Co-founder, In Good Company
Posted on: February 2, 2012 | Go to profile
Inspired by a college psychology class, Adelaide became hooked on curing the isolation of so many disconnected entrepreneurs. With her partner, Amy Abrams, Adelaide founded In Good Company, a community and co-working space where women go to learn the business of building their businesses. With her innovative thinking Adelaide has helped many women become confident and successful entrepreneurs. She has been featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times and CNN and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. Adelaide’s experience in advancing women’s careers and her passion for entrepreneurship also led to the publication of her first book, The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I began my journey as an aspiring therapist. I realized in graduate school that I really didn’t have what it took. Despite a deep interest in why we all do what we do, I am limited by a pathetically small emotional taxonomy, if you will. My more feeling-oriented and extroverted classmates ran therapeutic circles around me.
Luckily, though, I found my professional home in my Organizational Psychology class. I enjoyed thinking about things such as organizational culture, behavior, and effectiveness. A book, Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, convinced me that there were really interesting opportunities in working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. At that point I had a small career counseling consulting practice. I began to take on more entrepreneurial clients and soon became hooked. Around then I met my now business partner, Amy Abrams, who had a lot of entrepreneurial experience and together we built a larger practice around working with entrepreneurs.
Before long we began to notice what a negative impact isolation was having on our clients. Because most of them worked from home, they spent their days alone and as a result were more unproductive, uninspired, and disconnected. Too many of them battled to maintain a professional image while meeting clients in the local coffee shop. We decided to create a remedy: In Good Company, a community, learning center, and shared workspace designed specifically for women entrepreneurs. Four years later we support more than 300 businesses, all of which we care deeply about.
Two years ago we decided to shift our focus to another common entrepreneurial challenge: disenchantment. We had found that often entrepreneurs become more disenchanted as their companies grow, very often because they made steep compromises on their own needs and goals. Convinced that entrepreneurial success is really about satisfaction, we decided to write The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You. It pools our collective expertise as well as the stories of 100 entrepreneurs who demonstrate various ways to take advantage of the opportunity that entrepreneurship affords. It is our mission to help you work on your terms.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Communication, Self-Awareness, Agency
Q: If a business is in a healthy state, how do you know when to innovate?
A: Businesses need to change and evolve in order to survive and stay viable in the marketplace. But the pressure to always be doing something ground-breaking is a trap. Innovation is really a negotiation between what’s important to you and what you want your business to be known for. It’s critical to get customer input and feedback but their desires shouldn’t guide business direction per se. I’d say it’s time to innovate when 1) you’re getting itchy or restless as a leader or 2) your business has reached its goals and you want to push it further—when it’s time to be known and recognized for more!
Q: When I stepped down as President of Shecky’s after 9 years in that position, it was quite emotional. If you have ever sold, folded or needed to leave an organization you helped (or did) start, what was that experience like for you?
A: We closed our consulting practice just before opening In Good Company. The same people weren’t all going to be involved moving forward so having a clean break was important. Plus the jump from what we had done to what we wanted to do was too big to gracefully bridge. I felt ambivalent about the experience. I was frustrated by the gap in momentum that it caused but was grateful for the opportunity to start fresh without any preconceived notions.
This time around we wanted to create a company that could grow with us over time. While that is never a guarantee, it is important to us that we don’t build something that we don’t want to run and that can’t adapt to meet our changing interests. Reinvention and transition are really costly.
Q: How much time do you spend on networking versus focusing on the internal affairs of your business (such as management, strategy, ideation etc)?
A: Great question. I’d say half and half. Because I do all of our finances and billing I probably spend more time internally than others, but it’s really important to me to have my finger on the pulse of the business. Turning over this fiscal responsibility isn’t something I’m interested in at this point. The thing is that whenever my role gets too far on either the internal or external side, I miss the other. So, I guess a balance works for me!
ON Career Transitions
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: Do it! Success is about satisfaction. Period. You, your time, and your life are too precious not to be enjoyed. That doesn’t mean every moment is going to be peachy keen, but your career should meet your goals and needs. Many people think that it’s easier to not become disenchanted when you run your own business, but that’s not actually the case. You have to work just as hard to keep yourself satisfied and engaged when you’re your own boss. In any case, your satisfaction isn’t something to compromise.
Q: What do you believe makes a great brand?
A: Meaning and longevity. Great brands make a strong connection with the consumer. Their meaning extends far beyond the actual product or service, and they have the potential to become a true legacy, iconic throughout time.
Q: What do you think is the key to happiness?
A: For me, happiness is about the every day. I relish the small, routine aspects of life. I don’t subscribe to the notion that happiness comes at some point in the future in conjunction with another milestone, accomplishment, or acquisition. Nothing brings happiness; people make their own happiness. In order to be happy you have to love the romance of life – which includes all the bills, stresses, uncertainty, and nuisances in addition to the good times. I think a strong sense of humor is really helpful in embracing this perspective.
ON Letting go
Q: Can you share an example of how letting go enabled you to reach something new?
A: The best lesson I’ve learned in life is one that I desperately needed to learn: the importance of good enough. When my life is less full, I have the tendency to be a perfectionist. I get caught up on things that don’t matter. I’ve learned that if I can embrace being good enough, I have room for more. This lesson has come naturally as I’ve wanted to add more things to my life (my husband, a relocation, a baby, another baby) in addition to work. My business partner Amy Abrams has been a great teacher in this regard too. She is the “anti-perfectionist” and often has great perspective of what warrants how much time. A lot of that comes from how she values her time appropriately. Instead of bemoaning a change in standards I’ve come to believe that good enough is a smart, strategic, and satisfying goal to aim for.
Q: If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
A: I did just write a book! The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to work on his or her own terms. Amy and I are convinced that being an entrepreneur is the greatest opportunity to create your own life and work on your terms. However, too often entrepreneurs get hijacked by their businesses and end up growing their ventures in ways that compromise their own needs and goals. Through our experiences, client case studies and the stories of more than 100 entrepreneurs, The Big Enough Company encourages readers to identify what’s really important when it comes to their growth. We explore numerous strategies and best practices ensuring that every reader will be able to improve their business in a way that works for them.