Here it is – the final interview in the miniseries about mom bosses who rule the small business world, in DC and beyond. I love these types of articles because I think individual perspective can really help us find ways to tweak our day-to-day lives. Today, I’m excited to share with you my interview with Maddie Grant, a culture change consultant and digital strategist who recently launched WorkXO (Twitter). One great takeaway from Maddie: don’t overthink starting a business. I couldn’t agree more.
Tell us about WorkXO.
We are a culture startup, helping companies understand their true workplace culture and align it with what drives their success. Our Workplace Genome platform provides nuanced and actionable data, facilitated support to “decode” what the data means for you, and tools and resources to build a Culture Playbook that will make it all actionable, whether you want to change specific cultural inhibitors or create a vocabulary to better describe your culture so you can hire and retain the right talent. That’s our pitch, but the work we do is really awesome and meaningful and powerful!
When did you start your company, and were you a parent yet?
This is the third iteration of my work – I started as a consultant doing social media strategy, then wrote some books and evolved it to a culture consultancy with my co-author Jamie Notter, and now with a third partner we are aiming to build something really big. This timeframe spans 10 years and I was already a parent – my kids were one and four when I started, they are now 10 and 13!
Was the decision to start your company based in any part on wanting to be with your family more, especially when they were babies?
Actually no! The decision to start my own company evolved quickly and organically from a blog that I had started that turned into consulting – but we were very successful immediately in the first year and I knew it was where I wanted to be. I was also on the speaking circuit a lot from day one so I knew that I wanted to travel. I was lucky to have a good support system to help with my kids – but I will say that after all the hard work of giving birth to them, I had a real need to focus on myself for a while and re-feed my brain.
What has owning your own company allowed for you in terms of flexibility in raising your children, or spending more time with them?
It has been amazing. I set my own schedule, and apart from travel and meetings, I have morning time with them and I take them to school every day, and I take a break from working between 3 and 9 to pick them up and do stuff with them, cook dinner together etc. I am a night owl so I work in the evenings after they take themselves to bed. I have also been able to take them to appointments and do all kinds of things during the day, especially if they have a day off from school – we go on lots of adventures.
Do you face any struggles with being a business owner that you believe are different from if you worked in-house?
There’s a certain amount of stress (financial and otherwise) that I just have to manage and not let permeate. In fact, my kids relieve my stress! But I don’t remember any time when work was just a job (as opposed to my passion) and I think that is HUGE example to give them. I may not have a big house or other things their friends have, but I show them by example how to be self-sufficient and explore the world. That’s priceless. I can’t wait until I can actually hire them to work for me for real and learn the business in a way that teaches them some skills but also allows for their own exploration of what they want to be when they grow up.
What advice would you give other women looking to start a business and a family?
My advice is to not overthink it. If the universe is telling you (through people asking you for your expertise, projects falling into your lap, opportunities arising) that you should forge your own path, get advice from people who have done it but ultimately you just have to jump off that cliff. It will be scary and liberating and you won’t look back. And your kids will learn from your example how important it is to design your own life.
Know of any companies who care about culture or are in need of help with cultural issues (including generational differences in the workplace which is a particular expertise of ours)? Is YOUR company one? If so, check out WorkXO’s Workplace Genome culture process to learn more.