With all the talk of what’s wrong with the startup culture, we thought it was time to provide guidance to men (and women) about what we want. Rather than emphasize what’s wrong, let’s look at what we’d like to see in a fabulous female-influenced startup culture. I’ve run businesses over the last 20 years, often with Miriam, so I know what a women-run business looks like. Today, it’s the top 10 list, and I’ll be elaborating over the next couple of weeks.
1. Off hours
Women work weird hours. We get up before the kids, do some work, get the kids out the door, go to the office, spend the afternoon with the kids, and then get back online when the kids go to bed. Sometimes that means we work more hours than men, but just not the “normal” hours. If you are clear on your job and the objectives, it honestly makes no difference how many or what hours they work.
2. Elegant solutions
In a woman’s world, there is no punch clock. In a woman’s world, we don’t care how it gets done. We don’t have ego about who worked longer hours, what someone sacrificed, or how many lines of code someone wrote. (Actually, that’s not true. We prefer someone who writes fewer lines of code to do the same function.) Everyone talks Pareto (the 80/20 rule). Women live Pareto. In a woman’s world, productivity is judged by results, not by time taken to complete a task.
3. Collaborative culture
The magic of the world is that for every task that seems complex and difficult for you, there is someone in the world for whom that task is simple and straightforward. Figuring out what activities to plan for a group of 10 girls is hard for me, but there are educators who have done it a zillion times and for whom it takes no time. Women work collaboratively. I don’t need (or want) to know everything. Women tend to talk more, accept other people’s ideas more, and couldn’t care less if something was “not invented here” if it does the job faster and easier.
4. Emotional outbursts
I am disgusted at the attacks on women who have “emotional outbursts” at the office. Why is it wrong to have an emotional outburst when that emotion is “sadness” or “regret” but perfectly fine to have an outburst when the emotion is “anger”? Take this simple multiple-choice test:
Who is taking more responsibility for their actions?
- a. The person who shouts at someone when they identify a mistake has been made.
- b. The person who cries when they identify a mistake has been made.
5. Network in the morning
Why do all the networking events and educational presentations occur between 5 and 8 pm? Don’t all of us have families we want to see? Last I checked, men want to have dinner with their children as much as women do (and if they don’t, there are places they can go for help). In a woman’s world, networking is over breakfast or lunch
6. It’s all part of the job
I recently saw a number that represented the average number of weekly hours that successful entrepreneurs work. It was something like 60 hours a week. I thought: “Wow. I definitely don’t work 60 hours a week.” What I meant was, I don’t spend 60 hours a week in front of the computer. If I count travel time to clients, networking events, professional training, volunteering to help other entrepreneurs, and meditation, I work most of my waking hours. Maybe you can count ALL of it. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m working out at the gym. This weekend, I found a business partner while sitting in the hotel lobby at a blues festival. You think that doesn’t count? Then take a look at how many people are posting to Facebook, reading stock prices, and checking Whatsapp during office hours. If that counts, so does the time I listen to my daughter tell me what she learned in acting class (after all, she does voice Purple in our cartoon).
7. Coffee shops and poetry readings
Happy hour and strip joints just won’t do. At the same time, it’s important to establish deeper social relationships with customers. You can only drink so much chai, but there are alternatives to the traditional entertainment venues. Think of concerts, benefit dinners, charity walks, theater, ethnic and local art galleries and shops, boat trips, bowling, tourist sites, hiking or cycling, horseback riding, bungee jumping, local crafts fairs, and museums.
8. The way we kiss
Women don’t shake hands with one another. We shake hands with men. We appreciate and advise that men continue to shake our hands, but when we meet and greet one another, it’s a hug or a kiss. Greeting someone warmly makes a huge difference in every relationship, and it doesn’t even need to involve touching. WARNING: USE WITH CAUTION, in particular in the United States. I’ll be devoting an entire blog to the appropriate physical greetings for business meetings later this week.
More on when it’s appropriate to kiss in a business situation.
9. Staying put
Every minute you spend on the road is a minute you’re not being productive. In a woman’s world, work takes place where it’s convenient. Coming into the office may be necessary up to twice a week, but usually not much more. Work has to get done. Work from home a few days a week and split that 90 minutes commute evenly: Half for the employer and half for your personal life.
10. Human interaction
“Is everybody crazy, or is it just the people in my office?” asked my mom, who ran a business with 15 employees plus contractors. In a woman’s world, we are all complex human beings who share their stories. We are a lot less likely to talk about a sports team and a lot more likely to talk about what really matters in our life. Fundamentally, that makes for better business relationships. When I know what makes someone tick, I know how to keep them motivated at work