with confidence and say, well, we're making this change. But now all of us that are here are going to be here. And you need to kind of rally those troops behind you again. And the best way to do that is to be transparent as to why that decision was made and what situation it puts the company in, share as much information as possible, particularly for us as a startup, all the people on our team are also owners of the company. And so we need to treat them as such and without respect and share with them know, what's the expectation, and not only for their jobs, but for the business and why we made this decision and what it's going to be requiring out of everyone that stays in terms of that motivation and productivity and focus because it's not going to be normal times and that connects to that second question we're making is how do we keep people motivated for us within I think week, maybe less than a week after we did our our staff cuts, we have to go work from home, we decided that we couldn't keep going into the office. And so you very quickly go from this environment in which you just did this big shake up in the team. And then suddenly, you're gonna stop seeing each other face to face, it was really, we were very fearful because we did not know if we're going to lose people's motivations, we're going to lose their attentions. And so we just decided, again, to find ways to stay very connected, where every manager would be on top of each of their individuals performance and emotional performance as well and connect with them. And that's where the part of leading with empathy comes through is we cannot forget the fact that what we're going through is not normal. And we can't expect people to operate normally, we just cannot. I know that all of us want our business to succeed and make just as enough money as we were doing before and achieve all the goals that we had set for ourselves with beginning of the year but it's it's going to change and the best way to bring your teammates into this journey and have everyone work together and deliver the goals is to have empathy for what they're going through. And the situations are going to be different. We have team members who got sick, who cannot get tested, we don't know if they had COVID. And you need to understand that and maybe they're going to be off for a few days. And there's nothing to do about it. And we have maybe team members whose motivation goes down a little bit because they're not used to being alone working from home all the time, or they're far away from their families, as many people in New York City are, and they don't have anyone that they can rely on. And so we just need to take it on a case by case basis first, have conversations with them set times on one on one or any other, you know, have coffee or have a drink and by 30 and just have conversations like you would if you were in person, be human, ask them what they're going through. And then lastly, what has been very valuable for us working remotely is to set systems of accountability and also what we call inspection. So essentially, how are you transforming all the different interactions that you were having in person into the digital world if you were not doing so before? Use, you know whether it's a Trello, Asana, Air Table, Monday, whatever system, you want to show the goals, prioritize the work together, keep everyone in the team accountable for what they were assigned to do. So that they can also show progress, which is very important for each individual's motivation. They want to feel like they're contributing, even in these times. And then also moments for you, the manager to inspect that work to go in and dig a little deeper and see how are they doing the work still up to par? And it's not micromanaging. It's really helping people to make sure that we're all still operating as productive as possible. Don't just leave people to their own because you need to transition them into this new working style. So you need to set up some other ways to stay in touch with them and see how their work is going.
Yeah, definitely. And I'd love to know as we go around, if that's been an increase in workload for other managers here because I, I've certainly felt, you know, to your point, you want to be reaching out to everybody on your team and getting as much that FaceTime as possible, plus, you know, we use Favro. But that's like our Asana or Trello style solution. And somehow like the, the kind of never ending Zoom meeting stack up so quickly. So I think I'm actually doing more one on ones now that I was before, which has been really interesting, but also super cool, honestly. I mean, I'm just sitting here alone with my dog the rest of the time. So you know, Jazz, I'd love to hear from you.
Yeah, I mean, I mean, one thing I would definitely resonate as with the other analysts that yes, leading with empathy. This is the time to lead with empathy and understanding everyone's situation. Because Yeah, every every person situation is different. And, yeah, I mean, in terms of how to manage remote workforce. For us, it has been easier because we had part of the team few days are more than few days in office. So that made it easy because we already had to set up. But I think, for us, it's like, you know, a top down approach is again have very clear objectives set for the month, okay. Now that things have changed, how do our objectives change for the month and then have the sprint objectives also aligned with that? I mean, we follow the Agile sprint based methodology. So that is what you know, we being a startup, one of the benefits is that you can move fast and that's where you know the mentality of the entire team is okay. We just need to adapt and that and for me in terms of managing my I have made sure that I have weekly one on ones with everyone to make sure that they are, you know, motivated at this time. If they're having any issues, what are the issues? And yes, being able to manage different things, like people affected different ways, personally. So what does that mean for us in terms of productivity? And how do we manage that? If there is no loss of productivity for whatever reason? So I think that's the main thing. And yes, I am definitely sleeping less now. Working very frequently until 2 AMs. And I think that's one of the things also that you have to do as a leader and founder, right, like lead by example. So that's the other thing where I, you know, I am trying to take as much as I can, but also having the team also step up and be more proactive and, you know, other things in terms of managing day to day things. So, yeah, that that's what it's all about and keeping the spirits up that we are all in this together. And we are going to survive this. I think that's the main thing. Emotional support goes a long way. So that's, that's one of the key things during this time.
Yeah. And I think that's such an interesting point, you know, emotional support for your team goes a long ways. But then also I think all of us, you know, need to find that somewhere, right? If you're leading with empathy, and you're putting that out there every day, and you're doing more one on ones than ever before with people who are in such a wide array of situations, and especially as women, you know, I think we are typically socialized to go the extra mile on emotional labor as leaders. And I think, you know, that's one of the really unique things about being a female in a position of leadership, but at the same time, you know, that takes its toll eventually. And, you know, so I'm also curious if you or any of the other panelists have experienced kind of hitting the wall on on the empathy side and just having to step back and say, like, I can't take more calls today. I'm, I don't even know why I'm in such a bad mood. I just, I just can't, I can't get there. I can't do it, and what that's like and what you do to recharge because that's quite hard to come back from sometimes.
Yeah, that I would agree for sure it is a help yourself before you help others. You need to be in a good state before you, you're able to help your team as well. So, yeah, I would be curious to hear other people's opinion on that.
Yeah. Likewise, Bertha, you're up next.
Yeah, no, like it is challenged. It is like, we all know a situation that we haven't been before. So just like suddenly, you know, like even like, living here, like, you know, like without being able like to go out get a coffee, you know, interact with our people and, and, and of course, we'll miss that you know, but yeah, it is important to also take care of yourself, you know, like, you know, when you're in a plane you have to first put yourself before you help someone else. Because if not, how can you help others? So one of the things that I am doing cause I'm like, is to I feel like I'm I'm working way more than I used to work because there seems that I just need to be sure that it's done, you know, like so like, since that before you can show it to someone like, you know, like for this just like for instance, like one of the things like we're developing product for other companies and right now what we have to do is in order to do this, like I have to go and and you have to take the product so you have to go to the post office, ship the product come back so it's way longer than if it was like we just made and do things like that, like seem that are so simple, and that we take for granted are like so difficult right now. So it does takes us motional and an emotional toll, I think on everyone, so but it's important, you know, like, just to hear all the ones we're also like to hear yourself. You know, until then you really put like little, little routines that might seem silly, you know, like, like maybe before I'd even do I did exercise once in a while now I do it every day, because I have like, my 20 minutes of my me time, you know, because if I don't do those little things, I might not be in a good mood. So if I'm not in a good mood, how can I help others? So I just have like little routines that you know, and those are personal scenes that everybody can have. And I just need to do those in order to continue my day or start my day or whatever it is, you know, so since that I I didn't like to before I didn't too much attention before now are important for me. Because if not, like, like, like, people are like, you know, like, we're all human. So we all get like, you know, having fever will means like, grabbing a coffee will mean still scenes and something So even with my like, with my, like, for instance, like we make people we meet every Sunday, and we have coffee together enough, not the same, but you know, it's something because it is quite hard, you know, so we just have to try to all move forward. And something sometimes seems silly that those are things that help us get through. So But yeah, I think it is important to take care of yourself first. Otherwise, it's just really hard to take care of others.
Yeah, I'm so glad I'm not the only person who thinks about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others thing because I swear that pops into my head like every other day recently. Brianna would love to hear from you on this as well.
Yeah. So I think that it's really important to recognize that as a leader our energy trickles To our team. And so if we show up to a call and we are anxious or we're not prepared, or if we feel we could be better suited on a run or like having a FaceTime with one of our girlfriends, like, that's what we need to do. And we owe it to our team to be able to checkout and to check back in with a with a fresher face. Because in a time right now, where, I guess, just kind of revisiting the term anxiety, there's so many external factors and I just want to be sure that Crewbloom is a place where people know what's going on, that they feel that they're leaders well, and that then therefore the organization will be. I think like having conversations and also making yourself vulnerable and sharing in one on one. We call them human huddles. How are you feeling like I'm feeling sad for my city and my neighbors and the humans that I'm I'm living and working alongside it's really, really challenging. And so I don't think anyone expects us to be robots and to show up every day beaming, but it's really important to step away when you need to. And I undoubtedly, like have.
Yeah, for sure. And so that's such an interesting, like inside there that I think raises a broader topic for for female leaders, right, which is you want to lead with empathy. We know that leading with vulnerability creates space for your team to bring their whole selves to work and hopefully, you know, perform to the highest standard they possibly can at the same time as a leader. Where do you draw the line? At what point are you leading with too much vulnerability or potentially creating too much space for people to bring things into the workplace? Like, where's that line for you guys? Have you figured out where it is? Or not? You know, this is one of those things. I personally think about this a lot, right? We want to be we want to be so many things to our teams. We want to support them as much as possible. Well, this is kind of back to the topic of emotional labor. But, you know, just a different aspect of it is how does that how does that translate? You know, and at what point do you stop? You know, where do you draw the line. So I don't know if anyone has, has thoughts on that, that they want to share.
I think for for me personally, it's been about just reminding yourself that you're, you're not at the end of the day, like someone's friend, right, you are their manager or their coworker. And so just reminding yourself of that, as much as you want to help people you are in like a professional setting. And there have to be limits that you need to be mindful of. If you happen to have some pre existing relationship with that person, or you have developed a friendship outside of the workspace, then as much as possible, keeping those separate even in the interactions that you have, so that it's very clear when there are boundaries of professional relationship and when maybe you can be friendlier. And I think if you're just connected And with the way in which you have these interactions with the other person, then hopefully that relationship shouldn't get to a point where maybe you feel like you're putting too much of that emotional labor or that person is oversharing. But if that does happen, I think not being scared to push back and say, hey, maybe this is not something that we should discuss right now. Or maybe I can, you know, shoot the company helped me find a better resource to discuss this with which I think it's something that as women, we may be more inclined to just jump into helping. And we may forget that it's okay to find someone else that can help a person. So if you know that there was someone in your team who was struggling with, with motivation, or depression or mental health issues or any even health issues, right, there may be people like we have, for instance, people on our team that were sick, it's okay to ask them how they're feeling and if they need help, but also it's not your responsibility to do everything for them because you also want to be mindful of their own barriers. And how much they are willing to share with you ask their manager or their co worker. And so not being scared to ask, but also not being scared of like push back and help people find other ways to deal with those problems. It's still helping them. You're not leaving them to just figure it out on their own, but it doesn't have to be you as an individual who takes care of it.
Definitely. Anyone else? Want to jump in on this one?
So for instance, like we did, like last year, last week, I have a talk with my advisory board. And, and it's like, basically, the long run of this is like how we can do like, work out how we can increase manufacturing capabilities. But I was like, I was honest with them. You know what, like last week, like last month, we have that conversation every single spring. Well, like now the conversation is like, how we can get over COVID. So I was like, super vulnerable and told them you know what, like, I'm overwhelmed. All these like, those are like these negatives are happening. And these are the opportunities I see. And I can go and talk how we can increase capabilities. But that's not that won't help me right now. So I think I put myself out, you know, like others, so they were able to tell me, okay, let's see how we can strategize how we can see things. So I say it was good for me to say that I was overwhelmed that I was like having this problem that and that, and that the advisory board was like, I think they were they were glad that I shared was having these issues, because they helped me put it kind of like, make a tangible output of it. And they are on their hand. I also have a one time with one of my employees. She was dealing with depression. And she was complaining and at the beginning, I was trying to help her. But there was a moment that I was like, you know what, like, I'm not a health care professional, and I can try to help her but I'm not the right professional to help her. So I told her, like, you know what, I think you need somebody else to help you. Ah, and then like being and well, she, she got out of the company, but I think now she found some professional help because, you know, you cannot do anything and then at the beginning, I was, I was like, honestly trying to help her. But, you know, that's not my skillset. And I think it's a it's, it's perfectly correct to tell someone like in the more nicer way that you can do that they need to reach out for help. Because we cannot just do everything.
Yeah, and I think that so we actually just got a really great audience question that speaks to this, you know, on the other side, so we've covered kind of employees who might have mental health problems you're going through physical health problems, thing we haven't touched yet is. So our an anonymous attendee wrote in, I'm concerned about making sure that we don't have to lose strong employees who are homeschooling their kids, no outside help single parents, two working parents, young kids, etc. Have any solution started to merge for them so they can give enough tension to work given the rest of the circumstances that they're also dealing with. And I'd love to know how everyone has handled this. This is something that we've we've had to deal with at Alley. And you know, what we've basically looked at is, I think in a lot of companies are doing this, we're not doing a meteor performance review right now, we understand that everyone's got a lot going on. There's a lot of grace for that. And as long as like there's some transparency into just, you know, what, what can we ask you to do and it doesn't have to be even 70% of what we normally asked you to do. But just what is that? What are the most important things, and then let's just decide what that looks like and give you as much room as possible to manage the other things in your life because I personally have not been able to come up with a more creative way to to support especially, you know, our, our working parents, who are now also teachers and nannies and chefs and, you know, the whole nine yards. So I'm curious how you guys have been handling this?
I mean, what else? Um, it is, you know, family been, you know, if they're not able to attend some meetings, you know, being more supportive from that perspective. And then, you know, having a backup like so if this person is required in this meeting for particular function, okay, if they're not available, then who else can step in? at it is, you know, primarily been, um, yeah, like you said, stepping back a bit and trying to understand their situation and dealing with everything case by case because this is this is such a thing that you cannot have a blanket rule for it. And you have to look at everything case by case of, you know, yeah, how the person who has been dealing before or working for this and now, you know, what are the issues with that person? So, every for everyone, it's slightly different. And yeah, I mean, this unfortunately, also blurs the line in terms of when does your work time start and when does it stop? Because if you're having to do everything in between, then, okay, then is there any other time that you can make up for general and, and you know, get the work done? So, yeah, just just, I think showing more flexibility that I feel for people that really helps.
Yeah, we've been setting modified schedules which has helped sort of just now knowing that you can't schedule this person from 12 to 3, because you know, that's that's math class. Shout out to all of our working parents out there. Because I know if I had a child at home right now, they would not be learning very much. They'd be learning a lot about running digital accelerators. That's about it. And somebody kind of just wrote in again on this topic, and this is one of my favorite aspects of this. So I want to go around the circle on this question. Do you feel that you're expected to do more emotional labor than male business owners? If so, do you ever feel resentful about that? And this is something I think about not infrequently, I think we see a lot of profiles of female CEOs that have frankly boiled down to at the end of the day, as much as you know, perhaps they've made mistakes or they haven't always done you know, the right thing or the perfect thing or they came down on the wrong side on a difficult choice. You know, frankly, the entire critique or criticism boils down to, you know, maybe not quite nice enough, didn't do enough emotional labor did one or two things that a male CEO would never, ever get dinged for. I mean, truly never. I think if you picked like the five most recent, like negative press stories you've read on a female startup CEO, and then switch the gender of the subject, you know, from my perspective, at least, it feels like the article never would have gotten written. So I'd love to know how you guys all feel about that topic, how that influences the expectation, you feel you're, you know, being held, held to in terms of emotional labor, and just how you deal with that.
So for me, it's been interesting because I am not the CEO of the company. And so we have a male CEO, one of my co founders is the leader of the company. And so when I look at the composition of our team overall and our executive team. I don't feel like it's more emotional labor required of me in any way, because I think everyone has kind of found the perfect balance. And I've certainly learned from a lot of my male peers and see how they do their own work into managing and leading their teams. But it was obviously done differently. And so I think even when you may not feel like you are doing more of it, it is done differently. And that's where I think the importance of having lots of different voices in the room comes in, because it is different perspectives that you may bring to the table and do how you would manage easy or difficult situations. You are just different because we've gotten through the world through different experiences. And so that is certainly something I do see and I think if you do believe that you're adding something different to the table, don't try to hide it. So, you know, if I do think that I may be more empathetic as far as situations where I may see things differently or maybe I'm even more emotional about something, finding ways to share that with whether you have a co founder or advisers or top managers in your company is okay. It doesn't mean that you're doing extra work, you're bringing yourself to work, you're bringing your own perspective. Don't try to pull that back just because you think you're giving too much. This is particularly not the situation to hold anything back you have to bring your whole self and your whole tools what you bring as an individual into the workspace as well. And that may require something more emotionally from you than it has been in the past.
Yeah, absolutely. Jas.
Yeah. I mean, um, I do agree to some level that you know, being female and male is looked at more of that, you know, they have I think being a female you have to justify more few times and whether it's your employees or investors or whoever, but I think from in terms of managing the team, it's all about using that emotional questions to your strength. And that's what I have, I have seen, like having both, you know, male and females and leadership position within our company is to, is to be able to that, you know, I'm able to perceive more of okay, where this person must be coming from or gauge more was is, you know, some people are not able to do that at all. So I use that as a strength in terms of, you know, managing the team. But yeah, I mean, and then also having a team that respects you and has faith in you. I think that's the most important thing. And if someone doesn't do that, then obviously they're not the right fit in terms of your team culture. So it all boils down to you know, that at the End of the day, whether it's a male or a female, that they need to believe in the mission of the company, and, and, you know, and having an open communication is number one thing in terms of maintaining it. So if I feel that someone is not happy with a particular decision, or you know, they're not feeling good, or maybe they're not participating that much, you know, then I have that one on one with that person. Okay, what's going on? And then, you know, let's sort it out. So I think that that's what it comes down to is like, dealing with everyone as a human and then you know, believing in your own decisions.
So uh, well, I definitely agree that you know, like, everybody has a different management style and sometimes there's a management style from men be like this and the management style from woman be way, like maybe more emotional, maybe more nurturing and, and maybe, I think but I think, you know, like, everybody has to have, like, you know, whatever, they feel comfortable because that's how your team members met you, you know, like, it's not like you were hiding at the beginning. And then you are like this completely different person and you have to adapt to them. The way that you're there, the fact that you're a team, that means that the personalities and the ideas and the visions came through together. So I don't think a you have to change the way you are or like, like, because you're a woman, you have to be more supportive. Maybe you are as a default, but at the same time, I think one of the things like when I'm having like a problem with a team member, I always like double check it with an advisor, or with one of my other team members to see if it's like I'm reacting it like if I'm the one that's reacting bad or if I'm like, taking an emotional advantage, you know, so I always do those checks because like, I always like to have like other perspective to know how I am handling it. So I can use like, see, like, I always like to take like this step back and see, okay, like is this because that's the way that I'm supposed to handle because of this emotional wrong. This is just, you know, this is just bad, you know, so I always do those checks, but I think it's okay to have your own management style and I and and but I agree like sometimes, especially investors, they see these like kind of like put people in boxes. And fortunately, as human sometimes we have to do like the extra mile. But I don't think in your team you should be put it in a box because that's how you came together. You know, so I don't feel Like you have to do the extra work because you want to do the extra work, not because somebody is demanding you to do the extra work.
Yeah, definitely. And I think the the point about talking to a trusted advisor is is so key, right? I definitely have to do that gut check. Sometimes when I feel like, maybe I'm being too, I'm being accommodating in a way that like I, you know, feel like might be more result of conditioning than like what I should do as a leader in this situation. And that's like the gut check. You know, let me call like the chairman of my board, who's Jason, such a great resource for me in this way of, you know, am I actually just giving, you know, way too much room to roam on this on this thing and just be putting my foot down? And often the answer is yes. And we're going to go to Brianna, for this question. But as for anyone who's on, I know that we had the event ending at three but we have so many great questions coming in the Q&A. I want to make sure we tackle as many as possible. So anyone of our panelists who can stay on you know, I invite you to sit down with me, I'll be on this for another, you know, as long as it takes to work through the questions or until the entire audience is gone. So for those of you can stay on in the audience and on the panel, we would appreciate it and for those of you who have a hard stop or three, thanks for joining us, but Brianna to you.
Yes, I think one thing that's really important for every human on planet earth to take into consideration when addressing the topic of gender is the fact that there's not just two genders, right. And so I've had the absolute honor and privilege and work alongside a number of trans folks as well. And so I think it really helps to foster a culture that is not I guess, stereotyping any individual based on such a factor as their gender. What I am, I guess most resentful for or about in terms of the way in which I respond to how I should act, or did I? Was I too aggressive in the in this decision? It's just that. Yeah. I mean, I don't ever want to be classified as I guess there's there's not a great word for it. But just for being the ruthless one, right. But at the end of the day, right, we are a business. And the oxygen of a business is revenue, right, if we're in the for profit sector. And so that being said, unfortunately, hard decisions have to be made. And so when I confront myself with those decisions, it's oftentimes challenging and I think it would be easier if I were male.
Yeah, for sure. And so to the point about advisors that we just touched on and kind of getting that second look, we have a question from Kathleen, asking about creative ways to communicate if anyone has creative ways to communicate with investors, or their advisory board. And then the other piece of this is other people who've been informal advisors. to garner their support, and I think this was something really interesting. We talked about on the panels call earlier this week that Alexander brought up, which is, in general like that, that network that you bounce things off of, right? And how that is different. You know, for instance, frankly, for female CEOs and male CEOs and where we can go as as women to get those resources. And for me, that's, you know, the chairman of my company has been an incredible resource to me in that way. And there are a lot of, you know, really amazing, like, male CEOs in my network, but it's not the same kind of built in thing, I think, to your point. So would love you know, to hear you kind of talk more on that for our audience today.
Yeah, I think that's something that I've just seen. You go through in the last few weeks just relying on other CEOs that may be experiencing what we are going through, like we're all kind of sharing the market situation right now. So it's something we can all relate to and comparing notes just saying, what are you going to do? Where are you planning? What are the drops in cells that you're seeing any piece of information, it's so valuable for us to exchange right now, everyone can start building their own scenarios and trying to understand how similar or how dissimilar our own business is behaving compared to someone else's. So that is super valuable. I would say that it's, you know, this, this sort of like relationships with advisors, your your investors or your peers is important, regardless of gender. Like you don't have to just seek like, if you're a female CEO, another female CEO, it's obviously valuable, especially on leadership and styles because you probably have more similar experiences, but you should just look across the board, particularly people who you feel are in it to really help you know, people that are at your similar stage a little bit ahead of you, and who are in it because they genuinely care about what you're going through what your business is going through, I think are the people you can find the most value this is probably not the time to go and like pay someone to give you advice or to give them advice. In your company, we get advice from the two helpers, because I'm sure that there's everyone's going to write. So the exchange of health becomes really valuable at this time. And whether that is formal groups or conversations like this, or informally finding someone that maybe you admire. And this may be the time to connect with them if you haven't before, because everyone's much more open to help. And just be conscious of people's time. You know, start a conversation by email, ask them some questions by email, and maybe there's a chance that you can develop it into some conversation or phone call. But I think this this is the proper environment to start building those relationships.
Yeah, I think it's been so great to see how generous people have been of their time, you know, and in this crisis, that's been a really amazing kind of side effect as people who maybe like weren't as responsive before, really taking the time and hopping on those three zoom calls to give each other advice and things like that. Jas. I think you had unmuted. How are you?
Oh, okay. Um, no, I mean, I was just gonna say for the guiding advisors in in Westeros, um, we, um, I mean, I, I want to personally become better at this but also one of the things that I've found effective as for the, for the advisors that you're not sure like, which specific advisor could help in this is like sending them regular, you know, like, either bi weekly or monthly update in terms of if you're dealing specifically with some question that you need help on. I have seen once you reach out to people, and even if it's through, you know, a group email, they, they definitely and you know, you you list a specific ask, they definitely come together and you get few replies because that's what advisors and mentors are there for, so they like that. And in that way, then, you know, obviously only people who feel that they cannot buy Do they would reach out to you? And then you know, I think at this point, this time doing one on one communication and reaching out to people, you know specifically with if you feel one specific person definitely good advice or help you in something. Yeah, you shouldn't shy away from that because I mean this time. The other thing about this like they also need interaction with other people. Now that everyone is sitting at home and you're outside physical interaction is completely limited. This is in fact the best time to seek help from advisors because they are always sitting at home and you know, they would be very happy to help you especially if they will endear themselves to help you, you know, in your company business and operations. So, yeah.
Awesome. Brianna or Bertha, are any of you off and on this one?
Um, so yeah, again, just echoing the importance of human connections, I work remotely. And I worked remotely before encountering Corona. And so I think that none of us have gone through this before. And I know people have encountered challenges. But I think the magnitude of this is putting people in a place of really wanting to and being invested in, in other humans, and it's something that we should really leverage and take advantage of. I know I've had the opportunity to connect with mentors that were aspirational mentors that previously I was trying to hop on a call with who have now opened up. And so I think we also have, I know some people don't have as much time but I know me in particular, I have a bit of time at my disposal. And so just using that to lift myself up and learn from others is is really important now more than ever
Awesome. Um, so I'm actually curious who is your dream mentor if you don't mind sharing with us that that you reached out to? I love I love stories like that.
My dream mentor.
Yeah. And so just someof that.
Yeah, so someone that was just is a competitor of ours, so tasked us is just got the billion dollar valuation. And I've been trying to meet with someone on their leadership team for some time and just got the LinkedIn message responded to.
That's awesome. I really love that, especially with competitors. We've actually we've seen the same thing as like. I mean, frankly, like in the space that we're in, like a competitor is a very loose term, but like companies that are sort of similarly in the space who've actually been so open to share and then really, really cool. Somebody asked. Um, and I don't know if anyone here we can probably take this one pretty quickly. But can you ask each panelist if their companies have set up a fund for their staff that they've laid off? Or, you know, created some sort of GoFundMe or similar to benefit? Anyone on the staff has been laid off, which I know I'm sure we've all seen this get set up for other firms. I don't know if any of you have, you know, perspective on it or have done it yourselves. We've not been in the situation at Alley, we've been very fortunate to be able to keep our staff on payroll.
Yeah, I think that that's pretty common for businesses that were like in the retail or the restaurant space, where people are hourly employees or dependent on tips and so there may not be Having some sort of severance, which in the case, at least of our company, where we have the full time team members, that's the way that you can contribute as much as possible is the severances and extension of benefits coverage is what's more traditional with, like, businesses that are set up this way.
Yeah, we, you know, obviously, this wasn't in a crisis time, we had to do layoffs at Alley when we were pivoting as a business about two years ago now. And, and that was really tough. And one of the things we did was doubling down on both of those, you know, because we were fortunately in a position to, to do that for people. And then we also put career coaching in the mix for anybody who had, you know, where we felt like maybe there's a professional development opportunity for them. But um, yeah, it's interesting. I think I've seen it a lot and I guess I still haven't really talked to anybody who's who's been in the situation of deciding whether they want to do a GoFundMe. Okay, I love this question. From a young founder, I'm 26 years old and I'm trying to lift my company off the ground. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? Something you've learned the hard way that you would wish to share? And I think we've all learned probably a few things. A few things the hard way.
I mean, one thing I would definitely do is, trust your gut, don't keep double guessing yourself. Um, and yeah, just go for it. I think one of the things is as a female I see and this is just, you know, just general difference whether managing females and males. I see most of the, there's definitely more confidence in men in terms of going and going for something and taking risk versus us as females we are always doubting. So, you know, just, I would say, do small experiments with the your target market. And the biggest KPI that you need to keep in mind is revenue. If your target customers are willing to pay, and they actually pay that shows you the right product market fit. And you know, there's lots of resources online, depending on what kind of company are you thinking often things like that. So yeah, do you know, go with the MVP and start testing.
So I think one of the things I learned the hard way was like that, you really need to be very conscious and very cautious to who is in your team. Because that is so important. So even like if that means that you know, if that person was your friend, and you don't feel like oh, I want to tell that because it's my friend. I tell my friend like, no, we're not in a good match. You should say that beginning because it will help you in the long run. So you have to choose your team members because you believe in a mission, but because their skill set and have that team member is really valuable, you know, so like, friends are great, but at the end of the day, if you're running a business, you know, so you have to be very cautious who is in your team and how you can like, move on this vision because otherwise you're just gonna end up with like a very beautiful vision and, and the longer you postpone like, the writing member for me, the longer it will hurt the company and even your friendship. So that's super important. And I think some people are better on doing like, like I did learn that they're really hard way so like, just be really cautious how you pick your teammates.
Yep, I think when you said you know the people on your team everybody on this call and in voluntarily nodded. People, people hiring and management and people ops is I think, so it's so make or break even when you think you're doing it right. You can let something go for too long and then you wake up and and it's a huge problem somehow. And it's like, Where did that even come from? So we're gonna end with Brianna on this question, because I know some of our panelists have to hop off at 3:15.
I would just say, set aside your ego from your entire entrepreneurial journey, just get really comfortable having really uncomfortable conversations. And just don't envision that it's going to be like something that you read on Forbes. Also, keeping in mind testing product really early on abandoning a build if you're building anything. It's SaS related. And then yeah, just be true to yourself and be honest with yourself if you're not gaining read revenue and traction. You have to be uncomfortable abandoning it.
Yeah, definitely. And that last point that I, I can speak to the product you want to build, or that, you know, you see yourself building or you think you're building, it's not the product that people are trying to buy, you're gonna have to run a company that's different from the one you thought you were going to run. And if you really care about building something that lasts and you care about what you've been building, then that's going to be okay. But if your identity is really caught up, and being a certain kind of CEO or founder of a certain kind of business, you know, that's going to come into collision with reality at some point, and that that, for me has been an important and important learning as we've found our footing at Alley. So we're gonna wrap on that note and just want to say thank you to WE NYC, our co hosts again. You can go to we.nyc for more information about the incredible work they do to support female entrepreneurs in New York. And for anybody who's free tomorrow at 1pm, we are going to be doing a path to profitability panel talking about the different ways to fund your startup. This conversation is also been recorded and it will be available tomorrow online. And we'll be following up with all of you via email. But thank you so much to our incredible audience for spending the last 75 minutes of your day with us and to all of our amazing panelists. It's been such an honor. You know, being here with you guys today. And so thanks, everybody and stay safe out there.