Fake it until you make it: Steps for gaining credibility as a startup
You may envision launching your startup in a hip exposed brick office with white board covered walls and employees working in beanbag loungers. In reality, most startups begin with one or two founders in basements, garages and cramped apartments. Where you work doesn’t really matter, but how you present yourself to the entrepreneurial community does. Danielle Tate, entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, the leading online name change service for brides, offers several steps to gaining credibility as a startup:
Start with the basics.
If you have a meeting, dress well. There may be a whole “jeans and t-shirt entrepreneur” faction, but frankly as a new startup founder you need to look smart and like you care. Sport the company logo t-shirts when you’re in your office, basement or gym, not when you’re pitching your company to investors or attending a conference.
In the startup world, you are your business. If you’re not confident in your success, no one else will be. This is not permission to be arrogant, it is permission to be honest about your assets and ambition. Tell everyone who will listen about how amazing your idea is and why your company is going to succeed. You need to be drinking your Kool Aid before you pass it out to the business world.
Present your business as you envision it.
Are you in the race to be the biggest baddest startup in your niche? Act like you’ve already achieved that status and present your company in that light. Please note, there is a fine line between putting your best foot forward and misrepresenting yourself and your company. Putting a large chunk of your startup capital into a tradeshow booth to look successful and wow your industry is perfectly acceptable. Fudging your profits or numbers in any way is not.
Get chummy with big partners.
The bigger your initial partners, the bigger your company looks. While size isn’t everything, it’s great to look big and lock up key companies before your competitors do. You may have to offer bigger margins/deals to make the partnerships happen, but they will build your business and add industry buzz. It will also help your parents and any investors you may have sleep better at night.
Your company looks bigger, when it is bigger. Consciously take time to brainstorm ways to grow your business. How do you find more customers, partners and extensions of your brand? Finding the answer to these questions will propel you and your startup towards growth and success.
Remember who you are and what you stand for.
In the midst of the scramble to the top of the startup pile, please remember your original goal and mantra. It may be helpful to immortalize your original idea or goal with an inscription or piece of office art. No one likes a sell out...especially the actual person selling out, so stay true to your vision.
With these six steps, you and your startup can go from faking it to making it in the entrepreneurial community. Everyone starts somewhere, and I wish you the very best of success!
As a successful entrepreneur, Danielle is a name change expert, on-camera personality, writer, author of a top rated Google newlywed blog and a bridal magazine contributor. It was a 13-hour struggle to change her name after getting married in 2005 that prompted Danielle to leave her medical sales career to develop and launch MissNowMrs.com. Wanting to save other brides countless hours of hassle, Danielle researched name-changing laws and rules in all 50 states to streamline and implemented her unique three-step, 30-minute online service.
Since 2006, Danielle has served as CEO of MissNowMrs.com and revolutionized the online name change market. Since launching, MissNowMrs.com has assisted more than 225,000 brides in their transition from Miss to Mrs and recently launched MissNowMrs.com/Canada for Canadian brides. She is also the founder of MarriedNameGame.com, the original proprietary name change algorithm to determine your ideal married name, GetYourNameBack.com, an online service dedicated to helping women get their name back after divorce and MarriageLicenseNow.com, a new online resource that offers succinct and up-to-date marriage license information organized by county and state.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.