As women we tend to lead our businesses the way we lead our families: like moms. We’re often not just the Chief Executive Officer; we’re also the Chief Emotional Officer.
While Greenfield Services was a business I co-founded with my husband, it was really MY business, and the firm’s culture had my stamp all over it. We were very family-driven, employing a lot of moms who were returning to work, or wanted a flexible workplace if they called for a day off because of a sick little one. We had paid-time-off that was banked for such situations.
With that mindset, I also took on the role of business mom. When one employee’s marriage was crumbling, I was there for her. I lent money to a few employees when they had trouble making ends meet. When one employee’s daughter was battling an addiction problem, I went out of my way to give her flextime. I was proud that we had a culture of compassion and understanding about family and relationships. Our business allowed for love.
Running the business this way had its downside though. The love focus often blinded me to deceit. I did not want to believe that our work family had a thief that was stealing money from the chocolate bar box in the kitchen. Disbelief and shock was all I could feel when when a former employee sued us for wrongful dismissal. When finally confronting a supervisor about her romantic relationship with another employee, I was crushing to find out she had been lying to my face, all along.
Being compassionate and mixing love and business bit me in the butt many times.
Am I sorry that we managed the way we did? Not anymore. Having burned out, learned my lessons and sold the business, I have reflected and figured out what I would now do and what I would not do in the same situation. As a woman entrepreneur I will always want love and compassion to be guiding principles to my business. I have no interest in being a cold-hearted, it’s-just-about-the-bottom-line business owner.
But love doesn’t mean not keeping people accountable and making tough decisions, whether about employees, clients or business partners. And the same goes for children and other family members!