Startups, business failures and work-life balance: Mary McKenna tells it like it is!
I "Twinterview" Mary McKenna, a fellow IIBN member and serial entrepreneur. Tune in for ten truth bombs from the world of start ups and entrepreneurship.
The amazing Mary McKenna, Irishwoman extraordinaire, was very kind to agree to a "Twinterview" - a short interview on Twitter. Mary has decades of business experience, a fascinating life story, and she tells it like it is. Take it away, Mary! #SavvyWomenTwinterview
What separates startups from scaleups?
Not many people are aware that "startups" doesn't just mean companies that are young and energetic! Start up is a phase in the life of a company. Mary makes the point eloquently: each phase requires very different skills, and so very different personalities. Otherwise the energy of new beginnings might fizzle out...
#Startups in my eyes are still finding their way, seeking their niche, pivoting, testing the water; #scaleups know where they're going & have the pedal to the floor. Need different animals at the helm as you move from chaos (fun) into order (boredom?) #SavvyWomenTwinterview— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
What characteristic(s) do you look for in a business collaborator (in the broadest sense of the word)?
Collaboration is essential - "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together". Two or more brains are better than one - but human relations are just that, human. Trust and loyalty are musts.
Collaboration is always where the magic happens, as many big cos are finding in working now with #startups - BUT - identifying collaborators & partners can be one of the trickiest parts of business & can take you from top of the pile straight into court - honesty is a good start— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
What connotations do you associate with the term "business failure"?
A failure is only a failure if you "fail" to draw the lessons. Learning from something that didn't work equips you to do better the next time. According to Mary, the business world in the US has a more constructive view of failure - it's valuable experience, and it increases your future odds of success.
Many, many good people fail in business; the really good ones see that experience as a stepping stone & have another go better equipped next time around. In Ireland failure is seen as negative; not so much in the US. Success in life is more important #SavvyWomenTwinterview— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
What did you do differently in your 30s in comparison to your 20s when it came to your career?
Start ups and entrepreneurship are not just for "the youn'uns". Young founders might get most of the media attention, but the truth is that more experienced, wiser people make excellent start-up founders, too. Mary started her business at the ripe old age of 43. So what did she do in her 20s and 30s then? Well, you'd be surprised.
My career path is straightforward but weird - partied right through my 20s (networking?), went back to school in my 30s & qualified as an accountant (shhh - don't tell anyone), then started my first business at the age of 43 - have never looked back since #SavvyWomenTwinterview— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
Tell us about one mistake you avoided?
Mary upends yet another startup myth! It's all about round after round of seed funding, venture capital and finding investors, isn't it? Well, it doesn't have to be that way. Mary never took external funding and bootstrapped her way to success.
It would be easier to tell you about the hundreds of mistakes I've made! The one I've chosen might be controversial but it's electing to #bootstrap as a #startup rather than take investment - getting to your own revenue at lightning speed trumps finance (handouts?) every time— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
How can hunger for business success turn from aimless energy to a strategic vision?
Dreaming of the entrepreneur's life? Mary doesn't mince her words when it comes to taking action - there's a time to stop dreaming and start doing. Are you serious about becoming an entrepreneur? Don't forget that the reality of an entrepreneur's life is lots of pressure and long hours. There's no shame in saying "This is not for me - I'll pass."
If you're serious about starting a business you'll have measurable goals & one day talking stops & action starts ... you have to pee or get off the pot. Never forget that once you've thrown that dice it's v hard to turn back - weigh up if the #entrepreneur life is really for you— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
How do you always maintain relevance?
Age is just a number. What matters more is relevance: are you up to date? Do you know what is happening at the bleeding edge of your industry? Are you keeping informed, and do you know what the future will bring? Relevance is about both what you know and who you know. Keep learning.
Curiosity helps. The tech world moves at pace. I work hard. I network & read constantly. I'm out & about a lot & meet a lot of people - like a shark - always moving & looking for the next interesting snippet - lol. I can't imagine being behind the times - it's what I fear most— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
Many people would agree (I'm first on that bus!) that you're a role model. What's your gut reaction when you hear that?
I like calling people I admire role models - and watch them raise their eyebrows... Role models are important: how can you be what you can't see? It's up to each of us to be a role model. You never know who is watching, who is being encouraged by your example. You have more influence than you think, so step into your greatness.
My shyness makes me squirm but then I remember the importance of women & girls having tangible, real, touchable, available role models - especially in #tech & #STEM - & I carry on doing stuff way outside my comfort zone because we are still few - though our numbers are growing— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
You travel LOTS and LOTS and LOTS! How do you keep it interesting?
Travel: a perk of entrepreneurship, or a necessary evil? Mary and I love the variety and the novelty of travel. The bland prepackaged meals, though, not so much...
I lead a blessed life wth lots of variety. Living on Ireland's #WildAtlanticWay in #Donegal means everywhere involves travel. People are what interest me - people & opportunities. I only wish someone wld invent healthy packed lunches for travelling businesswomen. Travel = writing— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
Complete this sentence: Work Life Balance is...
Another truth bomb from Mary! According to her, work-life balance is not the perfect 50/50 equilibrium we are led to believe in. It's a constant challenge... but work shouldn't feel like something that takes away from life.
"Work life balance is ... sensible & necessary but grossly overrated. Life is life. If you don't love your work enough then do us all a favour & do something else" And that's a wrap for today's #SavvyWomanTwinterview folks - I hope you enjoyed it as much as @SusanHayes_ & me :-)— Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) 25 septembre 2018
And that's a wrap! The Twinterview was great fun and we're planning the return match on 15th October 2018 at 6.30pm, GMT.
Update: Mary has now published our second Twinterview on her blog - in which she asks me no less than 15 questions! Read it here.
For more of Mary's incredible stories and invaluable insights, follow her blog at KickingAssets.co.uk