Episode 46 - Entrepreneur Experience: Deb Chromik, Serial Founder and Wise Woman

EPISODE 46

Entrepreneur Experience: Deb Chromik, Serial Founder and Wise Woman

What does it take to be an intentional entrepreneur, instead of an accidental one? And is there value in partnership vs going it alone? In today’s episode, guest Deb Chromik shares her wisdom on when (and how) to partner successfully, how to figure out what you really want to do with your life (and your business), and the importance of knowing yourself and listening to your audience when building something new. Plus, we hear a new strategy that just might change your fundraising journey for the better… Listen now!

This episode is chock full of wisdom that deftly balances the masculine realities of the business world with the feminine shifts that are trying to occur to create balance and fulfillment for everyone. We are joined by Deb Chromik, founder of Nexus Alchemy and expert on creating systems and processes that facilitate projects and people realizing their highest and best potential.

Deb shares with us her strategies for learning how to “know thyself”, including how to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. She provides fantastic questions to ask yourself when diving into finding your passion, and she walks us through the pros and cons of being in a partnership and how to find the right people to partner with to avoid pain and heartache. Deb also shares her views about entrepreneurship and the paradigm shift that lived experience can provide when building something new.

We then dive into the power of balancing the masculine and feminine in business, in a historically masculine-energy-ruled world, and Deb offers a profound view on what makes the difference when talking to investors. And Deb suggests (and then goes on to prove) that pitching might just be more about the dynamic of the relationship, not the outcome of the transaction. Finally, she encourages us to check our attachment to what we are doing, remember to expect change, and learn to iterate and to cut your losses.

Check out Deb’s recommended resources:
“The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks
Undercover Billionaire
“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
“The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki
“Do More Faster” by Brad Feld and David Cohen
“Shark Tales” by Barbara Corcoran

Find and follow Deb on LinkedIn or through us at Precursa (startup@precursa.com).

Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode!

Email us with any questions or comments (startup@precursa.com). Check out our website (https://www.precursa.com) for more information on getting your startup rolling.

(00:04):
Straight to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception, to launch, to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns.

(00:37):
Hello everybody. And welcome back. This is Precursa of the startup journey and a startup journey. It is today. I am joined by Deb Chrome, who is founder of nexus, alchemy, serial entrepreneur and business architect. Deb has an innate ability to skillfully assemble the right people, the most effective resources and the latest technology to facilitate projects from inception to completion over the past 25 years, she’s innovated in the nonprofit sector, healthcare consulting and mental wellness and online gaming. She’s a light in the darkness and a gift to anyone with the pleasure of knowing her. Please welcome Deb Chrome.

(01:19):
Why thank you, Cynthia. It’s a pleasure to be here with you and I, I consider you among the people that I know and my passions for connecting great people. You high among the people that I’m honored to work with. Love your, what I call your Athena spirit. You have such a brilliant way of thinking creatively in a, in a primarily male dominated way. And, but with women and men sort of with this equanimity and grace, that’s just really, it’s an honor to be here.

(01:49):
Well, thank you so much, Deb. That’s so sweet. Oh my gosh. It’s true. You’re favorite gift so far. So why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself and how you became an entrepreneur?

(02:02):
Well, I was thinking about the answer to the, how did I become an entrepreneur question? And I was reminded of a, a joke I heard a long time ago about, uh, which actually has a lot more relevance as I age, but about two little old ladies driving down the street, Edith and Ethel, and they’re driving down the street and Edith is driving and they go through the first red light and she just wings right through it. And Ethel thinks, oh my what, what happened? What happened? And she, they stay on the road. The next red light comes. She goes right through it. And Ethel thinks, oh, maybe I should say something. I mean, that’s a second red light. She read this doesn’t feel safe, runs right through the third red light. And she says, Ethel Ethel, you ran that red light. And she says, oh shit, am I driving?

(02:46):
And I feel very much that way about being an entrepreneur. I, oh my gosh, it wasn’t planned. I didn’t expect it. And one day it was like, all of a sudden I realized I’m actually doing this. I’m like creating things on my own. Started out, just, you know, I worked in a, you know, traditional job went to college, got a job, worked in a job for a long time. Moved up through the rank, started an entry level, moved up through director positions was working as, um, director of business development and really ended up in a company that had a lot of constraints. It was government funded. So everything was a conflict of interest. Yeah. Which as a taxpayer, I understand you want people to honor the use of the taxpayer dollars, but of course it made business development difficult, and I had all these ideas and all these great thoughts about how to connect different people to do different things.

(03:34):
And one day I just decided, I think I’m gonna go do my own business. Yeah. I had literally no plan. I had like $5,000 in the bank, two young kids, not a single client. Didn’t didn’t have any idea exactly what I was gonna do. And, uh, and I left the company. We, you know, they laid me off because it was really the best thing and started this company. And I started E four enterprise, which was my first company and really had literally no idea what I was doing. Made two phone calls to people that I had worked with before, who both hired me to do some work and started that journey, really single solo completely on my own. A lot of what I’ve learned since then is about the power of connection and relationships as you go building businesses and the value of even if you’re gonna do it alone, doing it alone with other really smart, amazing people.

(04:27):
Yeah. I love that. And tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now.

(04:31):
So I’m working on two things at once really now, which is kind of the story of my life.

(04:35):
I know nothing about that,

(04:38):
Right? Except you do more, even more than two. I know, uh, nexus alchemy, really we design build and really rescue projects. So this is built on longstanding, uh, project management infrastructure that we created to really create efficiency around doing projects. The more, the more you have similarities in how you do things, the faster you can go when you’re inventing the process C for managing a project, while you’re also trying to do the substantive work, it can really slow you down. So we learned early on with E four to really create great systems. Do, do the things that need to be done over and over again in a way that allows you to remove your thinking power from that and focus on the five variables that really make the sense to do so. Nexus, how we helps other people do that. We design strategic projects, we build frameworks for people to really build and run a project. And whether it’s a meeting or it’s a long, large scale strategic project, we can build infrastructure that helps people do the parts of the work that they’re really uniquely qualified to do.

(05:42):
Oh, I love that.

(05:43):
Yeah. That’s awesome. So that’s nexus alchemy and it’s, um, it’s great. We also spend a lot of time helping people think about how to, what they’re uniquely capable of doing. Um, there’s this construct that we have around, um, uh, uh, about this whole dazzle piece. Yeah. Where we are really when people are at their best. So dazzle is a herd of zebras, which I had no idea herd of. Oh

(06:07):
My gosh, I love that

(06:09):
It’s called a dazzle because when they run, it’s dazzling right. When they

(06:13):
Run. Yeah.

(06:14):
And what really access does and what, what I’ve done over time is really help people understand when they’re in their very best place, when they’re doing the thing that they are here to do. And they combine forces with other people, you get that kind of, that sense of dazzle. So many people are now trying to search for, you know, we can do anything. What do we really wanna do? So helping people narrow down to the pieces of the work, they wake up and go to bed, just absolutely loving what they’re doing, no matter how hard they’re working, that it really feeds their soul. So we spend time with individuals doing that.

(06:46):
So as, as the stepparent of a 20 year old college kid, who is like floundering in the darkness, you know, and, and not knowing what to say, how like, and I’m sure it’s not just 20 year olds who are in college. I, I know that there are people who listen to this show who have thought about being an entrepreneur, that it sounds like a really great idea. How do you figure that out? Like, how is, is there, is there some kind of like, what are you looking for? What’s the construct? Or how do you even know? How do you know what the thing is that really makes you happy if you’re at work or somewhere? Like, how do you figure that out?

(07:25):
Yeah. So, you know, I, a lot of my thinking around that was informed by gay Hendrick’s work in a book, um, called the big leap and he talks a lot about the four zones. So there’s the zone of INCOM, which is I’m bad at it. I know I’m bad at it. You know, I’m bad at it. We agree. I shouldn’t do that. The zone of competence, which is I’m good at it, but so are a hundred million other people. And I don’t really have any particular passion for doing this. Yeah. Then the tricky part is the zone of excellence in the zone of genius. So the zone of excellence is, is often tricky be because it’s a space where we’re good at what we do. Other people know we’re good at what we do. Other people want us to continue doing what we’re doing and we are generally paid for doing it and often paid very well.

(08:11):
Yeah. But it isn’t the thing that you would do if you didn’t have to work, it’s not the thing. So this, your zone of genius is this, you unique, um, combination of factors that like light you up that give you energy. It’s kind of, I, I compare this to the introvert extrovert deal. So introverts, you know, the difference, isn’t how social we are necessarily. It’s whether being social gives us energy or takes energy from us. If you’re an extrovert, it gives you if you’re an introvert, it takes energy, but we can look the same on the outside. So zone of zone of genius is very much like that. Okay. You can effort through almost anything, right. And be good at it. If you take enough classes and you learn the right things, but your zone of genius is this combination of things where you sort of feel pulled forward, where you are literally want to do this.

(09:03):
Even if you aren’t being, being paid. And even if you take somebody who like my kids are similar age to your stepchild, um, you know, I, I tell them really to look at what, what brings them energy. So my, um, my son was into gaming for a long time. Yeah. Which is pretty typical of boys, of, of his age. And it, the question was, what about gaming? Do you really love? What about it? Do you love? Yeah. And his, his was all around the connection with other people and his ability show other people how to do things. He ended up parlaying that into a recognition that he really wanted to teach. Oh, he really loves teaching. And so he went back to college and started working on getting his teaching degree. He has since decided that part of what he loves about teaching is storytelling.

(09:53):
Oh, I love that.

(09:55):
And we, when he streamed live and played games live, he loved to tell stories and he realized that’s part of, so he wants to be history teacher in making history accessible through telling a story that’s interesting instead of these like facts. And that turns out to be so thing

(10:11):
That when he said that that is so cool. That is so cool. I love that. Um, I wanna go back to something that you said, you know, when we, when we first started talking about the difference between solopreneur and building a community of people around you, and, you know, I, I kind of would be interested in hearing, what is your gone going solo versus partnering up versus something in between? I mean, I, I hear this all the time. You know, it’s really hard in the beginning to get anyone to be sort of a co-founder with you. Um, especially when all you have is an idea and a dream and a prayer. Um, but having co-founder certainly does make the easier, but it can have its own challenges. So what is your view on sort of that whole thing?

(11:04):
Well, I’ve configured my businesses a number of different ways. So I, I have opinions about those. I would say, um, It feels really good to be taking that level of risk with other people so that I idea of having somebody in it with you, like on a piece of paper saying I’m in it with you is very tempting. Yeah.

(11:25):
The intricacies of a business partnership are not unlike a marriage. You are really tying yourself to somebody in a very intense and intimate way. I mean, you’re, you’re thinking together you’re risking together are creating together. You’re trying to reconcile differences of opinions. And, and if you know that the person that you’re working with, if you’re very clear about how each of you contribute and the unique attributes that each of you are bringing and you’ve worked together before. Yeah. I think being partners can really work well. Okay. Um, I also think if you’re not sure there’s a great opportunity to try it in a more informal way to be able to test it out versus investing all the time in the legal, you know, minutia to try and sort through and figure out all the operating agreements and just see if there’s this like really mutual benefit I’ve ended up in many cases, really appreciating the, uh, sort of the model that you guys have, where you, where you have a community of people who are really smart, who know things that you don’t know that you are refining your bill to know yourself and what you really do.

(12:35):
And you’re complimenting with, by asking good questions of other people, and you can take their input and learn from them without any obligation or need to actually officially make a decision to go one way or the other. Mm.

(12:47):
I love that. Yeah. I love that. I love that. So what would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

(12:57):
Well, I guess I would say no thyself. Um,

(13:02):
The ability to understand your own entrepreneurship is not for everybody. It’s, you know, it’s, it involves a certain level of risk taking and risk tolerance and a passion for the unknown and uncertainty and for needing to pivot and reconfigure and thinking that, you know, something that it turns out you find out you don’t really know. And you know, that, that personality, those attributes, I think we all have some of those, but the degree to which those are predominant in our worlds, I think really help, direct and guide whether this is good for us when we know ourselves. And we’re pretty accurate about our ability to take risks and also our knowledge base. Uh, one of the greatest assets and gifts I have is that I’m a fairly high EQ person who loves to operate in a high IQ world. I love to surround myself with smart people.

(13:57):
I take incredible value in asking the right people, the right questions, and that has enabled me to learn more, grow faster, find resources. When I think I know when I think I’m actually an expert, it slows me down because I can often be in my own way. Okay. Um, so that ability for me to recognize am I in my own way, do I think I know something I may not really know? Am I resisting asking questions of other people or, or thinking about this differently? Yeah. Because I think I know better and really having that, um, ability to articulate those questions that we ask ourselves, I think is incredibly important.

(14:39):
That’s so interesting because, you know, I, I agree not everyone would make a great entrepreneur. Right. I mean, it is a very specific kind of skillset, but figuring out whether or not you would is, and, and the journey itself is sometimes like, it it’s a journey. Right. I mean, it, it’s, it’s this, it’s this thing that you decide to engage in or, or, you know, I think you and I both had the experience of it decided to engage us. Right. Yeah. Um, and, and then, and then you’re discovering your, and you’re figuring it all out as you go. And it’s funny because even the serial entrepreneurs I talk to will tell you, every journey is different. Like every time they start something new, it it’s different. And they, sometimes they think about doing the same things that they did the first time. And sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes they totally forgot things that worked and they, they never do those the second time. So it’s just, it’s interesting to me how different the journey can be even for the same person when you do it again. Right. And I wonder, has that been your experience as well?

(15:48):
Absolutely. I mean, I think I’ve done, done for where you would really build from scratch in some way, four different times, and I’ve done it differently every time. And exactly what you said is true. Sometimes you, reremember something you thought, oh, like I knew that. So

(16:06):
That’s, I learned that lesson last

(16:07):
Time, right? Yes. But I’ve had to learn a twice now. Um, my, the other business that I’m working right now is, is Yi. And that, that business is really around helping, uh, physicians and care practices, systems, hospitals maximize Medicare reimbursement. Oh, wow. So Medicare wants to pay physicians on a value-based payment system to do well, to provide really good care for their patients. Yeah. There’s many things that need to happen to do that. And the ability to know what those things are, and then create, have systems, processes, and resources to be able to satisfy that. It’s part of the reason healthcare is so complex. There’s just many dimensions. So we’re working on a solution that actually enables practitioners, hospital systems practices to do at better. What I’ve learned this time around is, and this is, um, a ver a version of starting a company that I haven’t done before, where the solution is actually in the market.

(17:04):
We’re our job at Yandy is to configure the solution in a way that we can get it to the right people in the right way, in the right time, and to make as easy as possible for them to partake in this and really to take the advantage of that. It includes a lot about qualifying and disqualifying. It includes really doing a lot of, um, intelligence and Intel research in advance to really understand who is your target market. And I know that I’ve learned that lesson through several of the other, um, journeys that I’ve been on about how important is you can have the greatest solution. And if you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t need it, yeah, it’s it’s, you can’t make this work for somebody where it doesn’t work. So I’m relearning, and remembering the importance of really understanding your target market and making sure you’re talking to the right people and providing relief to people where the solution really is a relief.

(18:02):
Inspiration has struck. You’ve stumbled upon a great idea that you just know will change the world. So now what, at Precursa, we provide the best tools to help founders and entrepreneurs, just like you turn their great ideas into great companies that solve real problems for real people. We believe you are the change makers, the innovators, and the force that moves technology you forward. All you need is an experienced guide to keep you on track and help you navigate the turbulent waters of starting up Precursa is that guide. And with us, your roadmap to successful launch is more direct with far fewer pitfalls, ready to change the world. Precursa has your back.

(18:52):
Yeah. I love that. It it’s one of the things that we say around here is, you know, don’t, don’t be of solution chasing a problem, right. And, and when you do know that there’s a problem who has it, who are the people, you know, having that ideal customer or a series of ideal customers where when you’re talking to someone, you know, in, in a few sentences, you know, exactly which ideal customer persona they fall into. Yeah. And that’s a huge part of the basis of the work that we do with entrepreneurs at Precursa. And you’re right. It’s, it’s foundational, right? Because until you know who those people are, you can spend a lot of time talking to a lot of the wrong people. Like those might be indicators that you’re on a wrong path when really it’s just, no, you’re talking to the wrong people. You gotta get with different people. Yeah. Um, so I, I love that message. I, I love that. So what do you think is the most important personality trait or characteristic or that something that someone needs to have in order to be a successful entrepreneur?

(19:55):
Well, you know, I, I talked about that risk tolerance. I mean, you really have to love risk. You have to trade off that I’m gonna get a known amount of money in my account every other week for, you know, an infinite period of time. Yeah. For, I have no idea how I’m gonna pay my bills or where I’m gonna, how I’m gonna make this work or how I’m gonna generate this. But I have such faith and, um, intrigue in doing this that I’ll figure it out that drive to like figure it out. And even, I think the ability, you know, entrepreneurs often start out with a lot, without a lot of money and with really, and there’s some in which that is such a gift. Yeah. It really is a gift. It makes you think faster and more creatively, you can’t afford to be having wrong conversations with people. You need help from other people. It, it inspires you in a way that if you had unlimited resources, wouldn’t be the same. So yeah.

(20:51):
That ability to be discomfort uncomfortable and use that discomfort to fuel the questions you ask, the people that you talk to, the speed of innovation and your ability to listen and think differently. Sometimes the market thinks you think the, it needs something and it turns out what they wanna pay you for is something completely different paying attention to that. Being willing to say, great, you wanna pay me for that? Okay. Well that, wasn’t what I was thinking I would be doing, but that enables me to figure out a revenue path that I can, that can use to help fuel the continuous build of this. So,

(21:26):
Yeah,

(21:26):
I love, I guess it’s, it’s really about that risk and love for uncertainty.

(21:31):
Yeah. I love that. And we we’ve even talked about that. Uh, with Precursa, you know, there was a time last February when we thought we had some financing, like it was good to go and, and, you know, so we had our performer and, you know, we had our plan of how we’re gonna spend that money. And then, you know, that money just didn’t come through. There, there was a whole series of circumstances and just never came through. And we ended up executing a portion of our, of our, you know, list building and marketing plan. But we had to do it on such a smaller budget that we realized very quickly, oh, this doesn’t actually work. Like we can’t get users like this. This is not going, this, this is costing us thousands of dollars per, per user. And that’s not sustainable. Right. We got to learn that lesson on like $15,000 instead of $150,000. Right. And it, that money would’ve been spent so quickly to learn that message where when you have to, like, to your point, when you, you have to get creative, when you have to be a little bit scrappy, you learn lessons a lot cheaper than you think it will take to learn them. And so I, I

(22:37):
Just scrappy is good. It really is, is good. Scrappy is really good. Yeah. Lived experience like really having done it and needing to, to figure it out when there’s no right answer is, it’s just, it really shifts the paradigm, the way that we think about things. And you end up having to think about you when, when things inevitably crash and they do, and they don’t work out that you want, you know, asking that question, how does this situation, or what we just learned actually create more opportunity or different opportunity for us. It’s so you easy to get attached to what you think it’s supposed to be. Yes. One of the things I tell people is if you don’t have to write out like a 80 bajillion page business plan, don’t

(23:19):
Don’t yeah. Cause

(23:21):
The more time you spend building out what you think it is, the level, the more you’re talking weed. Yeah. And the, where did you get to what you think it is? And the harder it is for you to pivot, because then, you know, you have to change the business plan. Like you’ve already thought about it in a particular way. Right. So in some ways I think building traditional business plans that’s after, you know, what the solution is. Right. And you’re writing about the known solution that people are paying you for, that you have out in the market. It’s actually a much better time to do it than when you’re formulating the plan. Yeah, yeah,

(23:55):
Yeah. Which is great. I mean, the, the roadmap that we have for entrepreneurs, we, you know, we, we start with the blue sky, which is like, get out, hold your really great ideas because until you get that out and on paper, you can’t set it aside and then go listen to people, right. And then we teach you how to build really great interviews that will dig into different areas in an unbiased way so that you can actually hear what people are saying to you. Right. Um, and, and not until the end of the whole process, are we taught about building a proforma, putting together a pitch deck because you don’t know anything in the beginning, you know, you think, you know, and we wanna, we wanna sort of like start with those assumptions, but we really do treat it like a very scientific process where you have hypotheses and we need to set, we need to know what those are, and then we need to set them aside and remove all the bias and see at the, what the data actually tell us.

(24:48):
So I love that. I love that. I wanna, I wanna ask you specifically, we’ve had this conversation with other people in the past and, you know, being three female founders in a, in a very leading edge technology world, um, you know, building something that’s backed by machine learning and, you know, a lot of data science and, you know, these are, as you mentioned in, you know, when we first start talking, these are very male dominated worlds, right. And we’re three female founders and I never, before really understood or really had the experience of the differences for women and men in an industry or in an experience or in a journey like this. Right. Because I’ve just never done anything, believing that it was any different for me and Precursa’s been different. And, and part of the reason why it’s been different is because we have been trying to raise money.

(25:41):
Um, and so I’ve had to have conversations where I’m asking for money and realizing I have yet to have a pitch conversation with a woman. Um, and also realizing that the questions I get asked are very different than the questions at my male counterparts in the same industry get asked. And the only reason I know that is because I’m at the pitch sessions, you know, in group group together and listening to each other’s pitch and hearing the questions and, you know, all the, all the things. And I just, I I’m like, is this all in our heads? Are we making this bigger than it is? Or is there something, and is it possible to overcome it? And what does that look like? I mean, I just, not that you have all the answers, but maybe you have some of them, or maybe you just have some insight might be helpful for those of us who are like, feel like we’re struggling this uphill battle. Is it really? Or, or is there something else?

(26:38):
I think it’s both. I think it is really an aspect of how we work. I think we have valued a very male dominated thinking way of doing business for a long time. Very matter of fact, I think we are evolving to this recognition that the masculine and the feminine were intentionally created for a, a particular reason in our strength in thinking together is magnified in orders of magnitude that I think are almost impossible to get, if you are only if you’re in one at one dimension or the other learning how to embrace that, I think is an interesting and intriguing PO challenge. And you are, when you’re talking about getting funding, you are now in that lane of traditionally very male dominated. Yes. And morphing that into the different kinds of conversations, I think is much. That’s, that’s a hard place to change those conversations for me.

(27:37):
I embrace, I love working with men. I love how men think, I think like a man in certain, in ways, but I think it’s very much like a woman in others. Right. Me too. We very much share that. Yep. I think the ability to, um, recognize and appreciate that kind of thinking where it exists and honor it while also bringing different dimensions of what I would consider the more feminine. So the way we use a lot language, the way we talk, the way we use emotional words in sort of an, you know, traditional business setting. Yeah. When I think about, again, not having to, you know, do this in the, um, pitching for money arena, but just in the work that I do, much of the reason that people hire me is be because of the aspects that I bring that have more to do with connection, honoring humans, seeing people as they are.

(28:33):
I work in environments with people who are incredibly well educated. Yeah. They are very well trained. They are experts like nationally, internationally in their industry. Yeah. And yet they’re still humans. Yeah. They wanna be, they wanna be appreciated. They wanna be recognized. They wanna know that what they’re contributing matters to somebody that all the work they did to learn and to be smart is actually contributing in some way to the conversation. So my conversations in, in those sort of more male dominated are, are very intentionally around how do I hear what they need? Like, how do I listen for their need to be recognized? What are they really wanting to contribute? And in that space where I can meet them and recognize, okay, they went to school for a long time, they’ve funded X number of companies, very successfully. They’ve done, you know, acknowledging that and meeting them at the point where you recognize, and that softens in some way, whatever conversations come next, then you’re not arguing to make them prove that, you know, the questions that they’re asking are, are legit. So again, I’m doing it in a much easier, much easier pathways than you are, but perhaps it works there too

(29:45):
Well. It’s interesting cuz you know, for our audience, Deb is the person who introduced me. You know, I always had this sort of what she just talked about. This feel that like, I, I straddle both worlds, you know, the masculine, the feminine and I, I can relate to people who are, you know, very masculine and that’s sort of the way we relate to that is like hard and, and firm and, and um, UN give unwavering like, like, you know, that, that just sort of like pushing up against a wall, right? Like very, I, I can, I can live in that world. I have for over 25 years now being in technology. But I also, I, I am a woman, but I, I live in the world of the feminine as well. Like I see how E even with the, the most unfailing wall, if you are the give that wall will start to give to like there’s like a dance that starts to happen.

(30:38):
And that’s what you’re talking about. And, and, you know, you are the one who in introduced me to the concept of Athena, who is the goddess who sort of straddles both of those things. And she has a sword and she has a shield and she’s very capable in battle, in fact, undefeated in battle. But the more prominent shoulder in most of her pictures is the shoulder with the WL on it, which is I’m going to try every other Strat I have before I go to war because she understands that war has a cost and that wisdom can overcome a lot of things and can bridge a lot of gaps. And I just love that visual. And it was the first time that anything ever resonated for me, like that’s who I wanna be in the world. Like I can do battle, but I’m not gonna go there first because I believe that honoring people.

(31:25):
And like you said, creating that connection or understanding what people want. That is a much more powerful place to stand. And you only take out your a, you know, your sword and your shield when you’ve got nothing left and you just need to get, you just need to get through whatever it is you need to get through. Right. So I, I just, I, I, first of all, thank you because you were the introduction for me to her, my pleasure in that way. And it’s such like a, it’s such an empowering place and I have this gorgeous, uh, picture and I’ll actually, I’ll probably take a picture of it and put it in the show notes, um, of, of an Athena that Deb gave to me that hangs on the wall, uh, you know, right in my line of my, my field of vision in my office.

(32:10):
And so I, I, you know, it’s interesting because when you were saying that, what I kept hearing was I have gone into every investment conversation, every pitch thinking about how to position, what I’m doing and how to, you know, and, and continuing to refine that I’ve never, I’ve never stopped to wonder what are your goals as an investor and does this help you get there or not? And if it doesn’t do, you know, other investors who this project would help their goals, right? That’s a totally different way to come at it. And, you know, one of, one of my biggest frustrations, so we’ve talked a little bit about, um, about David who’s my, my partner, um, he’s building this building and he’s got a lot of really powerful, very wealthy men who are trying to, I’m gonna put in quotes, help him, uh, because in all the ways that, you know, wealthy, older, powerful men help, um, sometimes it really doesn’t.

(33:09):
Um, and, and I just noticed there’s so much like ego in the game and so much, like I’m gonna push on you here. And I’m because I’m, I’m trying to get this out of you over here, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna make you negotiate with me rather than just saying what, what really needs to happen in order for the whole project to work. And I just, I don’t know. I wonder, you know, you, you are, you for me are like this really balanced human who has this way of seeing all the different aspects and all the different facets of something. What I would ask is, is it possible to be in that sort of realm because let’s face it when you’re, when you’re getting investment capital, it’s wealthy, it’s wealthy dudes right now. That’s, that’s, who’s at the top primarily. Is it possible to negotiate all of the ego and all of the it’s my, and you need my money more than I need your thing. And what like, is it possible to negotiate all of that and not drive yourself completely nuts?

(34:08):
Well, I think I can speak to that conceptually, which is different than being in the room with you and trying to make that happen. But, you know, at the end of the day, one of my philosophies is love is actually a business strategy. Mm. The human desire to be loved, whatever that means to, to be appreciated, to be recognized, to be seen, to be honored and valued. And sometimes the more successful people are, the further away they get from actual people, appreciating them as a person. People want their money, they want something from them. They want something. And they start to work in these super transactional ways. And it’s true. People do want something from them and they do want their money. And they’re willing to try to figure out how to configure the conversation versus coming in as two human beings and really looking at the dynamics of what is the relationship and what does this person really need, not just for their investment portfolio, but what motivates them? Like what are their, um, because they didn’t get successful? Well, most of them, I mean, some of ’em perhaps inherited their wealth, but most of them worked for their wealth, right. They created something, they, they built this, it means something it came through in from them and that ability to know their story and how they came to be in this place. And to really recognize that as part of the human, I think is I think it changes most conversations.

(35:35):
Uh, we have been in this place where in fact, we just had a meeting a couple days ago where were like, we may need to take a step back and decide is fundraising really the right thing for us is, is the uphill slog of this, an indicator that it’s not part of our journey. And we need to let that, let that go. And there’s like something else, or is it like what you were just saying was like, oh, that would be a totally front conversation with an investor. Right. I, I don’t know. I mean, do you have any advice,

(36:04):
You know, I guess I would say go nontraditional. I mean, see if there’s a way to have these conversations that are more conversations where you’re really perhaps not doing the traditional pitch, which I just have to say you are nominal ad. I mean, really, really one of the best people I’ve ever seen, you can do a pitch in 10 seconds. In 30 seconds, you can do the three minute version. I mean, it’s really, it’s a beautiful, beautiful skill. So I feel wildly confident without having seen your pitch, that it’s not about the content of the pitch. So if it’s about the dynamics of the relationship are different ways. And part of this is the leading edge you have been on since you started this journey. I mean, and that is how do you change the conversation with investors? How do you create a conversation where the investor can, can recognize and feel engaged in, in a different way, and you would be inventing it.

(36:56):
So I don’t know exactly what it looked looks like, but it might be fun for your team of really smart, brilliant people to think about, okay, if we could invent this conversation in a way that would help them, help us recognize them and pick the right investors, this is the same qualification process. If you’re talking to people, you wanna be talking to the right people, how do we learn enough about them to know, not just with they’re interested in, in terms of their portfolio, but what can we learn about them as a human what’s important to them? And can we satisfy some component of that if we were to work together and what might that look like? Anybody can do it. I think it’s you.

(37:33):
Well, and it’s interesting because it’s a totally different place and a power dynamic, right? In, in the one it’s like, I’m coming to you. I have this thing. I need money in order to make it successful. You have the money. So really you have all the power. Now. I always try and coach my entrepreneurs that you have something too, but your thing is less certain than their money, right? So there there’s that power dynamic, but what you just described, and I, I’m gonna have to listen to this episode when it comes out again, cuz I need to hear what you just said again, but what you just described shifts the power dynamic to be a partnership and a creation, rather than you have money, I need money. Can we negotiate it? So it goes from transactional to relationship. That’s a, that’s a, that feels so much more powerful. I, I don’t know how to create that yet, but after this conversation, I’m kind of like, that is the difference. That really is the thing that makes the difference. I can feel it and now you’ve put me on a path so

(38:34):
Well, happy to help anytime I’ll be along on the path with you in, in cheering you on. For sure. Yeah.

(38:42):
Um, so if you could give other entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would that be?

(38:49):
I think it would be, it’s hard to, it’s hard to figure out what one piece of advice, I guess I would go back to, to the know they self really figure out what lights you up and be willing to ask that as an inquiry in a changing conversation with yourself, because sometimes we think, oh, I think I’m really good at this. I’m really, really good at this. I mean, I learned in my facilitation that I was often hire, facilitate these really, you know, these panels of incredibly smart, really brilliant people. And I thought I was being hired for my facilitation skills. What I was actually being hired for was my ability to connect with the human beings and to help them feel important and heard and understood. There were enough smart people in the room. It wasn’t about the process. So understanding yourself in response to the feedback that you get in really that deep inquiry about what about this? Do I love? And what about this is creating an impact on the people that I’m serving and working with and changing your mind about what you know about yourself as you go and as you grow.

(39:56):
Yeah. I love that. Okay. So I’m gonna give you a statistic. Okay. And I want you to tell me what you think about it. Okay.

(40:04):
Okay.

(40:04):
All right. 42% of startups ultimately fail because no one wants what they’re building.

(40:13):
Yeah. This goes back to that conversation about don’t get too far along before you decide what people really want and both determining who your market is like, who you are really trying to satisfy, who truly needs that. And then how do you position it in different ways? Uh, how do you have that conversation in being willing to iterate before you get attached to the exact way that it needs to be? It also may mean you have to learn to cut your losses. I mean, one of the companies that I worked in, you know, we really got to the point where we had to say, we don’t have the right people, resources, ability. It’s a fantastic business model. It really is. It has incredible potential, but we were not in a place where we were able to bridge the gap between that potential, what we would’ve needed to be successful.

(41:00):
And that ability to also be able to cut your losses and either pivot to something else or, or reinvent yourself is so critically important. Not everybody’s gonna be an entrepreneur, it’s it really isn’t. So you need to know if you’re, if you’re, if it’s really just out that people don’t need what you’re selling or if the way that you’ve configured it isn’t right. Or the market that you’re talking to isn’t right. Or if you got too far into believing, it was X oh. When it really needed to be X plus Y and you are just thinking about it. So rigidly that you, that you can’t move past that.

(41:38):
I gotcha. That’s that’s yeah. And it can be really hard to let go of that. Right. I mean, you’ve like you’ve invested time and probably money and like you are emotionally invested in this thing and then, you know, you have that, where you go, oh man, it’s wrong or it’s not complete, or, oh, you just kind of, you know, how, how do you, how do you not, how do you prevent all the emotional drain and the potential like self flag of that, you know, because that’s not useful. Right.

(42:11):
Right. I think you go, it’s inevitable.

(42:15):
Ah,

(42:15):
And you know, we’ve talked about this even in naming a company. Yeah. Don’t get don’t, you know, don’t name it, something that then if it needs to become something else that it could, you know, try to find something that’s has some definition. Yeah. And it has some identity, but it isn’t so restrictive that if you decide that you really need to pivot that you can’t, and that’s a lot of that thinking from the naming of the business, to the logo, to thinking about the market you’re in, if you go in expecting it to change, I think you’re better prepared than if you go in thinking, you know exactly what it is.

(42:48):
Interesting. I love that. Yeah. I just, I’m thinking about, you know, the, the various business, this is I’ve built and the one reason why every single one of them ended up working out in the end because that’s, that’s weird. Right? Like, I mean, out of, you know, I’m on my, I’m building my sixth startup right now and I, I, my first two were successful and exited. My third one is actively, you know, a SAS operating on the 84% cent profit margin. You know, my consulting company that I run right now has been very successful. And then my two startups that I’m working on, you know, were, I’m hoping they’re gonna have the same trajectory. Right. But, you know, it’s very weird to have been as many times down the road and had as many successes as I’ve had. And what you’re saying about being with, to pivot, be, you know, not getting too attached.

(43:39):
It’s, it’s this fine line. You walk, right? Because you have to be the visionary. You have to be the one who’s driving that thing forward. So you can’t be not attached to it, but you can’t be so attached to it that you don’t let it morph and change the way that it wants to. Because the reality is, and we’ve talked about this in previous episodes, this business that you’re creating, isn’t you, it’s a whole separate entity from you. Your job is to help it become. And the only way you can do that is by listening to it in its evolution. Right. And not yourself and your desires of how it will evolve, you know, because the business isn’t, you, your startup is not you. Right?

(44:19):
Yep. I, so I, one of my favorite places to sort of, when I get stuck and I wanna be inspired to think differently about something is that there’s a Disney show. It’s I think it’s on Disney plus, or maybe it’s on discover, plus I don’t even know the undercover billionaire.

(44:37):
Oh, oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

(44:39):
So great. I mean, talk about needing to pivot. You know, they have, you know, they give ’em a hundred dollars. These people have been wildly successful. They drop ’em in an unknown market, in an unknown place. And they have to figure out how to build a, a business that’s valued at a million dollars in some 90 day period of time. My gosh, and watching

(44:59):
With a hundred bucks

(45:00):
With a hundred bucks with no, no, you can’t use any of your contacts. You can’t use your name, your reputation, your network. You have to like build it from scratch, watching that show. I feel stuck even though of course they’re being followed by camera crews. So clearly people have some idea something’s happening here. Something’s up. Yeah. Uh, so people probably say yes, more often than not. And most of them are incredibly well dressed. And even though they only have a hundred dollars present as people who are of resources, but it’s still, it’s still not easy. I mean, it is not easy. And some of the things that they have to do and think about and how they have to think differently about it. It’s, it’s a great example. I think of needing to, um, do, you know, rapid cycle improvement and change and pivot and keep reinventing yourself as you go.

(45:49):
How often do they pull that off building a million dollar bus from nothing in 90 days.

(45:53):
So I think there are four, let’s see, there are three case studies I’m watching while three case studies in one episode in or one season and one in the other. And I think they’re about 50 50,

(46:05):
Really. Okay. So that’s heartening because you know, the statistics, especially in Colorado, is that like less than one per percent of female owned businesses ever hit the million dollar mark. Um, and actually we had Charles Fred from true space on, on the show a few weeks ago. And he, you know, he works with, um, companies that are trying to hit that 10 million mid-market, you know, trying to cross that threshold and less than what did he say less than 2% of companies ever actually that, and it takes them an average of 12 years.

(46:36):
So that’s, that’s a long climb,

(46:38):
It’s a long climb and it, it, but, but that’s the reality is it actually does take longer than you think and getting caught up in the how in the fantasy of the overnight success and the Facebook and the, the unicorn, and like all, like getting caught up in the fantasy of those things is actually a huge preventer from you actually realizing a potential of something often times. Yes. You know, because the fantasy never lives up to the reality, even when you get it. And you’re definitely not gonna get it. If you living in the fantasy that you miss, all the, all the, the cues and the, and the, you know, that, that calling from that entity of, of where it wants to go, you’re just never gonna get there because you’re stuck in, you know, your head’s stuck in the clouds. Right.

(47:28):
And one of the things I loved about how they did the undercover billionaire is that they, um, two there’re two men and there are two women.

(47:35):
Okay. I love this.

(47:36):
The difference in the way they think is it is absolutely, as we talked about before, very male dominated is very relational, build connections, things for other people. I mean, the women go about this in a completely different way than the men do. Interesting. And I think both of the women may have made the valuation.

(47:59):
Interesting. Okay. I gotta watch

(48:00):
This. Yeah, it’s great.

(48:01):
I remember you telling me about it. And I remember adding it to my cue and we are so far behind in TV shows. It’s ridiculous, but I gotta watch, watch that.

(48:10):
It’s great when you feel stuck, just because the things they have to do and okay. We’re probably not gonna sleep in our trucks, but because we have more than a hundred dollars or at least I hope, but just the fact that they could do this, the whole idea of it, that whole idea of making something from nothing and using connections and relationships and thinking differently about what you do. They don’t go in with a business idea. They go into a community. They don’t know have never been in where they know no one. And they have to figure out how to create a business, how to make money, how to feed themselves, how to find housing. I mean, it’s really, it really is fascinating, but for me, it’s like my favorite thing when I feel super stuck. And there was a point yeah. Where I was watching it, where I just felt like, I don’t know, this is hard. Maybe I should go get a job, you know? Yeah. Which lasted about a nanosecond, but watching that was, you know, kind of the thing that, that, you know, reinvigorated my enthusiasm for how cool it is to be an entrepreneur.

(49:07):
Yeah. I love that. Yeah. We were, I was talking with, um, another, another guest a couple weeks ago who I was like, he, he, uh, wrapped up his first startup. Um, he ended up having to shut it down. There are, you know, a lot of factors for that, but ultimately it was a failure. Right. Um, and actually not one of the 42% where people didn’t want what he had, you know, the pandemic had a lot to do with it. And, but he was saying, you know, for a while, I was like, I have all these skills. I should go get a job. And I started laughing. So I was like, you are never gonna get a job like that. That it’s the PR it’s actually the pit. One of the biggest pitfalls of being an entrepreneur is you become ruined for working for other people ever again.

(49:47):
Absolutely. You know, as anything other than a consultant or, you know, in, in more of the, you know, I’m, I’m, I, I can help you get over this, but, you know, because there’s just something that happens in your world when you become an entrepreneur that, that, like I said, just kind of ruins you for, for the, the every day. And, and even the risk becomes more palatable than the steady paycheck and knowing it’s just the, it’s just, I don’t know. I, I view, I view the fulltime job as like the same thing all the time, every day. And I never have two days that look the same in what I do. And I think that’s, and for some

(50:27):
People, thank goodness that works. Yeah. Because, you know, we need both of those attributes, which comes back to the know thy self. Yes. If you really prefer to know, and, and to be in that, then please do, because it really actually, the world needs that we really need that. But, you know, if you try the entrepreneurial venture just can’t imagine for longer than a second, returning to a world of driving to work and, you know, logging into your computer and doing a time sheet and yeah. All those things. I mean, we, you know, and that, then you, then, you know, you know that about yourself, that you are kind of called to invent something a way of, um, being in the world and contributing what you have to contribute. And that’s what being an entrepreneur is about.

(51:12):
Yeah. So, so we can sum up this episode with no thy self. I love that. Absolutely love that.

(51:20):
I don’t think I’m the first one to have ever said it.

(51:22):
No, you’re not, but it, but it’s a good reminder. Right. And, and, and your energy is so great about it because we had, you know, we’ve had a few people on the show who are super woo woo, right. Like very, very, um, ethereal and very much about the visionary piece. We’ve had a lot of people who are very like executors, like XYZ. It takes this step, this step that, and you, you and I are kindred spirits. And that we, we balance both of those things really, really well. And so it’s just, it’s lovely to hear another perspective that sort of sounds like mine.

(51:57):
I do love it when we agree with each other. Right. I know. Right. So powerful and Socrates is in on it too. I mean, we can really hardly go wrong.

(52:05):
Yeah. I love that. So, um, what are, do you have an, any podcasts or books or resources or anything like that that you would recommend for the audience in, you know, as follows to this conversation or to continue this conversation for themselves?

(52:18):
Yeah. So I think the undercover billionaire for sure is fun to watch. I, um, gay Hendrick’s book the big leap. If you, if you think you’re not in the, your zone of genius, it’s really a great book. It’s a very quick read. I love it. Um, the three books that I give anybody who starts a business like budding entrepreneurs, uh, one is, um, the art of the start guy Kawasaki. Yes. Yes. Great. Really, really great. And he talks a lot about this. Like, don’t get stuck doing your mission statement, you know, get, get a mantra, get general gist of what you’re doing, but here are the things that matter. He’s a beautiful filter. I really appreciate. It was probably the first book I read when I went out on my own and it’s still, you know, dogeared and flagged. And I, you know, it’s always a good resource. Um, the second one is, uh, David Cohen and Brad Feld from Techstars wrote a book do more faster, which is also a great cheat. She eat to what you absolutely need to do and what you don’t, you know, what you can kind of get away with doing later or what isn’t really that important. And then finally, um, Barbara Corcoran’s book, shark tales.

(53:22):
Oh, oh, I haven’t heard of this one. This is

(53:23):
New. Oh, so fun. So fun. Shark,

(53:25):
Shark, tales,

(53:26):
Shark, tales. Love that Barbara Corcoran’s book is in, I think it’s in 10 chapters. She reads it. So I would highly recommend listening to it on audible. She actually, I love it. Sings to you at one point. Oh,

(53:37):
I love it. I

(53:38):
Love it. So she grew up, I mean, she, her story is so amazing, but you know, she grew up in a house with 24 people. Wow. And, you know, there were like 11 kids, there was a boy’s room and a girl’s room. They had almost no money. I mean, really literally no money. She takes the lessons that she learned as a child. So each chapter is a lesson she learned as a child, and then she applies it to business, how she applied that to business. So one of her lessons is about, I love that, you know, if you don’t have big boobs put pigtails in your hair, and it was about her first job working in the diner in this town that she worked in, in the, the waitress who worked there forever, that everybody came to see, she was like a, you know, local attraction was Gloria.

(54:23):
And she had these, you know, the, this voluptuous body and was like, and all the men wanted to sit in glorious section. And if you’ve ever seen Barbara Corcoran, it’s highly likely she never looked like that. So she’s just this very thin. So her mom told her, you know, you gotta work with what you have. And so, you know, if you don’t have big boobs put pigtails in your hair and play with that charming, youthful, whatever. So she did that. And then she goes and applies that to her real estate in Chicago. Uh, oh, I love, or in New York when she was in New York and she was starting like how she created, she put pigtails on these apartments. Like she did certain things to make them stand out from the thousands of other things. Yeah. So she does this contrast between what she learned as a child and how she applied those. And she’s brilliant. It’s a wonderful book.

(55:09):
Okay. I love that. That, that was a new one to me. I’m gonna go down. I have a couple of audible credits. I’m go download that one. When we get done

(55:16):
Worth it, worth it. She’s very, she’s very charming and very inspiring.

(55:21):
Well, miss Deb, I want to say thank you. First of all, so much for taking the time with us today for sharing your story, worry for being so incredibly generous, um, with, with your experience and with your, your insight and your knowledge. If our listeners have questions or they’d like to get in touch with you, or maybe they even like to work with you and figure out what is their zone of genius. And they’d like some, some guidance on that path, what’s the best way for them to get ahold of you?

(55:45):
Well, LinkedIn is the easy, and it’s a pathway through to all the different businesses that I’ve done. So you can certainly look at, look me up there. And my, I have the great privilege and the great, uh, advantage for SEO optimization that I am the only person with my name in the whole world. Yay, Deb Chrome on LinkedIn. You can find me and that’s awesome. I would love to, with any of

(56:08):
Awesome and I’ll make sure to include the links to all of the resources that Deb mentioned as well as her LinkedIn profile. And as always, if you wanna get in touch with her through us, you can shoot me an email@startupprecursor.com and I will highly vet you because we like to pass along really great people, um, to all of our, all of our guests. So thank you again, my dear so much for being here with us today. Thank you so much for your wisdom and, and just for who you are in the world. It truly makes a difference. And in case you ever forget that you can always call me and I’ll let you know,

(56:38):
Thank you. It is a joy to be in your company.

(56:41):
Thank you. No

(56:42):
Right. Take care.

(56:43):
You too. All right. Y’all so thank you so much for joining us for this episode as always happy entrepreneur. And I will see you next time.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode. Until next time…

 

Cynthia Del'Aria

Cynthia Del'Aria is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup ninja, specializing in product-market fit and idea validation and helping new entrepreneurs reserve their time and money for the idea with the best shot at success. With two successful exits before 30, an active high-profit-margin SaaS in the commercial airline space, and two additional startups in the works, she knows what it takes to traverse the entrepreneur journey, the highs, and the challenges of turning a vision into a successful, viable business.

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