On paper, things have never looked better for female entrepreneurs. However, women-owned firms are still in the minority, and the hurdles faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship are vast and often very different than those experienced by their male counterparts. Despite such challenges Jennifer Farris is an exemplary entrepreneur setting a great example for other women to follow. She is the Co-Founder and CEO of Squadley.
Prior to starting Squadley, she was an HR Executive in the tech start-up industry. She often helped other founders build organizations and so she was indoctrinated to many of the struggles of building successful companies as well as the sacrifices entrepreneurs have to make. Jennifer has been a part of some of the Valley’s most successful start-ups, including Playdom, Kabam, Practice Fusion and Flexport where she honed her skills for building teams and scalable infrastructure. She also started her first small business 4 years ago, an HR consulting firm which she still manages even today.
Reaching Out to People in a Meaningful Way
Squadley is a new approach to management that combines the value of OKR alignment, continuous feedback and 1:1 coaching into a fast, total-management fitness routine. From the beginning Squadley was built to be a direct to manager/team tool as well as an enterprise product. Because of this, Squadley has been able to target both of its audiences in an impactful way. As the product was refined, so was its messaging and audience. In each iteration there were enhanced improvements.
Jennifer believes that it is critical to have qualities such as tenacity, patience, openness to advice, authenticity and a true belief in the product to be a successful entrepreneur.
Tenacity: Do not to be trapped by other people’s opinions. There are many who will believe it is not worth trying because it is hard. So, keep company of those that support and encourage your dreams. Like many aspects of life, ensuring positive and constructive support is in your corner versus surrounding yourself with negative or dismissive advice.
Patience: So much of building a company will take longer than one expects.
Openness to Advice: Many people have made the same mistakes and have seen many successes before you, and although no two businesses are exactly the same, learn from them and use the advice as it makes sense for you.
Authenticity: Building a product just for money isn’t enough as people can see your true motivation. You need to have complete belief in the product that one is building to really be able to sell it to others.
The founding team of Squadley has had a combined 60+ years of HR experience before it went on to build an HR tech product. They had been the customer for years before becoming the vendor. Therefore, the team is extremely strategic in its approach, since it knows all the players and where the true gaps in the space really are.
According to Jennifer, one of the biggest challenges for women in the workplace comes down to people’s pre-established biases and expectations around style of communication. Men are often seen as having more confidence because of how they communicate while women have the struggle of either looking too aggressive or too meek. She suggests being comfortable with whatever style works for oneself. She adds, in the long game, people respond to hard work, authenticity and intellect. Some people may seem to be able to cut corners, but over the long haul, they will come up short. She strongly advises to surround oneself with professionals that share same vision and approach.
Attaining Work Life Balance
The main challenge faced by Jennifer was finding the balance between her family and work. She is the mother to a special needs child and her time is very often unpredictable. If she didn’t have a village of help around her, her journey would have been infinitely more difficult or perhaps not happened in the timeframe that it did. Although, she believes family is the most important at the end of everything, she is deeply passionate about her work and what they have built at Squadley. She wants to do whatever she can to continue to push it forward.
Vision and Approach
Jennifer hopes to continue to contribute in the development of Squadley for the foreseeable future as it represents the pinnacle of what she has learned over the course of her career coming to fruition. She hopes to see Squadley be the go to solution and philosophy for developing great managers and therefore great businesses.
Words of Wisdom
Jennifer shares some various tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
If you are seeking a business to start, find a real problem to solve and become an expert in that field before solving it.
Keep a support system of a few people who you implicitly trust and are always there to help.
Never devalue the role your employees play. People, product and capital are all vital for a successful business, but Founders often spend too much time on product and capital. Don’t forget that a simple “thanks” goes a long way. When people feel appreciated they will go extra mile in creating more value.
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