Laurel Touby, MediaBistro Founder, Shares Insights on Entrepreneurship
Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a Q&A with Laurel Touby, Founder of MediaBistro, courtesy of the Columbia Business School Women’s Entrepreneurship Network. Laurel is a total powerhouse, having grown her company from 1994 when she started hosting cocktail parties to meet people, to selling it for $23 mm to Jupiter Media in 2007). So many great tidbits about entrepreneurship were shared. Below is a sampling:
On how to grow a business through networking: You can get someone who would normally not open an email to open an invitation
On product: listen to your customers – they have the BEST ideas
On funding: build an audience and a revenue stream before approaching investors
On the CEO being the brand: if you’re too integral to your business, you can never sell it. You can set the culture but the biz should live without you.
On growing from local to national: let your customers do your advertising for you
On hiring: Hire slowly. Fire fast.
On being a female CEO: A female CEO will always be the “mean mommy”. You can’t please everyone all of the time, so don’t sweat it.
On accepting who you are: There are 2 types of CEOs: inward-facing and outward-facing. The former knows the numbers, the operations, the metrics. The latter talks to press, customers etc. Hire for whatever you’re not.
On technology: don’t be afraid to ASK your tech people to explain in laymen’s terms how things work and demand that they come up with creative ways to solve problems. There’s always a way. [ed. note: when I worked at IAC, the Expedia guys, who were really the Microsoft guys, would always say “it’s just software.” So true.]
On surviving the recession: conserve cash. Show up at your customers’ doors to get paid. Come up with new products.
On competition: once you get a foothold in your space, it’s harder than you think to knock you down.