I was approached by two female entrepreneurs. They asked if I would be an advisor to them in their new business. I met them over two years ago when they pitched me on investing. I tried to help them by connecting them with an early stage VC. I figured if he invested, then I would invest behind him. He was more familiar with their market and business model than I was. He didn’t invest, so I didn’t either.
Will You Advise?
Back they came, asking me to be an advisor. They said their goal was to build a fast-growth technology startup. When they approached me this time, they told me they had already raised over $350k and had sales growing at 20% month on month. I was very excited about them and their market when I met them. I was now even more excited seeing their results.
We, along with their lawyer, met in a restaurant. He laid out the deal for me as an advisor to their company. It was a fair deal, and I thought I could help. I told them I needed to think and pray about their offer. Within a week, I called and told them I would help.
Something Haunting Me
Something I said at the end of that lunch kept haunting me. I made the kind of statement I say to everyone I advise, “If you work with me, we’ll be focused on building your business while serving your family. You only have one life.” As I prayed about them and their business, I found myself focused on their marriages and their relationships with their children.
I couldn’t shake this thought, Do I advise them to build a fast-growth business the same way I advise men? I didn’t know what to do with this. I have never advised female entrepreneurs. I understand the challenges men face in building a business and keeping good relationships at home with their wife and kids. But I don’t know about being a woman, wife, and mom.
Stick to the Business
I called their lawyer to tell him my concern. He said, “You are being asked to help them build a fast-growth business. You know how to do this, and they need this council. That’s why they approached you. Stick to this advice. Don’t consider their family as a constraint to their growth. That is their responsibility.”
I agreed with him when we talked. But after I got off the phone, the thought of growing a business at the expense of their families didn’t sit well with me. So I continue to pray about this in anticipation of our next meeting.
In the meantime, I was at a business dinner with a mix of executives, entrepreneurs, and VCs. A few of the entrepreneurs were women. One of them said, “Growing a business as the founder and a single mom is challenging.” When I heard this, I leaned in. On a break, I made a point of telling her about my concern with the entrepreneurs who asked me to advise them.
What About Mom Guilt?
She told me it has been difficult for her. She grew a very successful business from scratch but in the process lost her marriage. Her company grew quickly, but now she has to balance company growth and the demands of being a mom. She said, “I deal a lot with working mother’s guilt.”
I told her, “I never heard that term.”
I asked if she would meet with the two women who were in the early stages of growing their company. I said, “I don’t know what to say to them on this topic. But I know the family will be part of the formula in growing their company. It can’t be ignored. You’ve been there. Would you share your experience and give them and me advice?” She agreed.
For the last twenty-four years, I took an all-inclusive holistic approach when advising entrepreneurs of fast-growth startups. But they were all men, and I know that struggle. How do I advise female entrepreneurs?
Share Your Thoughts
I would appreciate your feedback. Since I wrote this, I discussed this concern with the two entrepreneurs. Let’s just say, I was schooled. I have also interviewed other female entrepreneurs. I am learning and look forward to sharing in another post. In the meantime, share your experience with our community.