What I Learned from a Woman Board Member: Lessons learned from a women board member over her career -What she wish she knew then

We recently welcomed a new board member to HubSpot. The best part about this is that this board member is a woman. She came to our office the other day and gave a “HubTalk” which is essentially a way for outside people to come to our company and give talks at lunch time that the whole company can come to and learn from.

Lorrie Norrington was a former Exec at eBay, Intuit, GE, and more. She came to talk to us about everything from what it means to sit on a board in general to what she learned along the way as she moved through her career. She gave some great advice about things she wished she would have known at a younger age as she grew professionally and personally. I thought it would be good to share some of these things with you all.

Be on a board that has interest to you. 

Lorrie told us how she actually loves what we are doing. She thinks there is a big market for what we do in the marketing space and that is some of why she wanted to work with us. She is passionate about SMBs and so are we. We sell to them and she thought that was great.

So if I ever join a board I am going to think about these things:

1. Am I passionate about what this company does?

2. Do I think there is a big enough market that the company could really make an impact?

3. What do I think about the culture of the company I am getting involved in?

4. How is the product and does it actually solve for what they say it solves for?

5. Does the company has long term vision or are they just trying to do something for the short term?

What should a board member’s role be with a company they are on the board of?

A board members role is to provide guidance to a company. They are not supposed to make decisions. They are supposed to oversee strategy of a company. Give some oversight and be the CEO’s thought partner. The management team and a CEO can chose to use the board members how they want to. Sometimes boards are used a lot and sometimes not much. It sounded like the thing you want to look for when picking a board you want to be on is whether or not you think that you as the board member and the CEO/management team are going to mesh well and can grow into the right balance together. You want to make sure that there are guidelines as to how you would interact with your board members.

As a young person starting out in their career you need to want to work on big goals.

One thing that stood out was that Lorrie has always thought of her roles at different companies as a big deal. She wanted to make changes and do big things, so did the companies that she joined. Make sure you are picking to work at a company where you can make a big impact and you agree with the mission and vision of the company.

Remember that you can get another job but not another family.

Lorrie told a story that I think every human being who works can relate to. Remember that you only get one family, you get many jobs in your life. Sometimes I think it is hard to remember this but it is the truth. You only get one family so make sure you remember that as you grow in your professional and personal life. If something happens in your family and you need to take time to do something, do it. You and your family come first and the company you work for should realize this. You will have many jobs in your life over the years so when something in your life should take priority make sure that you let it take priority. Don’t put pressure on yourself in those situations to make your work mean more than your family does.

Management should spend time on people.

The company that you work for should be one that cares about their people. If you don’t feel like you are appreciated or thought of as a real human being then that company is probably not the best place for you to succeed. Your company, your manager, your colleagues should care about you and you should care about them. Caring about people around you is important to creating a culture that works well and fosters development.

You can have it all but you can’t have it all at once.

There are going to be times in your life where you have it all and there are also going to be times in life where you can’t have it all. I thought about this a lot when she told us this. I thought about myself in my role as a sales person at HubSpot and I thought about my boyfriend and his role as a Director. He has a lot more responsibity than I do and has a lot of work to do all the time. It is not that I don’t as well but at this point in his life and his career it is important for me to let him do those things and make his mark. It is important that you have conversations with your family members, boyfriend, wife, etc around what you can and cannot do at this point in your life. It is important that you have these dialogues with each other so you know how you can and cannot be dependent upon your other half. The role you play in your relationship might not be the one you play in years to come. Recognize that at some parts in your life you are going to be the one working more thna the other, and visa versa. Huge lesson for me and really something that I want to focus on personally.

Really get into your customers shoes.

Put yourself in your customers shoes. Understand how your customers really interact with your company and get a sense of what it would be like to be one. What do you like and don’t like. What can you impact, how can you make those things better? You have a responsibility to yourself and to your company to help make happy customers. Make efforts to understand your customers and what makes someone happy as best you can. Learn to get excited by your customers problems and not upset by them. Help make those things better and pick your fights. If you think something should change make sure that you think about it and think about how you might be able to help have a better customer experience overall.

Pay attention to your customers happiness but also are they doing well with your product.

This was extremely interesting to me as a sales person. I think I do a rather good job at qualifying companies and people to use HubSpot. When someone comes onto HubSpot as a customer they are more than not out of my hands from that point on.They will work with our services organization in many capacities to learn our product and learn how to do inbound marketing. I really hope and want them to do well with our product. Sometimes being happy does not always mean they are crushing it though. I think you need to have people on your service side of your organization that care about this. I would think about hiring service people who interact with your customers to be people who care about solving problems and care about making your customers do really, really well outside of just being happy.

Trust management for their decisions they are making.

Trust your team to know that your management team is making decisions everyday for the better of the company as a whole. Some decisions will affect you positively and some maybe negatively. BUT, you need to be on board and know that those decisions are being made for a reason. Agree and understand and move on from there. Respect that there is a decision making process internally and that you need to be on board with those things.

Do what you love.

Lot’s of people give this advice but you can always tell the people who really mean it. If you love what you do it comes out in your work. If you don’t it will also come out in your work. If you don’t love what you do, find a way to love it. If you fall out of love with your work, recognize it and think about why to see if you can make changes to help you fall back in love with your work. I personally think that everyone has a job for a reason. like Lorrie said, you will have many jobs in your life. Why would you pick to do something that you don’t love. Make sure you really do love what you do. There will be good days and bad days. I have a rule I live by- if you love 80 percent of what you do then you are doing good. For every bad moment there should be five good moments. Good moments and love for what you are doing personally or professionally should out rule the bad.

Follow your customers and not your competitors as you grow as a company.

Your customers are more important than your competitors are. If you just follow what your competitors are doing product wise then you will end up like them. Do something different and bigger and better than they are doing. Respect and watch the competition but don’t move in their direction just because you think you should. Learn about what your customers want and need and solve for those things. Make sure you understand the competitive landscape as well. If you can’t describe why someone should use you over someone else then you don’t deserve their business.

Everyone at your company should know what they are doing and how that impacts the company’s end goals.

You should wake up every morning understanding what you need to do to help your company move forward. If you don’t then you need to figure that out. You should feel obligated as an employee to help better your company and help move your company forward, whatever role you are in. Everyone needs to believe in what your company is doing and help move the needle. You should know what you need to do, what your output should be and know how to do your job really well. Everyone should be working towards a common goal or working with a common mission in mind.

Now go build a billion dollar company with this advice.

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