Growing Business During Challenging Times - Anna Gudmundson
I was interviewed by host Jeremy Barnett from RAD Intelligence. We spoke about how we managed to grow during this current complex business environment.
A large number of businesses is facing tough challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. Others, because of their nature, adaptability, and offering, thrive.
In this podcast, we talk about how Sensate overcame some of the challenges we faced. We also discuss mindset, leadership, mentorship and some of the struggles faced by female entrepreneurs.
You can read excerpts of the interview below, or listen to the podcast.
Anna, this is not you first CEO position, tell us a bit about your previous roles?
“I have been CEO for a turnaround company. That’s a lot harder — you are not starting at zero and building up, you are starting at a negative momentum and you have a lot of skeletons coming out of the closet. I have worked with small organizations, large organizations, I have pivoted, I have restructured, I have raised money, and so on — all in tech. What I learned is that as a startup or a turnaround CEO — every role has its own challenges and complexities.”
Tell me about some of the ‘death — rebirth’ moments you went through in your career, so that other entrepreneurs can learn about how you got through the tough times?
“When I took over as turnaround CEO for a publicly listed, small, loss-making company — it was a huge learning. I had no idea what the impact was to be listed as public and to work with tiny budgets, no resources and shareholders who didn’t even know that we pivoted. I had to raise money for the turnaround, it was tough, but I am super grateful for the experience.
“I have worked really hard on shifting my mindset. I have always had an intrinsic belief that change is possible — no matter how difficult things are, you can always change your approach and how you deal with, and interpret things. I have realized over the years that ‘change’ is such a fundamental core value for me.”
Would you say that you’re now at the peak of your entrepreneurial career?
“I think this is just another step of the journey. Hopefully I am going to be a better CEO next week and even better the week after. It’s a continuous learning curve while in the role and I definitely feel more confident in it. We spoke about insecurities earlier — I get a lot of young entrepreneurs and young women telling me that they aren’t as confident as me. I always tell them — I used to be insecure at times as well! But I stuck to my values and worked hard and that’s what did it for me. It goes hand in hand — you build confidence with experience and vice versa.
“Now I am trying to build culture as well. Instead of building things up until there’s a conflict, I want teams to be able to have open and honest conversations. Communication is key. A company runs better and there is less risk when people communicate. In a company, of course it’s about the product that you create, but it’s also how you create it. I think I now have a much bolder, clearer view of my values and how I want things to be.”
What would be your advice to a female founder starting a business?
“I think one important message is that you don’t need to know everything before you start — you learn on the job. Everything won’t fall into place all at once, but it will eventually. I think one of the most important elements is the mindset and psychology of the founder — it’s what is going to determine the success of a company. If you have the right mindset — you could be in the wrong sector at the wrong time, but eventually you will pivot and attract the right people and move in the desired direction. And if you have the wrong mindset — even the right time and right sector may not work for you.”
What temptations or traps do you see out there when you’re running a company?
“I think one of the things that makes a lot of people fail, is the inability to say no. It’s wanting to do so many things, and it’s almost part of being entrepreneurial — seeing every opportunity and wanting to seize it. At the early stage of every company, one wants to go after everything — B2B, B2C, partnerships, affiliates and so on. But I think the key is to remain focused.
“Along with focus, a willingness to adapt to change is so important right now. We are all going through this change, which is why one temptation for a lot of entrepreneurs can be self-pity. That negative energy “why is this happening to me?”, “poor me” — it’s an easy trap to fall into. Instead, one should focus on what to do next and how to move forward. Even if it’s just one step in a long journey — it is still very gratifying.”
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